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BEHAVIOR: WHAT COULD IT MEAN?

Written by Sherry Neal, RN-BC, CDDN

 

Often when we hear “behavior” we roll our eyes, knowing we have to deal with Janice and her behavior of the day. But behavior can be so many different things. We all display it, often we use it instead of words. Everyone knows what screaming and stomping the floor signifies. A definition of behavior is: the way in which an animal or person acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus.

Instead of labeling people as having bad or uncontrolled behavior, maybe we should play detective. If a person cannot use words to communicate, behavior is often their only means of getting their point across. We all communicate non-verbally and behavior is often how we do that.

“If a person cannot use words to communicate, behavior is often their only means of getting their point across.”

I suggest that you really look at and track unusual behavior closely. If every time Joseph has trouble walking on his right leg and it means he has back pain from his kidney stones, wouldn’t it help us all to treat Joseph for the kidney stones? If this goes on for days and then Joseph starts striking out at people, wouldn’t it be better to stop the “behavior” by treating the underlying cause?

This non-verbal response is so often a form of communication. It is so frustrating for the person to train every new staff member. When traveling coast to coast training, I ask if anyone has turnover in their agency and every hand goes up! The person being supported is constantly training new staff about what they are attempting to communicate, and it really is a pain in the rear for them! When you discover what a certain behavior is portraying, write it down somewhere. If the person becomes very confused and wanders every time they have a UTI, write it down somewhere. This way we can get the person treatment earlier and eliminate the behavior.

What if the person engages in head banging when the allergy counts are high, and they have a terrific sinus headache? Again, write it down somewhere accessible. Anytime someone new comes in to work, they could look at the documentation and the light bulb would immediately come on instead of the person having to suffer for days or months and be put on multiple psychotropic meds because of “behavior”.

Having a “behavior” should not mean automatically being put on more medications. It should kick in an investigative response to see what it means.

If you are interested in learning more about behaviors and how they are a form of communication, join the HRS webinar on March 14 “Actions Speak Louder than Words”. It will help you to perform your job better!