While on the job, caregivers will care for clients with many different health conditions, and as caregivers they will be the ones spending the most time with their clients. Caregivers are the eyes of the healthcare team, and are able to see and observe client behaviors that physicians and nurses may miss.
A sudden change in a client's behavior could mean a worsening of their condition or a sign of a negative experience that has happened to them recently. In any case, the caregiver must be alert to their client’s behavior to prevent them from being harmed.
Below are some behaviors that may be observed suddenly in clients, and what these changes could mean:
1. A depressed client who is in their first week of medications for depression suddenly feels energized, and acts as if they need to do something or go somewhere else.
Clients who are taking medications for depression may feel stronger and more energetic before they feel happier. This difference between the improvement of energy and the improvement of mood means that, if they are thinking about committing suicide, they will have the strength to carry out their plan of self-harm.
If this behavior is observed, caregivers must discuss the matter immediately with the supervisor and then closely supervise the client during this time.
2. A client with Alzheimer’s disease starts to walk around aimlessly, forgetting where they are going and why. They become irritable and report seeing things that are not there.
During the early stages of dementia, clients might forget information more than people without dementia. Clients with early-stage dementia will begin to have worsening forgetfulness, such that they get lost in their own homes or neighborhood, or they show personality changes and frequent mood swings. This signals that they have moved to the advanced stage of the disease.
The caregiver must expect that their client will become more dependent and need closer supervision.
3. A client with a disability suddenly appears fearful, refuses to be touched or bathed, shows inappropriate affection, or has recent nightmares.
Clients who are disabled, or those who are incapable of expressing and protecting themselves, are prone to physical and sexual abuse. Abusers get away with it because they can take advantage of a client's helpless situation.
When caregivers notice these changes in their client’s behavior, they should discuss it immediately with their supervisor. This is because there are procedures that must be followed when dealing with cases of abuse.
4. A person who recently had a stroke becomes very quiet and unaware of their environment, or they may start neglecting one side of their body.
Caring for a client who has had a stroke can be challenging. Other than being weak, they may start showing apathy, where they seem unconcerned about their environment, appearing to be motionless and staring at the wall.
Caregivers must understand that apathy may or may not be a sign of depression in stroke clients. They must give the client more encouragement and involve them in simple activities.
Some stroke clients may also start leaving the food untouched on the left side of their plates or clean only the right side of their body. These behaviors are signs of neglect, wherein they completely and unconsciously ignore one side of their body or things that are on that side, oftentimes their left.
Both of these changes in behavior are a result of damage on one side of the client’s brain. It can also mean that their recovery may be a lot harder than stroke clients who do not show these behaviors.
Caregivers can help these clients be more aware of their environment as well as their self. They can talk to them from the neglected side of their body and help them scan for things in every direction.
Although changes in client behavior often have significant meanings, caregivers must understand that these behaviors may not always be caused by the reasons above. However, when these responses are observed, it is best to discuss them immediately with the supervisor, who can provide proper guidance and help.
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