Senior Care

Managing Challenging Behaviors in Senior Living Residents: Best Practices for Staff Support and Training

November 2, 2023
Freddie Peyerl
Post by
Freddie Peyerl

Caring for senior living residents can be a rewarding but challenging task, especially when residents exhibit challenging behaviors. These behaviors can range from agitation and aggression to confusion and disorientation. Effectively managing such behaviors is crucial for maintaining a safe and supportive environment in senior living communities. In this blog post, we will explore the best practices for staff support and training in managing challenging behaviors among senior living residents.

Understanding Challenging Behaviors

Challenging behaviors in senior living residents can be a result of various factors, including cognitive decline, medical conditions, pain, emotional distress, or a response to their environment. It's essential for staff to understand the root causes of these behaviors to provide appropriate care and support.

Some common challenging behaviors in senior living residents may include:

  • Agitation and Aggression: Aggressive outbursts, shouting, or physical confrontations.
  • Sundowning: Increased confusion and agitation during the late afternoon and evening.
  • Wandering: Residents may wander aimlessly, potentially putting themselves at risk.
  • Repetitive Behaviors: Engaging in repetitive actions or phrases.
  • Refusal of Care: Resisting assistance with activities of daily living like bathing or medication management.
  • Hallucinations or Delusions: Experiencing false sensory perceptions or beliefs.

The Importance of Staff Support and Training

Staff support and training are fundamental to effectively managing challenging behaviors. They not only ensure the safety and well-being of residents but also help reduce stress and burnout among staff members. Here's why staff support and training are critical:

Enhanced Care Quality

Properly trained staff can provide better care and support for residents exhibiting challenging behaviors. They understand the underlying causes of these behaviors and can employ appropriate interventions.

Staff Safety

Residents with challenging behaviors may pose a risk to staff members. Proper training equips staff with the knowledge and skills to manage these situations safely.

Resident Quality of Life

Effective management of challenging behaviors can significantly improve residents' quality of life. It reduces stress, anxiety, and discomfort, enabling them to enjoy a more peaceful and contented existence.

Reduced Staff Burnout

Caring for residents with challenging behaviors can be emotionally draining. Training and support can help staff manage the stress associated with these situations, reducing staff turnover and burnout.

Best Practices for Staff Support and Training

To ensure that staff can effectively manage challenging behaviors in senior living residents, consider implementing these best practices:

1. Comprehensive Training

Invest in comprehensive training programs that cover a range of challenging behaviors, their potential causes, and evidence-based interventions. The training should be ongoing and periodically updated to incorporate the latest research and best practices.

2. Person-Centered Care

Foster a person-centered care approach that takes into account each resident's unique needs, preferences, and history. This approach helps staff understand residents better and adapt their care strategies accordingly.

3. Communication Skills

Provide training on effective communication skills. Staff should be able to communicate with residents in a non-confrontational and reassuring manner. Training can also help staff recognize and respond to non-verbal cues from residents.

4. De-Escalation Techniques

Train staff in de-escalation techniques to diffuse potentially confrontational situations without resorting to physical intervention. Staff should learn how to remain calm, use active listening, and avoid actions that could exacerbate a resident's agitation.

5. Understanding Underlying Causes

Staff should understand the underlying causes of challenging behaviors. This may involve recognizing pain, discomfort, or fear as potential triggers. Identifying and addressing these causes is often more effective than simply addressing the behavior itself.

6. Supportive Environment

Create a supportive work environment where staff feel comfortable seeking help and sharing their concerns. Encourage a culture of teamwork and collaboration among staff members.

7. Crisis Response Plans

Develop clear crisis response plans that specify how staff should respond to emergencies or potentially dangerous situations. Ensure that staff know their roles and responsibilities during crises.

8. Regular Feedback and Supervision

Provide staff with regular feedback and supervision to help them improve their skills in managing challenging behaviors. This includes constructive feedback, coaching, and mentoring.

9. Self-Care

Emphasize the importance of self-care for staff. Caring for residents with challenging behaviors can be emotionally taxing, and staff need to prioritize their own well-being to provide quality care.

Leveraging Technology for Training

Technology can play a significant role in staff training for managing challenging behaviors. Here's how:

  • Online Training Modules: Use online training modules to deliver information and assessments to staff at their convenience. These modules can cover various aspects of behavior management.
  • Simulation Training: Implement simulation training through virtual reality or computer-based programs. These simulations allow staff to practice managing challenging behaviors in a controlled, risk-free environment.
  • E-Learning Platforms: Utilize e-learning platforms that offer a library of training resources, including videos, webinars, and interactive exercises.
  • Remote Learning: In the age of remote work and distance learning, technology can facilitate remote training for staff in different locations, making it easier to provide consistent training across a senior living organization.


Managing challenging behaviors in senior living residents is a complex but crucial aspect of providing quality care. Staff support and training are essential components of this process. By understanding the underlying causes of challenging behaviors, fostering a person-centered care approach, and providing comprehensive training, senior living facilities can create a safe, supportive, and nurturing environment for their residents. Leveraging technology for training can further enhance staff competence and confidence in managing challenging behaviors, ultimately improving the overall quality of care and resident well-being.