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9 Steps to Relieve Agitation in Dementia Patients

A Dementia or Alzheimer patient often becomes confused, overwhelmed or agitated. This is a consequence of the disease. Dementia is the thief of proper cognitive function and most mental processing capacity. Dementia patients struggle when introduced to new stimuli and new environment. A new situation or stimuli usually ensues in an outburst or obvious agitation.

Unless you are experienced or licensed in Dementia Care, it can be hard to figure out the steps to reduce agitation and improve the mood of your Dementia or Alzheimer patient. There are a few strategies that you can employ to help with cases of agitation, but first, let’s discuss potential causes of such agitation.

Frustrated Dementia patient and caregiver
Source: Unknown

Potential Causes of Agitation

  • New caregiver

  • Unfamiliar house guests

  • Traveling to new and unfamiliar destinations

  • Changes in environment—moving to a new house or assisted lifting facility

  • Misconstrued threats

Changes in environment are inevitable, but it’s best to keep the main things as constant as possible. And if things need to change, do it in a way that doesn’t completely uproot routine and environment—at least not immediately. To keep a Dementia patient comfortable and ensure sense of safety, use the following guideline:

1· Be aware of stressors and triggers

  • Identify fears, perceived threats and frustrations

2· Avoid potential stressors and triggers

  • Triggers can be anything—loud noise, unfamiliar bright light, knock at the door

3·Ensure physical comfort

  • Regularly check for pain, fatigue, infections, skin abrasions, hunger and thirst

4· Simplify activities

  • Rather than completing a puzzle, listen to music or watch TV

5· Encourage physical activity

  • Keep it simple—go for a daily walk

6· Create a comfortable environment

Dementia Patient and Caregiver walking in garden
Source: Getty Images

If you keep these things in mind, then chances are that your patient won’t have too many episodes of upset and agitation. The goal is to mitigate the stressors and discomfort of your dementia patient as much as possible.

Remember that as dementia progresses, the cognitive functions diminishes. Self-management, visual perception, language, reasoning, memory and all things related to cognition become difficult, hence the repeat confusion and agitation.

Agitation tends to result in an outburst, screaming, crying and aggression. This kind of aggression and agitation needs to be handled more carefully than with other patients. Dementia patients can feel invaded, violated and lost. How do you handle this?

  • Remain Calm

  • Use Positive Affirmations – “I’m here for you.” You’re OK.”

  • Step back and ask questions

  • Ask questions to gauge level of irritation

  • Listen to frustrations—why is your patient agitated?

  • Try using music & other stimuli to redirect attention from angst

  • Be self-ware—keep calm, don’t show alarm, don’t restrain, don’t insult, don’t argue, don’t make sudden movements

  • Contact physician to ensure agitation wasn’t related to physical or medicinal changes

These episodes are inevitable. You can’t control everything; you can’t control all external factors. Just try to be prepared and be aware of stressors so you can minimize the episodes as much as possible.

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