Dementia Anxiety- Helping Someone Calm Down

by | Sep 16, 2019 | Anxiety, Caregiver Stress, Dementia, Dementia Behaviors

Dementia Anxiety is common. It shows up in pacing, anger and lashing out, crying and other behavior changes. How do you help someone with dementia calm down?

And What Often Happens Is…

The family member caring for the one with dementia gets upset or worried when the one with dementia gets agitated. And the more they worry and get upset the more agitated someone with dementia will get. This dementia anxiety seems to take over everyone and everything. Helping someone with dementia calm down can be quite a challenge at times.

Your Energy Is What Matters

You see, the person with dementia may not be able to understand everything being said. But they will pick up on your energy.  Your tone of voice speaks volumes. And it does not matter what words you use. Also, if your face is frowning or flushed with anger or frustration that will send the message that something is not right. And this will cause more agitation. As such this can become a vicious cycle.

In The Beginning Stages of Dementia

Especially in those early stages of the disease. Often the person with dementia has moments of clarity. Then just as suddenly the fog starts rolling in. And the dementia patient is trying desperately to get through the fog.  They want to hang on to what they know. But it is slipping away. And it doesn’t help if you keep prodding them to “remember.” This can cause further anxiety and frustration. Dementia anxiety begins to take hold.

And that’s when the confusion sets in. Many caregivers report their loved ones begging to go home. Often, they are in their own home. For a caregiver, this can be unsettling. You really are not sure what to do. The key to helping someone with dementia calm down is to step into their world.

So how do you step into the world to dementia? And how do you help someone with dementia calm down?

Step # 1- Check Your Emotions

Celebrating Mother's day

Chances are your heart is beating a little faster. You may also be talking louder as you try to reason with the person.  Are your palms sweaty? Do you feel frustrated or maybe even anxious yourself? Dementia patients may not always be able to understand what you say to them but they can and do pick up on your energy. If you are stressed or getting frustrated it will only escalate the situation more. Their dementia anxiety can pour over into you. Don’t let that happen.

“After taking some training in dealing with dementia behaviors I realized how much my behavior was affecting mom. I was always rushed. This is because I was trying to do everything myself. I also discovered that I often had a frown on my face. It was usually because I was deep in thought trying to figure out what needed to be done next.

I made the really difficult decision to place mom in a memory care facility. And it was the smartest move I ever made. The people there are trained and extremely patient with mom. As such, she is much more relaxed. And now I can visit her with only one agenda. The desire to have fun and enjoy each moment we have left it the only thing I worry about. I smile a lot more now. And I know it is helping Mom to be happier also.” Gail B.

Step # 2- Pay Attention to Your Breath and Your Tone of Voice

Dementia Anxiety-Take A Deep Breath

Begin to slow down your own breathing. Furthermore, talk in a calm and relaxed tone. Sometimes this may be all it takes to get someone with dementia anxiety to calm down. This is a learned behavior for most adults. You can take a class in yoga, meditation or tai chi to help you learn.

Additionally, you can also get an app for your phone. Here are two that might be helpful. Breathe2Relax and Insight Timer. Both offer short practice sessions that you can do throughout the day. And if you are going to visit someone with Dementia take a few minutes to practice a breathing technique before you walk into her environment. Shake off the worries of the day before entering. And plan to spend the next minutes or hours just enjoying each other.

Step #3 – Throw Reasoning Out the Window

Dementia Anxiety or Dementia Fun

Your logic has no place in the world of dementia. Telling Mom this you did not take her to New Orleans will never convince her. Yes, you know that you simply took her out for a meal. But if she wants to tell your sister that the two of you went to New Orleans let her. Correcting her will only cause her to be upset. Explain to your sister later if need be. For some reason, a memory was triggered in her mind. It may have been several memories that were mixed together to create this new story of going to New Orleans. And if that makes her happy, so be it! This is one of the best ways to help someone with dementia calm down. After all, we all want to feel validated, don’t we?

Step #4- Create a Calm and Relaxing Environment

Caregivers need to Take a Vacation

Having a place set up at home can be a huge help. And you may want to have an aromatherapy diffuser and some special oils. Certain aromatherapy oils have properties that can help to calm someone with dementia. Also, have music available also. Choose music that she/he liked as a young person. Additionally, a special blanket could be comforting. Or maybe a doll that they like to cuddle with.

Step # 5 Redirect

Elderly Man Eating Ice Cream

Sometimes the best way to help someone with dementia calm down is to direct them to something they like.  As such, Jenny always kept ice cream in the freezer. She also had all of the fixings to make an ice cream sundae. So when her mom would get agitated in the late afternoon Jenny would direct her to the kitchen. “Can you help me to make an ice cream sundae?” she would ask. It always worked.

What could you do to redirect? It could be performing a task, like folding towels or filing papers. Likewise, a businessman might like to get the papers in his briefcase in order. And a carpenter may want to organize a box full of nuts and bolts. Each person is different. That’s why at Sycamore Creek Ranch we offer person-centered care.

These 5 steps will help you to calm someone you love with dementia. Just remember it all begins with you!

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