Some of the greatest challenges of caring or someone with dementia are the personality and behavior changes that often occur. You can best meet these challenges by using creativity, flexibility, patience, and compassion. It also helps to not take things personally and maintain your sense of humor.
NOTE: The information below is from the Family Caregiver Alliance and is not meant to replace any clinical interventions, programs or certifications.
Agitation refers to a range of behaviors associated with dementia, including irritability, sleeplessness, and verbal or physical aggression. Often these types of behavior problems progress with the stages of dementia, from mild to more severe. Agitation may be triggered by a variety of things, including environmental factors, fear, and fatigue. Most often, agitation is triggered when the person experiences “control” being taken away from him or her.
- Reduce noise, clutter, or the number of persons in the room.
- Maintain structure by keeping the same routines. Keep household objects and furniture in the same places. Familiar objects and photographs offer a sense of security and can suggest pleasant memories.
- Reduce caffeine intake, sugar, and other foods that cause spikes in energy.
- Try gentle touch, soothing music, reading, or walks to quell agitation. Speak in a reassuring voice. Do not try to restrain the person during a period of agitation.
- Keep dangerous objects out of reach.
- Allow the person to do as much for himself as possible—support his independence and ability to care for himself.
- Acknowledge the confused person’s anger over the loss of control in his life. Tell him you understand his frustration.
- Distract the person with a snack or an activity. Allow him to forget the troubling incident. Confronting a confused person may increase anxiety.
Repetitive Speech or Actions: People with dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be annoying and stressful to caregivers. Sometimes the behavior is triggered by anxiety, boredom, fear, or environmental factors.
- Provide plenty of reassurance and comfort, both in words and in touch.
- Try distracting with a snack or activity.
- Avoid reminding them that they just asked the same question. Try ignoring the behavior or question, and instead try focusing the person into an activity such as singing or “helping” you with a chore.
- Don’t discuss plans with a confused person until immediately prior to an event.
- You may want to try placing a sign on the table, such as “Lunch is at 11:30” or the “activity begins at 2:00” to remove anxiety and uncertainty about anticipated events.
- Learn to recognize certain behaviors. An agitated state or pulling at clothing, for example, could indicate a need to use the bathroom.