Seniors with Alzheimer’s are often sensitive to their surroundings. They may begin to feel anxious or agitated. They move around or become upset in certain places. This anxiety may be caused by medical conditions, medication interactions or from being in unfamiliar situations. They are reacting to their inability to negotiate new environments. These symptoms often occur when they move to a new residence, have a new caregiver, or are hospitalized.
Knowing how to handle their anxiety will ease their worry. Here are five tips for handling stress in Alzheimer’s patients.
- Reduce Noise – Sound can cause undue stress on a person living with dementia. If sound reverberates too much it can agitate and disorientate the senior. Decorate their space with noise-absorbing materials like carpets and curtains. If outside noises are too bothersome, keep the windows shut. However, silence can be just as disturbing as noise, so adding soft, gentle background music helps.
- Improve Lighting – Lighting is important for people living with dementia. Since people with dementia are often older, they may be struggling with their sight. Keep all rooms well lit. Use natural light as much as possible, and when using electrical lights, use the highest wattage possible for the fixture. Place the lamps and lighting carefully, so there aren’t dark corners in a room. Shadows can make a person with dementia feel scared and distressed.
- Monitor Comfort – How is the senior feeling? Are they hungry? Thirsty? Do they need to use the bathroom? Are they tired? Perhaps they have a medical condition that is irritating them. Or the room may be too warm or too cold, making them uncomfortable. Be sensitive to their fears and discomfort, and help them express what is bothering them.
- Provide Reassurance – Speak slowly, clearly, and rhythmically when you see them becoming agitated. Take their hands in yours, using the hand over hand method, which is the safest position to use when someone is panicking. They won’t be able to grab you, and you’ll be able to pump their palm to add pressure in the hand to help calm them. Once they’re feeling calmer and safer, you can get back to the original care task. Keep instructions very simple and brief.
- Simplify Tasks – For someone who is living with dementia, losing items can be common. It can also be incredibly stressful. Ensure that everyday items such as toothbrush, slippers, etc. are easy to find and within reaching distance. Place stickers on the cupboards, naming what can be found within them. Pictures are a good option also, as they may begin to forget the meaning of words. Another option is to replace cupboard doors with glass doors so all the items inside can be seen. This will encourage a person with dementia to be as independent as possible, and help eliminate any stress when they are looking for something.
If the senior’s symptoms begin to worsen, or are uncharacteristically reactive, see the person’s primary care physician to rule out any physical causes or medication-related side effects.