Pacing. Fidgeting. Wandering. When you start to see these signs in someone you love with dementia, it is time for you to do something before they intensify to agitation, aggression, or leaving the house. Understanding how to ease restlessness in dementia begins with determining why the senior is feeling uneasy, which is often half the battle.
To begin with, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is anything causing the person pain or physical discomfort?
- Have they been inactive too long and need to move?
- Could the senior be thirsty or hungry?
- Are they bored?
- Might they have to use the bathroom?
- Are there any visitors who might be producing anxiety or distress?
- Is there an overabundance of distractions in the room?
If you are unsure, try fulfilling potential physical needs first. Ask if they would like a snack or a beverage to drink. Look for nonverbal clues that may point to distress, and contact the doctor right away for direction if you suspect the individual is in pain.
If the issue appears to be emotionally driven, try distracting the individual with a calming activity that they enjoy, for example, listening to favorite music and dancing together to channel that restless energy in a positive manner. Go for a walk outside, if weather permits, or move into another room of the house for a change of scenery and to read, work on a puzzle together, or take part in another enjoyable activity.
The Unique Challenges of Sundowning
Sundowning occurs late in the afternoon and into the evening, causing the person to feel especially anxious about being in the wrong place or wanting to go “home,” even if they are already at home. If restlessness is happening during this particular period of the day, it can be especially challenging for family caregivers, who need to be able to rest and get a sufficient amount of sleep.
To help a senior with sundowning, a team approach is frequently best, allowing the primary caregiver to take the break they need at night while ensuring the older adult stays safe. Actions you can take include:
- Talk to the person’s neighbors to let them know about the situation so they can help you keep watch in the event the senior does manage to wander away from home.
- Create a tag with contact and identifying information for the person, or purchase an identity necklace or bracelet, and make sure the senior is wearing it all the time.
Reach out to the experts in respite care in Oak Bay and the surrounding areas at Serenity Home Care at 250-590-8098 for a thoroughly trained and experienced dementia caregiver to take the night shift, or any other shift. We can provide someone you love with the patient, creative, and compassionate care they need to overcome restlessness and other difficulties of dementia, while giving you peace of mind and a healthier life balance.