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Caring for Agitation in Alzheimer's Disease

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8 Tips for Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers and Families

Medically Reviewed By Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC

People caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease may find it beneficial to make the environment safe for their loved ones, keep a regular routine, and wind down as the day goes on. It’s also important for caregivers to consider their own personal needs. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult at times. In addition to keeping your loved one’s needs in mind, taking care of your health and getting help when necessary is important.

If you need help caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, talk with your loved one’s doctor.

This article discusses eight tips to help Alzheimer’s caregivers take care of themselves and their loved ones.

1. Educate yourself

Two people sitting together on a park bench
Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy United

As a caregiver, you may need to do things you’ve never done before. Learning more about what to expect during the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease can help you prepare yourself for what’s to come.

Learn more about how fast Alzheimer’s disease may progress and its stages.

Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association can also help you learn skills to manage daily tasks like grooming or eating, communicate with your loved one, and ensure your loved one’s safety through the disease.

2. Keep a routine

It may be helpful for you and your loved one to try keeping a set routine for daily activities like eating, bathing, and dressing. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that having a structured routine may decrease agitation in people with dementia and help lift their mood.

Also, it may be beneficial to work activities that the person enjoys into your routine. This could include listening to music, watching television, or taking a walk.

3. Help the person with daily tasks

Because Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s memory, someone with the condition may find it difficult to manage everything they need to do. It may be beneficial to help your loved one keep a list of tasks, such as doctor’s appointments, in a calendar or journal.

Many people with Alzheimer’s disease also take medications to manage their symptoms. If a person with dementia has difficulty remembering to take their medication, it may help to set an alarm or reminder on your phone or their phone. Medication boxes with compartments for different times of the day could also be beneficial.

4. Allow the person to keep their independence when possible

When it’s time for your loved one to complete daily tasks, it can help to let them do as much themselves as they can. For example, a 2018 research review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggested that Alzheimer’s caregivers can allow their loved ones to keep some of their independence while getting dressed by providing gentle encouragement and positive reinforcement.

To further help a person with Alzheimer’s disease be independent, making their tasks as easy as possible can be beneficial. For instance, you can ensure that their clothes are loose-fitting and easy to handle, with zippers and fabric fasteners instead of buttons or buckles.

5. Keep safety in mind

Alzheimer’s disease can affect a person’s ability to think, walk, or move, and people with the condition may be more likely to wander or fall Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source . With this in mind, keeping your loved one’s environment safe is essential.

If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease at home, you may consider:

  • ensuring that stairs have rails to hold onto
  • removing rugs or other items that could cause a person to trip
  • putting a chair in the shower
  • keeping doors to the outside locked to prevent your loved one from wandering outside

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease self-care.

6. Communicate effectively

People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia may have difficulty communicating Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source . This may cause agitation or anger. You can make communicating with your loved ones easier by trying the following:

  • Listen: In some cases, someone with Alzheimer’s disease may become agitated from unmet needs like thirst or hunger. Listening to what they have to say is the first step to meeting their needs.
  • Stay calm and respectful: If you’re calm and show that you’re listening, your loved one may also be calm and able to tell you what they need. Avoid arguing with them, as this may worsen anger or agitation.
  • Give gentle reminders: If your loved one has difficulty remembering something, remind them of what they’ve forgotten. However, try to avoid saying, “Don’t you remember?” or similar phrases, as this may agitate them further.

Learn more about soothing your loved one’s Alzheimer’s agitation.

7. Wind down later in the day

People with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia may experience sundown syndrome, which refers to symptoms of agitation and restlessness that develop in the late afternoon or evening. To help manage these symptoms and reduce sleep disturbances, Alzheimer’s caregivers can:

  • Schedule more intensive activities like doctor’s appointments earlier in the day
  • Help their loved ones keep a regular waking and sleeping schedule
  • Try keeping daytime naps short or avoid them altogether
  • Wind down in the late afternoon and evening by scheduling quieter activities like reading

8. Take care of yourself as well

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be emotionally and physically consuming. It may be easy to neglect your own needs, but one of the most important things you can do is to take care of yourself. A 2020 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source showed that stress associated with caregiving can harm the caregiver and the person with dementia.

Make sure to leave time in your day for self-care. Eating regularly, getting enough sleep, and spending time doing activities you enjoy may ease your stress and prevent caregiver burnout.

If you need help caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, talk with your loved one’s doctor. They can recommend local caregivers or other resources.

You can also find local support by going to the Eldercare Locator, a website provided by the United States Administration on Aging.

Summary

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can involve learning how to communicate effectively, keeping their home safe, and maintaining a routine. If you’re an Alzheimer’s caregiver and you need additional help, talk with your loved one’s doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC
Last Review Date: 2024 Jan 9
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.