The challenges of the different dementia diseases can lead to stressful periods in dementia care, which can lead to anxiety for both patient and carer. Challenges with communication, distress over losing independence or confusion can manifest itself in difficult behaviour. In this article we cover ideas on how to calm an anxious dementia patient, and maintaining a calm atmosphere that benefits both patient and carer.
Sensory activities are recommended as they help to keep dementia hands busy and can stimulate areas of the brain or use other senses. There are some more general areas that we cover below as well as types of products which can help.
Sensory activities that encourage the use of smells can be really beneficial to creating a calmer environment. Look at activities that include baking, or investigating different smells, such as lavender, rosemary and other herbs.
- You could plant a herb garden together, or take part in a gardening activity in a herb garden
- The use of lavender warming bags which emit a smell of lavender
There are different schools of thought as to how beneficial exercise is for a dementia patient and any activity should be undertaken with advice from a GP. However, walking is a great activity that you can carry out with the dementia patient. It is a great way to get out into the green and nature, which is shown to have a benefit in supporting better sleep and reducing stress and agitation.
Research has demonstrated that there are many therapeutic benefits for dementia patients when they are able to look after a pet. Walking a dog is great for exercise and reaps the benefits of the therapeutic effects of looking after a pet. There are dogs which are being trained to help dementia patients with numerous tasks, including reminding them when to take their medication.
It is well documented the benefits of listening to music and the endorphins that triggers happy feelings over the body. Music can also help with calming a dementia patient and reducing anxiety. It helps if you have an understanding of their music tastes and it could become an activity where you encourage them to talk about things related to the music, memories related to the music from their past.
As some senses become impeded or dulled, others can become more sensitive. There are many sensory activities that you can undertake with a dementia patient to encourage them to be communicate and to calm them. Try fiddle or twiddle muffs, sensory products such as aprons and cushions, as well as finding them a range of patterned materials and different bows buttons and other such objects, to keep their hands occupied and minds interested.
Hugs or a simple touch or stroke of a hand can all support to reduce anxiety of a patient. This needs to managed appropriately and in a supportive manner too.
How to control anxiety
The key to keeping a dementia patient calm and to reduce tensions throughout care is to ensure that the patient is kept busy and that they can enjoy regular routines. This helps them to remain in control and encourages consistency.
It is important to talk calmly if a patient is experiencing anxiety, and to use terms to help them to feel relaxed. Make sure that the level of lighting in the room is bright enough without causing glare and shadows. As one of the main reasons for anxiety and stress in a dementia patient is the loss of independence, the use of assistive tech and supporting them to maintain their independence as far as is possible are important.