01st August 2023
Helpful tools and techniques to help you care for someone with Dementia
Understanding agitation and frustration
Agitation is a feeling of frustration, annoyance, nervousness and restlessness. Reasons for these feelings can be real or imaginary. The body reacts by increasing your breathing and heart rate, and your body can become restless, where you can’t keep still. The person may not understand what is happening to them and can experience high levels of stress. This can affect all aspects of their life and can stop them from enjoying things they used to do. 1
Feeling of stress and frustration can be increased if they also have difficulties with memory and concentration. Frustration can turn to anger, however a person with dementia may be unable to express this with words or they may be unaware of the appropriate time or way to express it. A person with dementia can become aggressive and verbally abusive, but it is important to remember that the person has reduced control over their words and actions. 1
Caring for someone with dementia
It is common for the carer or family member caring for the person with dementia to be at the receiving end of the verbal or physical frustration. The family member/carer must not take this personally even if it seems that the aggression is personal and done purposefully, it is not. However, this can be a cause of distress for both the person with dementia and their carer/family.
Supporting the person with dementia can be challenging at times, but your knowledge of the person means you know how to help the person relax. Consider the activities they used to enjoy before they developed dementia, i.e., music, art, exercise, special places, interacting with pets.
Remember PAL to help support the person with dementia:
Prevention is better than cure!
It is important to remember not to take the aggression personally and to try identify which solutions work best for the person. The person’s behaviours can change over time as the dementia progresses, and what are triggers now may not be triggers in the future.
Learning about dementia and the changes that are happening for the person helps you to understand how to manage frustrations.
Occupational Therapist and Clinical Training Manager
Alzheimers society of Ireland (2023) ‘I am a carer/family member’, [online], available: https://alzheimer.ie/living-wi... [accessed 20th June 2023]
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