Wandering. Pacing. Fidgeting. As these signs of restlessness develop in aging adults with dementia, it’s important to address them before they escalate to aggression, agitation, or leaving the house. But figuring out why the older adult is feeling restless is sometimes half the battle of trying to manage restlessness in dementia.
For starters, think about the following questions:
- Are there any visitors who could be producing distress or anxiety?
- Might they have to use the restroom?
- Are they bored?
- Are there a lot of distractions in the room?
- Have they been sedentary too long and need to move?
- Is anything causing the individual physical discomfort or pain?
- Could the senior be thirsty or hungry?
If you aren’t sure, a great place to start is acknowledging any physical needs. Do they need a snack or drink? If not, also watch out for nonverbal clues that could reveal distress, and call the physician right away for direction in the event that you suspect the person is in pain.
If the problem boils down to emotions, try distracting the person with a soothing activity that they really enjoy, for example, listening to favorite music and dancing together to channel that restless energy in a positive way. Go for a walk outside, if weather permits, or move into another room of the house for a change of scenery and to work on a puzzle together, read, or take part in another enjoyable activity.
The Unique Challenges of Sundowning
Aging adults can feel particularly anxious or confused during the late afternoon and into the evening due to sundowning. If restlessness is happening during this particular time of day, it may be very difficult for family caregivers, who need to be able to rest and get a sufficient amount of sleep.
A team effort is often the most effective approach to sundowning, as it allows the primary family caregiver to take the break they need during the night while ensuring the senior remains safe. Actions you can take include:
- Create a tag with identifying and contact information for the senior, or purchase an identity bracelet or necklace, and make sure the older adult is wearing it all the time.
- Talk with the person’s neighbors to let them know about the situation so they can help you keep watch in the event the person does manage to wander away from home.
If you are trying to manage restlessness in dementia, reach out to Responsive Home Care online or at (954) 486-6440 for a fully trained and experienced Alzheimer’s caregiver to take the night shift, or any other shift. A live in caregiver in Hollywood, FL or the nearby areas 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.