Agitation and anxiety in Alzheimer’s disease are just some of the possible behavioral symptoms a patient may experience. These symptoms often develop in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Agitation can present itself as verbal or physical outburst, general emotional distress, restlessness, pacing, or even shredding paper.
Understanding the root cause of behavioral symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease can help caregiver calm the patient down or better handle the situation.
Causes of behavioral symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease
As mentioned, it’s important to understand any possible underlying cause that could contribute to behavioral changes in Alzheimer’s disease. Common causes for these symptoms include:
- Uncorrected hearing or vision problems
- Medication side effect
- Change in caregiving arrangement
- Admission into a hospital
- Presence of house guests
- Moving to a new home
- Entering long-term care
- Difficulty expressing needs or wants
Treatment of agitation in older patients with dementia
When it comes to treating anxiety and agitation in Alzheimer’s disease, there are two main approaches: non-drug strategies and prescription medications.
Non-drug strategies include:
- Creating a calm environment
- Attempting to identify the cause for the change in behavior
- Not taking the behavior personally
- Checking for needs like hunger, thirst, or urge to use the bathroom
- Monitoring comfort levels
- Having the patient exercise
- Redirecting the patient’s attention
- Allowing adequate rest in-between activities
- Increasing safety measures around the home, i.e., using locks on doors or non-slip carpets
- Alleviating confusion
- Reducing risk of fires
- Using appropriate lighting
Remember, if a person is agitated or anxious, it’s important that you create a calm environment and use positive wording. Reassure the person that they are safe and that you are there to help them. Slow down your words and actions, and offer simple solutions to whatever may be the cause of their agitation or anxiety. Avoid raising your voice, getting violent, demanding or rushing the patient, restraining the patient, or ignoring the situation.
If non-drug treatment options aren’t successful, you can speak to the patient’s doctor about prescription medications to ease behavioral symptoms.