Pacing. Fidgeting. Wandering. When you begin to notice these signs in someone you love with dementia, it’s time to take action before they escalate to agitation, aggression, or leaving the home. But figuring out why the person is feeling restless is sometimes half the battle.
For starters, ask yourself the following questions:
- Could the person be hungry or thirsty?
- Are there too many distractions in the room?
- Are they bored?
- Have they been sedentary too long and need to move?
- Might they need to use the restroom?
- Are there visitors that could be causing anxiety or distress?
- Is anything causing the person pain or physical discomfort?
If you’re uncertain, try meeting potential physical needs first. Ask if they would like a snack or something to drink. Watch for nonverbal clues that could indicate discomfort, and contact the doctor right away for direction if you suspect the person is in pain.
If the problem seems to be emotionally driven, try distracting the person with a calming activity that they enjoy, such as listening to music and dancing together to channel that restless energy in a positive way. Take a walk outside, if weather permits, or move into another room of the house for a change of scenery and to read, work on a puzzle together, or engage in a hobby.
The Unique Challenges of Sundowning
Sundowning occurs late in the afternoon and into the evening, causing the person to feel especially anxious about being in the wrong place or wanting to go “home,” even if they are already at home. If restlessness is occurring during this particular time of day, it can be especially difficult for family caregivers, who need to be able to rest and get a sufficient amount of sleep.
To help a senior with sundowning, a team approach is often best, allowing the primary family caregiver to take the break they need during the night while ensuring the senior remains safe. Steps you can take include:
- Create a tag with identifying and contact information for the person, or purchase an identity necklace or bracelet, and make sure the person is wearing it at all times.
- Talk with the person’s neighbors to let them know about the situation so they can help you keep watch in case the senior does manage to wander away from home.
Contact Generations at Home at 727-940-3414 for a fully trained and experienced dementia caregiver to take the night shift, or any other shift. We can provide someone you love with the patient, compassionate, and creative dementia care they need to overcome restlessness and other difficulties of dementia, while giving you peace of mind and a healthier life balance.