Understand and Manage Agitation in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

August 26, 2019

It is common among seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. Use these suggestions to help manage agitation.

One of the most common challenges family caregivers face when a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease is managing agitation. The behavior can negatively impact their quality of life as well as that of the family. It is often cited as a reason why families begin to explore memory care communities for their loved one.

In order to prevent agitation, or take steps to minimize it, Dementia care experts say caregivers must first understand the possible causes.

Potential Triggers of Agitation in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

  1. Disease-related changes in the brain

Alzheimer’s disease and similar forms of dementia can cause damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. This is the area that controls functions such as motivation, planning, self-control, and sequencing. When this area of the brain is damaged, it can be difficult for people to manage their reactions and understand consequences. The senior probably doesn’t realize their behavior is aggressive and intimidating.

  1. Undiagnosed pain or discomfort

A person with Alzheimer’s disease often loses their verbal communication skills. This makes it difficult for them to express their feelings or explain that they are in pain. As a result, when the older adult feels pain, fatigue, hunger, or sorrow, they may act out in frustration.

When your family member seems agitated or aggressive, try to identify the root cause. Ask if they are hungry, tired, or thirsty. Show them to the bathroom and see if they need to use it. It may also help to point to different areas of the body and ask them if it hurts.

  1. Overstimulation

Another outcome of the physical damage caused to the brain is difficulty processing too many things at one time. As a result, persons with Alzheimer’s can be easily overwhelmed. Noisy, hectic environments may be especially difficult to handle.

Because the adult may have difficulty managing multiple demands, they might become anxious, agitated, or aggressive. By controlling the environment, a caregiver may be able to help their loved one avoid becoming overstimulated.

  1. Confusion

Sometimes a person with Alzheimer’s disease will become anxious or agitated when they don’t understand what is happening around them. They may not understand why they need to get in the car or who the person in their home is. Irritability or agitation may be the result.

Family members may be successful in reducing some of this confusion by explaining who people are, even if they are someone the senior has known for years, or why they are being asked to do something.

Understanding Sundowners Syndrome

Another cause of agitation is actually a combination of symptoms that appear as the sun begins to make its descent. Sundowners Syndrome, also known as Sundowning, causes anxiety, agitation, and aggression.

Although caregivers may not be able to prevent Sundowning entirely, here are suggestions on how to better manage it:

  • Having a structured daily routine
  • Limiting caffeine intake
  • Reducing stimulation in the home, especially late in the day
  • Pulling the blinds and turning on the lights as the sun starts to set
  • Playing soothing music during the hours sundowning typically occurs

Compassionate Memory Care

If you are struggling to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s at home, we can help. Our nationally recognized memory care program in some of our communities, known as The Harbor, is thoughtfully designed to meet the unique needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Contact Legacy Senior Living online to learn more!