Restlessness in Dementia: How You Can Help

Restlessness in dementia
Restlessness in dementia is common, but these tips can help manage it.

Wandering. Fidgeting. Walking back and forth. These signs of restlessness in dementia are common, and when you notice them, it’s time to address them before they progress into more problematic behaviors. But identifying why the senior is feeling restless is sometimes half the battle.

To start, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are they bored?
  • Are there any visitors who might be producing anxiety or distress?
  • Have they been inactive too long and need to move?
  • Might they have to use the bathroom?
  • Is anything causing the person physical discomfort or pain?
  • Is there an over-abundance of distractions in the room?
  • Could the individual be thirsty or hungry?

If you aren’t certain on any of these answers, start by addressing potential physical needs first.  Ask if they would be interested in a snack or a beverage to drink. Watch for nonverbal clues which could indicate discomfort, and contact the physician right away for direction if you suspect the individual is in pain.

If the cause seems to be driven by emotions, try to redirect the senior’s attention to a more relaxing activity that they enjoy, such as listening to favorite 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 any other enjoyable activity.

What About Sundowning?

Sundowning occurs late in the afternoon and into the evening, causing the individual to feel particularly anxious about being in the wrong place or wanting to go “home,” even when they are already at home. If the aging adult gets most restless during this particular time of the day, family caregivers may struggle to get enough rest to fulfill their requirements.

To help a senior with sundowning, a team approach is generally best, allowing the primary caregiver to take the break they need at night while making sure the senior stays safe. Actions you can take include:

  • Create a tag with contact and identifying information for the senior, or purchase an identity bracelet or necklace, and make sure the individual is wearing it at all times.
  • Talk to the person’s neighbors to let them know about the situation so they can help you keep watch in case the senior does find a way to wander away from home.

If you are struggling to manage restlessness in dementia for an aging loved one, connect with JFS Care online or at 213-383-2273 for a thoroughly trained and experienced Alzheimer’s caregiver to take the night shift, or any other shift. With our care management services in Los Angeles and the nearby areas, we 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 much healthier life balance.