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Restoring Peace with Agitated Dementia Clients

Providing assistance for another person like helping them get dressed and using the bathroom, can result in uncomfortable situations, both for the person needing the care and the one providing care. It’s difficult to put modesty aside and allow someone to assist you when you’re at your most vulnerable. And there are times when seniors, most notably those with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, become very anxious while receiving this needed help, to the point that conflict can erupt and a person with dementia can strike out at the caregiver. The exact cause for these outbursts varies from person to person, but some of the potential reasons can include:

  • Loss of control. Loss of independence and autonomy can be felt in a variety of areas for older adults, and therefore remaining in control over the most basic functions becomes even more crucial to them.

  • What can help: Help the senior feel as much in control as possible, and offer compromises rather than pushing him or her too far. If they insist on wearing an outfit that doesn't match, for example, allow them that freedom.

  • Adherence to tradition. Standards of hygiene "back in the day" when today’s seniors were growing up were different than today’s, and a weekly bath was the norm for most Americans, especially if you grew up on a farm. A senior whose memory is unclear may revert back to those days and balk at the idea of a daily bath or shower.

  • What can help: Using positive, motivating language can sometimes encourage the senior to see things from a different perspective. For example, use bath time as a springboard to a fun activity, such as a lunch date for which they certainly will want to look and feel their best.

  • Fear of the experience. As we age, once simple tasks like bathing and dressing can become fraught with uncertainty, and often rightfully so, as the fear of falling in the tub or while getting onto or off of the toilet are risks to consider. Some seniors with dementia also become fearful of the sound of running water, or may become distressed by the feel of water that’s too warm or too cool.

  • What can help: In-home modifications to enhance safety, such as grab bars beside the tub and toilet and elevated toilet seats, can reduce the risk of falling. Using a soft, soothing voice and explaining each step of the process in advance can also help.

If you are a caregiver for your loved one, with or without dementia, we suggest you try to keep the following in mind before you begin any daily personal care tasks. These might help keep any outbursts at bay:

  • Always allow the senior as much independence as possible to enhance self-esteem.

  • A little planning can go a long way in optimizing comfort, such as keeping the room warm, using comfortable lighting, and maintaining as much privacy as possible.

  • Place clothing out for the senior in the order each item should be put on, offering gentle guidance for each step as needed.

We understand the challenges surrounding personal care tasks being offered to clients with dementia and we're here to help with fully trained and experienced caregivers whose goal is to ensure that each senior stays in their own home comfortably and safely. If you could use some help in caring for these individuals or your loved one just needs a little extra help around the house, contact us at 866-464-2344. We can provide trusted caregivers to any area within North Idaho and give you and your loved one peace of mind.

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