Individuals that have Alzheimer’s or dementia may also experience anxiety. Although it can feel overwhelming, properly identifying anxiety in dementia patients and offering the best types of support is essential.
In this blog post, we’re going to explain what anxiety is, discuss some dementia anxiety symptoms, and offer five top sensory tips to soothe anxiety in dementia patients.
With the current global health crisis due to Covid-19, it can be a time of heightened anxiety for both dementia patients and their family members or carers. Our sensory tips cover ways to support anxious dementia patients even when you cannot be with them in person.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling that everybody experiences from time to time. However, in some instances, anxiety can develop into an intense feeling that regularly disrupts everyday life.
Experiencing intense feelings of anxiety can make you feel scared and out of control. Anxiety can also manifest physically, and you may experience sweating, headaches, and possibly panic attacks.
Anxiety can have negative effects on the following: mental health, mood, relationships, confidence levels, sleep patterns, focus, appetite, and level of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
The causes of anxiety vary; it can be triggered by significant life changes, health concerns, and worry about family members and the future.
For individuals with memory problems like dementia, anxiety can develop due to feeling stressed and confused about what is happening to them.
What are Dementia Anxiety Symptoms?
Symptoms of anxiety in dementia patients can be hard to identify as many anxiety symptoms overlap with symptoms of dementia. However, without proper identification and early intervention, anxiety can worsen over time, leading to more severe issues with mental and physical health. The patient may also start suffering from dementia panic attacks.
Here are some dementia anxiety symptoms to look out for:
- Pacing up and down.
- Becoming agitated.
- Seeking reassurance.
- Wanting to go to a safe place.
- Following family members around the house.
- Poor sleep.
5 Sensory Tips to Soothe Anxiety in Dementia Patients
It’s normal to worry about dementia patients that suffer from anxiety, especially if they are a family member, and especially if you can’t visit them due to social distancing measures.
So, we’ve put together our top five sensory tips to soothe anxiety in dementia patients, even if you can’t be physically there to support them.
Tip #1 – Multisensory Environment
One of the most effective ways to soothe anxiety in dementia patients is to create a multisensory environment for them. Multisensory rooms offer an array of benefits for those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia and are excellent for relieving anxiety.
A multisensory room provides a safe and comforting space for anxious dementia patients to explore. There are no threats, and sensory tools can be used to soothe the mind and relieve anxious feelings. If you can’t be there to help set-up a multisensory room for them, sensory products on their own are very effective.
Perfect Petzzz are lifelike, cuddly cats and dogs that offer the comfort of a real pet, but without the responsibility and expenses. They are perfect for calming anxiety in dementia patients.
Bubble tubes are another excellent sensory tool. These LED light bubble tubes change color slowly, which has a powerful soothing effect.
Tip #2 – Healthy Diet
It’s vital to establish a healthy, balanced diet for your overall health and to reduce feelings of anxiety.
Make sure the dementia patient you are supporting has enough food in their kitchen that they can produce healthy meals with. If they need support, cooking together, or letting them watch and follow you, are great ideas.
In the current climate, you may be unable to visit the dementia patient you are supporting. If this is the case, you should organize a regular online grocery delivery for them, or drop food off for them.
You could add cooking and storage instructions to the food shop, and leave them with easy-to-follow recipe cards. Or, you could prepare some nutritious meals with instructions and leave them at their door.
A popular food delivery option in the current climate is weekly meal kit boxes. Companies, like Hello Fresh, deliver precise ingredients and simple instructions so that you can prepare healthy meals.
Don’t forget to keep their food stores balanced and as nutritional as possible. Caffeine and alcohol can worsen levels of anxiety, but sweet treats can provide a degree of comfort and happiness.
Tip #3 – Encourage them to Exercise
It’s widely accepted that engaging in exercise helps to reduce levels of anxiety. An active 10 to 20 minutes works wonders for your body and your mind. After you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, which lifts your mood.
Exercise is also beneficial for your overall physical health, so it’s something that should be encouraged in every age group!
Keeping active doesn’t require going for a walk or jog; you can get your exercise in from the comfort of your living room, bedroom or backyard. Home workouts are more accessible than ever, and the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an even greater surge in free, online exercise content.
If you’re supporting an anxious, dementia patient who isn’t fully confident in navigating the internet, do some research for them. You can e-mail them links to at-home workouts that are suitable for their level of mobility.
Joe Wicks, also known as The Body Coach, is a popular fitness coach with some great short home workouts designed for seniors. He has published a few senior workout tutorials to his YouTube channel, including one that incorporates exercising from your chair.
You could also video call them using apps like WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom and do a workout together, virtually! It’s a great way to keep connected and helps to establish a routine. You can also make sure they are doing the moves correctly and not too intensely.
If they don’t use the internet at all, then why not just call them on the phone and talk them through the workout? Keeping up contact is important, and talking them through the moves will help them feel encouraged and supported.
Tip #4 – Listen to Music
Listening to music is a fantastic idea for anxious dementia patients. Music helps to keep the brain active, and it often promotes memory. Also, music helps the brain to relieve stress and feelings of anxiety.
Many great sensory products provide a level of musical therapy. For example, the Vibro-Acoustic Platform pulsates music through your body while you sit or lie down. In particular, playing calming tracks will help to soothe anxiety in dementia patients.
If you’re supporting somebody from a distance, arrange a time to call them and curate a playlist together of their favorite songs. Many great programs allow you to do this, such as Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music.
Or, have a musical conversation with them over a phone or video call. Arrange a time to sit down together, play their favorite tracks, and sing along together.
You should also encourage them to listen to radio stations that play older records that they may recognize and enjoy. There are some excellent resources online made with dementia patients in mind, including the Reminiscence Radio Show.
If you’re supporting somebody who isn’t tech-savvy, upload their favorite songs to a listening device or CD and drop it at their front door. Or, order them some of their favorite records online and have them delivered.
Tip #5 – Get Creative
You can get creative in many different ways, from painting to knitting to baking. Unleashing your creative spirit is an excellent form of therapy for both anxiety sufferers and dementia patients.
Keeping your mind on something you enjoy, and producing a result, is an effective way to lift your mood. Creative engagement is also particularly beneficial to dementia patients, as they can reconnect with their personality and sharpen their minds.
If you can’t be there in person to get creative with them, then place an online order or drop-off of some activities they would enjoy. There are plenty of indoor activities for dementia patients that will help to sharpen their mind and promote calm.
For example, jigsaws and puzzles are a great way to keep the mind focused, sharp, and distracted from the news. Or, for something even more relaxing, try out an adult coloring book.
We hope these sensory tips will make it easier for you to identify dementia anxiety symptoms and soothe anxiety in dementia patients. Remember, sensory support can be provided to dementia patients with anxiety, whether you’re near or far.