Agitation and Dementia: Tips to Calm Residents

Posted by Dr. El - November 7, 2011 - Communication - 7 Comments

I read some helpful ideas on working with residents with dementia in the most recent Psychologists in Long-Term Care newsletter (Vol. 25, Issue 2-3).  Psychologist Nancy Hoffman, PsyD, discusses research findings and her interview with Lucy Andrews, RN, MS, owner of At Your Service Homecare in Santa Rosa, California.  The main points to consider:

  • Agitation often reflects underlying physical needs such as thirst, hunger, or pain, or an undiagnosed infection such as a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
  • Many LTC residents suffer from sensory deprivation, boredom, and loneliness
  • Behavior interventions aim to treat to underlying needs that are causing inappropriate behavior
  • We should provide positive attention when residents are calm so they don’t need to become agitated in order to gain attention
  • It works better to distract agitated residents rather than to reason with them
  • Soothing music, toys, gentle touch, or favorite personal items can be helpful coping tools for residents with dementia
  • Asking closed questions is more effective than open-ended questions that can leave the resident struggling for an answer
  • Reminiscence therapy focused on pleasant and meaningful experiences can address underlying emotional needs, as can therapeutic activities such as art, exercise, and music
What are you doing in your nursing home to help residents with dementia have a meaningful, agitation-free day?