Anxiety and Dementia: Tips for Family Caregivers in D.C. and Beyond

Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia come with all sorts of challenges. For many family caregivers in D.C, MD, Northern VA (DMV), and throughout the world, trying to keep up with all the changing health needs of their loved ones gets frustrating, overwhelming, and confusing. It’s no wonder why: just when family caregivers think they have a challenge figured out or an intervention that works, the disease changes and creates new complications.

It is especially frustrating when anxiety comes into play. Unfortunately, anxiety and dementia often go hand-in-hand, making for repetitive questions and challenging behaviors that can leave family caregivers in D.C. at their wit’s end. Fortunately, the more you understand anxiety and dementia, the better you can handle it, even as it changes forms.

What Family Caregivers in D.C. Need to Know

When you hear a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you might automatically think of the common symptoms of confusion and forgetfulness. However, dementia is much more than this. It is a progressive condition that affects many parts of the brain and causes a variety of emotional, cognitive, and physical health challenges.

Anxiety is a very common side effect of dementia that can occur in all stages of the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, as the person begins to navigate the world around them without being able to process it as they once did, anxiety or nervousness is the body’s natural response.

Anxiety can lead to a variety of noticeable outward signs that can include:

  • Hand-wringing
  • Unexplained aggression or agitation
  • Pacing 
  • Crying
  • Asking repetitive questions
  • Inability to settle down for an activity or meal

What to Do to Combat Anxiety

Seeing your loved one in distress is difficult. Fortunately, there are some interventions that you can deploy that can assist in helping your loved one feel comfortable, calm, and safe. Remember, not all interventions will work for everyone and you might even find that one intervention works today but not tomorrow. Think of every intervention as a tool in your toolbox, ready to be brought out and tried whenever you need it.

Anxiety tends to increase in the afternoon and evening hours. You can try some interventions before those times of day arrives to push back the anxiety.

Here are a few ways you can combat anxiety with your loved one:

  • Listen to calming music throughout the day
  • Sensory activities are excellent, such as hand massages with scented lotion
  • Go for a walk together; movement is helpful for decreasing bouts of anxiety
  • Focus on easy tasks during anxious moments such as sorting greeting cards or silverware
  • Answer repetitive questions calmly while validating their feelings (“I’m sorry you’re feeling upset.”)
  • Try dancing to calming music together
  • If they are too anxious to eat during a meal, encourage them to take their food to-go so they can munch while pacing

Most importantly, you need the assistance of trained professionals. Here at CaringGivers, our team of caregivers is experienced in working with adults living with dementia. We use a variety of interventions to combat anxiety and help your loved one stay safe, healthy, and comfortable. Call us today to tell us more about your situation. We look forward to meeting you and your loved one.

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