Caring for a loved one with dementia comes with many challenges. Often, as dementia progresses, unexpected aggression or agitation may occur which can be frightening or create risk of injury. Your approach with this can potentially deescalate an unsafe situation.
Here are 9 helpful steps to handle and deescalate agitation caused by dementia:
- Speak low and slow with a gentle and reassuring tone
- Scan environment to identify the immediate cause
- Validate their feelings
- Rule out pain/discomfort as the cause of the behavior
- Calm the environment
- Shift focus to a different activity
- Put on music
- Remove yourself from the room
- Safety first. Call 911 if you or your loved one is at risk
It’s important to speak slowly and softly in a gentle and reassuring tone. Listen to what the person is saying and see if you can identify what is bothering them. Acknowledge their feelings. Call upon extreme empathy. Take their hand, and look into their eyes. Ask if anything bothering them or if they are in pain.
If there are people around, go to a quieter place. Turn off the TV or radio. Changing the environment may alter the person’s mood and calm them. Try putting on music, a waltz to start dancing with them, tunes you know they like or their favorite jazz.
If nothing you do is improving the situation, it is better to leave the person alone than to agitate them. If the person’s behavior makes them unsafe or threatens you, get help, either from a care attendant if available or call 911, describe the behavior and tell them the person has dementia. Your safety takes priority. Get help. You are not alone.