What causes restlessness and agitation?
If the person you’re caring for is feeling restless and agitated you could find it really challenging to cope with. But there’s often a reason for this behaviour. Find out what could be causing it…
What are the causes of restlessness?
Restless behaviour can take different forms, including fidgeting, pacing, agitation and sundowning. When you think about it, it’s not surprising; if you’ve spent your whole life doing certain activities (such as working, travelling, looking after children etc) then find you can’t do them anymore, you’re bound to become restless!
Other reasons for restlessness can include:
– Communication problems – they might be trying to tell you something but the dementia has made talking difficult.
– Anxiety – they may feel unsafe or unsure about a certain situation
– Boredom – if they’ve not got much to do all day, they could end up getting bored and restless.
– Problems with eyesight and hearing can also have an impact
– Hunger, thirst or needing the toilet – they’ve got a basic need such as this, it’s no wonder they’ll be feeling restless and trying to sort it out
– Pain, discomfort or a medical problem – joint pain, toothache, constipation or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
What can you do about restlessness?
If you’re struggling, try some of these…
Get a health check-up
If the restlessness is being caused by an underlying health problem, this should be picked up by a doctor, so organise a trip to the GP for a check-up.
Ensure regular meal times
Someone with dementia may forget to eat or drink, so if you think their restlessness is being caused by hunger or thirst, make sure they have easy access to food or drink, and remind them to make use of them. There are special clocks that can help remind a person with dementia to eat or drink, and simple white boards.
Set up a daily routine
It’s a good idea to put a daily care plan in place for someone with dementia. Providing structure to their day will ensure they know what to expect and when that might be.
As part of the daily care plan, make sure you include different hobbies and activities to keep the person you’re caring for stimulated and engaged. It could be listening to old music, playing a board game, doing some gardening or even daily chores such as housework.
Get out and about
Burning off excess energy will help to reduce the risk of restlessness – whether that’s a daily walk or even seated exercises.
Check for continence issues
Whether or not they use incontinence products, it’s worth checking if they need to have pads changed or just use the toilet.
Occupy their hands
If the restlessness takes the form of fidgety hands, giving them something to keep their hands busy could help. Soft toys and dolls are popular, but you can also try a soft ‘fiddle muff’ or ‘fiddle apron‘ that have zips and ties to play with.
Remember, if the restlessness is taking the form of wandering, sundowning or sleep problems, there’s also plenty you can do.