Alzheimer's Care: Understanding Agitation Causes, Signs, And Prevention


Agitation is a common symptom for Alzheimer's patients and can often lead to difficult episodes for home caregivers or home care aides. Understanding the causes, signs, and solutions of agitation can curb upsetting episodes and lead to a better quality of life for your loved one:

Causes of agitation

People with Alzheimer's can become agitated for reasons that do not always make sense to family and caregivers. However, these reasons and feelings are very real to the person experiencing them. Alzheimer's patients become agitated for various reasons.

  • Hallucinations or fatigue
  • Perceived wrongs done by others
  • Misconceptions of time or place
  • Confusion or embarrassment
  • Changes in the home environment
  • A medical condition or drug interaction

Depending on the progression of the disease, many Alzheimer's patients experience hallucinations which can be frightening or cause the patient to believe caregivers have done something wrong. Alzheimer's patients may also feel confused if they don't understand where they are or believe they are in another time and place.

Often, something as simple as forgetting where the bathroom or kitchen is can lead to confusion or embarrassment, which is masked by agitation.

Signs of agitation

Signs of agitation in Alzheimer's patients can vary depending on the degree of agitation. Some signs that your loved one may be feeling agitated are fidgeting behavior, pacing, talking in a distressed manner, general irritability, using strong language that is uncharacteristic, or threatening language and behavior. Not all Alzheimer's patients will display exactly the same signs or degree of agitation. The most important thing to take note of is behavior that is uncharacteristic for your loved one.

Curbing agitation

There are many ways to curb agitation before it begins and as it is happening. To effectively stop agitation from occurring, it's vital to know your loved one's triggers or what seems to cause agitation on an ongoing basis.

For many people with Alzheimer's this could be a certain time of day, confusion involving a specific subject such as finding the bathroom, believing they are late for work, or something as small as a mirror causing them to think an intruder is in the home.

You can effectively curb agitation in predictable situations by changing the situation beforehand:

  • Remove any objects that cause agitation such as mirrors or photos of people are upsetting.
  • Make sure your loved one is well rested and properly hydrated. Check for anything that could cause discomfort.
  • Speak in soothing tones and use open body language in a calm and soothing manner.
  • Use photos to help with confusion; a photo of a toilet on the bathroom door, a photo of a glass on the kitchen cupboard and so forth.
  • Speak to your doctor about medication interactions or medication that can help.
  • Create a calm environment that minimizes loud noises. Consider soothing colors and furnishings as well.
  • Provide exercise each day, even if it's a simple walk outdoors. Provide simple tasks that your loved one finds enjoyable.
  • Create a simple and repetitive daily routine to reduce agitation.

While you may not be able to completely stop all agitation from occurring, it can be greatly reduced in many cases. It is perfectly normal for family members to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to handle this type of situation. A home health aide can assist you in establishing a daily routine for your loved one, while taking note of repetitive behaviors or environmental factors that seem to cause agitation.

For more help, contact a company like Devoted Guardians with any questions or concerns you might have.


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