Alzheimer's Tips: Calming a Loved One Who is Agitated
Last updated: July 2023
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's can be a tough job. With time, most caregivers learn ways to help calm and comfort their loved ones. To find out which strategies work most reliably, we reached out on the AlzheimersDisease.net Facebook page and asked: "What are tips for calming someone who is agitated?"
Nearly 150 people shared their best tips. Here are a few.
Create a soothing ambiance
The number one response shared by the community was music.
Many people said that their go-to is to put on the music that their loved one enjoys to calm them down. You can also achieve a calming ambiance by turning off bright lights and removing jarring stimuli, whether that means turning off the TV or asking loud people in the room to speak in quieter voices.
"Soft music and soft lights."
"I start with getting the background noise turned down, whether that is TV, radio, or even people in the room."
Redirect with activity
Another popular technique is to redirect your loved one's attention to an activity they like.
The list of activities that people mentioned included going for a walk or car ride, spending time with a pet, coloring, eating ice cream or another favorite food, or looking at photos.
All of these activities can help shift your loved one's energy from agitated to soothed.
"Redirect with something they enjoy: reading, looking at family photos, eating a favorite food, etc."
"Petting our cat and laying next to the dog are calming."
Be mindful of how you are communicating
Because it can be so easy to raise your voice without realizing it, several people shared that they pay extra attention to how they are communicating with their loved one.
They pause and make sure that they are using a soft voice. They also slow down their words, which not only makes them easier to understand but also can have a soothing effect on the listener. A few folks also shared that it is key to not argue with or correct your loved one, as that can take the conversation down an unhelpful path.
"Remain as calm as possible yourself. Be as agreeable as possible."
"Speak slowly and softly."
"Never argue with or try to correct a person with Alzheimer's."
Let them vent if they need to
A few people shared that they try first to calm their loved ones or redirect their focus, and if they remain agitated, then the caregiver readies themselves to just listen.
Sometimes the person with Alzheimer's may just need to vent verbally and unload, and it can help if the caregiver can be present and loving without being judgmental or correcting. If possible, offer as much kindness and reassurance as possible.
"Listen and let them be heard. Sometimes it is a 'feeling' conversation, not a 'fact' conversation."
"Whatever they are upset about - just agree, validate, and reassure."
"Reassuring them that they are loved!"
Take care of yourself, too
This is an important tip that often does not get the focus it deserves.
It can be hard to show up in a loving, patient, and kind way every day as a caregiver if you are not also devoting some time and energy to your own state of mind.
Several people suggested that it helps to remind yourself not to take things personally when your loved one says hurtful things or yells. It can be upsetting, too, to work hard and have your efforts not succeed.
In that case, the caregiver may need to turn their voice of comfort and reassurance on themselves so that they refill their own cup.
"I have to tell myself it is not personal. I get very emotional and remind myself it is not him. It is the disease talking."
"You cannot let yourself be blown about by their winds of change."
Be flexible in your approach
Last, of all - it can help to bring flexibility to the situation. Every day can bring a different mood or different situation, which may call for a different solution.
There may also be days when none of the usual fixes work, and that is okay. Maybe the caregiver also needs a time-out to breathe and shift gears.
Just remember it is all a learning process, and there is no single perfect way to care for someone with Alzheimer's.
"Sometimes the tips do not work. Sometimes is the keyword! I just remember it is not their fault, and that what works one time for one person may not work the next time.”
More on calming someone who is agitated?
We want to say thank you to everyone who shared. We appreciate seeing such a diversity of thoughtful and practical tips. Do you have any tips you would add to this list?
Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with Mild cognitive impairment?