How to Help a Loved One Living with Dementia Manage Stress


Stress is a relatively common effect of dementia. It can arise due to frustration at being unable to recall or remember something, as a response to communication hurdles, or because the person with the disease can’t do things as they once did — to name just a few causes.

It’s vital to help your loved one keep as cool, calm and collected as can be when moments of stress arise — whether you’re the primary caregiver or you have explored professional in-home dementia care options.

Here are some ways to mitigate the potential for stress, alongside some ways to curb and defuse stressful situations should they arise.

Create a Routine

We thrive on routine. We generally wake up, go to work or school, eat our meals, and partake in social events at the same time each day. This level of scheduling can be of great comfort for people living with dementia, too.

Foster a routine that eliminates the potential for surprise and the unexpected: match activities and tasks to the flow of the person’s energy at different peaks during the day. Doing so allows you to set your loved one up for a healthy schedule that meets their needs.

Such routine and familiarity can go a long way toward removing the potential for unexpected stressors.

Be Prepared

You might find that you can establish a stress pattern with your loved one. Noticing telltale signs of what triggers their stress and upset can help you manage or mitigate it before it arises.

You might even find that stress presents itself at different times during the day, too — and possibly when they’re feeling tired.

Knowing the signs and taking pre-emptive measures can help lessen stress from presenting or becoming all-consuming. For example, if you believe that your loved one becomes more stressed or anxious come mid-afternoon, try to reroute these emotions. You could try to:

  • Create a calming and soothing atmosphere.
  • Try a form of distraction if you notice stress piques at an approximate time. For example, turn on gentle music, offer a seat on the porch, or make a cup of tea or coffee.
  • Suggest a nap.

Once you pinpoint the trigger, whether it’s tiredness, hunger, thirst, or boredom, you stand a better chance at being able to curtail stress before it becomes fully fledged.

Monitor Your Own Emotions

People living with dementia may become upset or stressed if they see you expressing these feelings, too. With that, try to keep your emotions in check. 

Of course, this can be difficult. Seeing your loved one experience a life-altering disease, like dementia, is sure to trigger a series of difficult and complex feelings. Being a primary caregiver can be tiring on the best of days.

If you find that things are getting too much, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Consider seeking at-home help for your loved one so that you can take time for yourself, join support groups, and talk with friends and family.

The Takeaway on Stress and Dementia

Stress is likely to present itself whatever you do. However, by implementing routine and consistency and managing triggers, you’re going a long way toward successful stress management for your loved one — greatly improving their quality of life.

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