Medical researchers believe that up to 71 percent of people with dementia live with anxiety. The symptoms of dementia can make them feel confused or lost, which quickly lead to anxiety and panic. Doctors can prescribe benzodiazepine drugs to curb anxiety, but some studies link the medications to increased symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's.
Instead of relying on drugs, healthcare professionals and family members can use these five strategies to lower anxiety in dementia patients.
Remove Stressors That May Trigger Anxiety
Many people with dementia become anxious when they're exposed to specific stressors. These stressors can include a wide variety of events. Some dementia patients become anxious when they're exposed to bright lights. Other patients get anxious when they have houseguests. You never know what will cause anxiety until you spend time with someone.
Removing stressors is one of the easiest ways to prevent anxiety. It's best for people to have control over their environments. Living in a personal villa, for instance, gives residents of Heritage Villas opportunities to make their homes as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
Reconnect With Nature
Reconnecting with nature is a great way to lower levels of anxiety. Psychologists have recommended nature walks to reduce anxiety and depression for years, although scientific research has actually proven that exposure to nature does positive things for the brain.
Ideally, you can join your loved one on nature walks, sitting next to a lake or enjoying nature in some other way. The research shows, however, that people don't have to spend a lot of time immersed in nature to benefit. Something as simple as paying attention to a backyard tree has some positive effects on anxiety.
Luckily, this means that practically anyone can benefit from connecting with nature. Even if your loved one doesn't have the physical fitness to climb a hiking trail, he or she can still benefit from looking at grass, flowers and trees.
Stimulants like the caffeine found in coffee can make some people feel anxious. The problem gets even worse when stimulants contribute to confusing, swirling thoughts that agitate people with dementia.
Something as simple as removing coffee from a person's diet could lead to calmer, happier days. Your loved one may have enjoyed a few cups of coffee throughout life, but now is a good time to find out whether caffeine contributes to mental health problems.
Establish a Routine
Having dementia can make life feel confusing and scary. The more variables you can eliminate, the easier it is to stay calm.
Establishing a routine will help make your loved one's daily life more predictable. Predictability may sound boring to you, but it's the perfect routine for people who have dementia.
Mindfulness makes people more aware of how their thoughts come and go. After some practice, it's possible to recognize thoughts and feelings as little more than passing clouds in the sky. Anxiety often feeds on itself. Once you realize that anxious feelings will pass, the anxiety loses a lot of its power.
Your loved one can practice mindfulness in a variety of ways. Popular options include mindfulness meditation, walking meditation and mindful eating.
Many people with dementia discover that they can live independent lives when they have the right support. Schedule a tour of Heritage Villas to learn more about the possibilities of independent living in a safe, supportive environment.