How to Calm Alzheimer’s Agitation

How to Calm Alzheimer’s Agitation
Frankly, Alzheimer's disease has made very little progress regarding the ability to fight it. According to researchers at the 58th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting there is still no way to prevent, reverse or definitively diagnose Alzheimer's disease using molecular markers or imaging. In order for a cure to happen scientists need to unravel the mystery of the amyloid beta peptide, which is responsible for the tangles found in the brain plaques associated with the disease. So what else is new? Apparently, there is a treatment for managing some of the unpleasant byproducts of the disease, particularly agitation.

Agitation, a nervous kind of restlessness, afflicts many Alzheimer’s patients – this means their caregivers and family members absorb as well as deal with the fall out. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association agitation is almost a given with the disease. The expression of Alzheimer’s agitation includes behaviors which show: Emotional distress, over-activity, uncooperativeness, and sometimes outright aggression.

A new study has researched whether the anti-depressant drug citalopram, commonly known as Celexa, helps to calm agitation in mild to severe Alzheimer’s patients better than a placebo. The results show that people who had the drug did much better than the placebo. Note that there could be cardiac effects at the 30 milligram dose. As always, consult your doctor to see if this is right for the specific patient and if there are no drug interactions.

To calm agitation without using medication:
  • Don’t absorb the patient’s stress. Maintain you calm demeanor, so as not to fuel the flames. Also, don’t blame yourself, or the patient as it is no one’s fault, just a byproduct of the disease.
  • Redirect the agitation towards something the patient enjoys.
  • Don’t argue and tell the patient that he or she is wrong. See the world through Alzheimer’s eyes and allow the fiction.
  • Play music which evokes a happy mood, usually from their era.
  • Be affectionate and use the power of gentle touch like a back rub or put cream on the hand and massage their fingers. You might incorporate a scent of lavender which is a calming fragrance.
  • Whip out some photos the patient is familiar with and enjoys looking at, for example,family members.
  • Help the patient achieve dignity by completing a task, no matter how small. If the patient is unable to do it, put your hand over the patient’s hand and do it together.
  • Incorporate daily exercise even for those who are wheel chair bound; you can use light weights, the patient’s own resistance or balloons. Activity alleviates anxiety.

For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show

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