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How to Calm Someone With Dementia: 25 Practical Tips to Soothe Your Loved One

Senior man with dementia being comforted by his caregiver

As a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, you experience a unique mix of joy, fulfillment, and challenges. Moments of agitation and frustration in your loved one can be difficult to navigate.

Understanding the reasons behind these outbursts and developing compassionate calming strategies can make a world of difference. This blog aims to provide you with practical tips on how to calm someone with dementia, helping you maintain a sense of peace and well-being throughout your caregiving journey.

25 Tips on How to Calm Someone with Dementia

When your loved one experiences feelings of agitation, it’s important to have strategies to soothe them. These techniques can help you navigate these challenging moments with compassion and understanding.

  1. Stay Calm Yourself: Your own frustration can escalate the situation. Breathe deeply, and approach them with patience and kindness.
  2. Validation: Listen and acknowledge their frustrations, even if they seem illogical. Say things like, “I understand you are upset,” or “I know this is hard.”
  3. Gentle Distraction: Try redirecting them to a different activity. Offer a snack, suggest listening to calming music, look at pictures together, or go for a short walk.
  4. Touch: If your loved one is receptive, sometimes a gentle hand on their shoulder or holding their hand can offer comfort and reassurance.
  5. Soft Music: Play gentle, relaxing music your loved one enjoys. Nostalgic tunes from their youth can be particularly soothing.
  6. Nature Sounds: The sound of water, soft birdsong, or gentle rain can be naturally calming.
  7. Tactile Stimulation: A soft blanket, a fidget toy, or even gently brushing your loved one’s hair can provide soothing tactile input.
  8. Weighted Blanket (if suitable): Some people with dementia find the gentle pressure of a weighted blanket comforting and anxiety-reducing.
  9. Simple Tasks: Involve your loved one in safe, easy activities like folding laundry, watering plants, or sorting objects. This can give a sense of purpose and reduce frustration.
  10. Reminiscing: Look at old photos or keepsakes together. Talk about happy memories from the past. This can connect to positive emotions.
  11. Pet Therapy: If suitable and your loved one likes animals, pet therapy with a certified therapy animal can be incredibly therapeutic.
  12. Creative Expression: Drawing, coloring, or simple crafts can offer a nonverbal outlet for emotions and provide distraction.
  13. Quiet Time: Minimize background noise (like the TV), turn off extra lights, and reduce clutter in their space.
  14. Comfort Items: Have some familiar objects on hand – a favorite blanket or a framed photograph. These can provide a sense of security.
  15. A Change of Scenery: A short walk outdoors, a change of room, or even sitting by a window can break the cycle of agitation.
  16. Respect Personal Space: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is offer gentle reassurance and give them a safe space to calm down on their own.

Managing Agitation on the Go:

  1. Pack ‘Calm-Down’ Essentials: Have a small bag ready with items that usually soothe your loved one. This might include their favorite snack, a familiar object, soothing music on a portable player, or a favorite soft scarf.
  2. Maintain Routine: Even when out, try to stick to familiar mealtimes and schedules as much as possible. Establishing a predictable routine for dementia patients can help calm and reassure them.
  3. Avoid Busy Hours: Choose outings during quieter hours of the day to avoid crowds or overstimulating environments. Consider their tolerance levels for the duration of the trip.
  4. Inform Others: If you’re going to a restaurant or public place, discreetly inform the staff that your loved one has dementia and may need extra patience.
  5. Simplify: If your loved one becomes frustrated, break down any task you are doing (shopping, navigating, etc.) into very small, manageable steps.
  6. Redirect Calmly: Gently divert their attention to something positive – a pleasant sight, an object in their calm-down bag, or a simple question about something they enjoy.
  7. Find a Quiet Space: If possible, guide them to a quieter, less-stimulating spot. This could be a bench in a park, a corner booth in a cafe, or even the restroom for a few minutes if things get overwhelming.
  8. Don’t Argue: Trying to reason or contradict may worsen the situation. Focus on validating their emotions and showing empathy.
  9. A Graceful Exit: If calming down isn’t working, don’t be afraid to cut the outing short. Reassure your loved one it’s okay and focus on getting them back to a familiar and safe environment.

4 Signs Memory Support May Be Needed

Dementia affects everyone differently, and it’s natural for a loved one’s needs to change over time. If you’re noticing significant changes, it might be time to consider additional support, like a memory care community. Look for these signs:

  1. Wandering: They get lost in familiar places or seem to wander without purpose.
  2. Recognizing Dangers: It may be harder for them to identify potential hazards at home.
  3. Essential Needs: You might notice they forget to eat regularly or take their medications as needed.
  4. Basic Self-Care: They may need more help with daily tasks like bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom.

Challenges for You as Caregiver

Caregiving is deeply rewarding, but it can also be incredibly demanding. If you find your own physical or emotional health declining because of the constant demands, it’s absolutely okay to ask for help. This doesn’t diminish your love or devotion – it means you’re prioritizing everyone’s well-being, including your own.

Seeking professional support and exploring options like memory care can help them live their best possible life and give you some much-needed peace of mind and support.

Find Comfort, Support, and Peace of Mind 24/7 at Lake Forest Place

Moments of agitation are a normal part of the dementia journey, but they don’t have to define your loved one’s life. If you’re seeking additional support, The Highlands at Lake Forest Place offers a specialized memory care community designed around the unique needs of those with dementia.

Let our community partner with you in this caregiving journey, providing the specialized support your loved one deserves and giving you both peace of mind. Call us at 847-423-6679 or contact us online to schedule a personalized visit to Lake Forest Place.