Alzheimer’s and Agitation: How To Help Your Loved One

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 23 March 2021

Treating Agitation in Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s patients are prone to being anxious or upset. They might be agitated, restless, or pacing back and forth. These issues, known as agitation, will hinder them from doing a regular day-to-day routine which can be dangerous to your loved one or their caregivers.

Change is often the most agitating factor. That may be due to a change in their schedule, their surroundings, or the caregivers they interact with. It may be triggered by fear or fatigue, all of which are typical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Agitation may arise as a consequence of an illness or another medical condition in certain situations.

When you can’t make out why your loved one is agitated, send them and the hospital to see how they can figure that out.

Caregiving Tips

You may be able to calm them down by simplifying their schedule or diverting their attention away from the source of the issue. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create a relaxing environment for them.
    Reduce excess noise from the TV or radio, eliminate clutter, and simplify their everyday routines as much as possible.
  • Check for physical causes of agitation, such as hunger, thirst, the urge to use the restroom, or getting either hot or cold.
  • Anxiety and depression may be alleviated by exercise. Take them on a stroll, garden with them, or play their favorite music and dance with them.
  • To make them feel less confused and scared at night, use dim lighting or nightlights.
  • Have your feelings under check. You may be frustrated, but strive to maintain a cool and consistent tone of voice and refrain from arguing or criticizing them.

Medications

If you are unable to control their frustration on your own or if the issue is serious, your doctor can prescribe medications to help.

They can administer medications based on your loved one’s symptoms.

  • Antipsychotics: Medications to relieve anxiety and confusion, such as neuroleptics or antipsychotics, are common ones and may help with agitation. Aripiprazole (Abilify), haloperidol (Haldol), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), and ziprasidone are examples of these medications (Geodon). Drowsiness, rigidity, and abnormal movements are all possible side effects of these medications. Some of these have been attributed to a greater probability of mortality in dementia patients in studies. These medications have a “black box" alert from the FDA that describes the dangers. Inquire with the doctor on whether or not they are a suitable fit for your loved one.

  • Antidepressants: If your loved one is irritable and depressed, antidepressants can help. Citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), nortriptyline (Pamelor), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft) are some of the medications available. Drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, and nausea are also possible side effects of these medications.
  • Anti-anxiolytics: Drowsiness is common for anti-anxiety drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax), buspirone (BuSpar), lorazepam (Ativan), and oxazepam (Serax). (However, they can intensify confusion and agitation.)

Working alongside the doctor is the best way to help your loved ones cope with their agitation.  They can prescribe the best medicine and caregiving techniques to keep them calm while still making things manageable for you.

Sources

Referenced on 2.3.2021:

  1. Treatments. (n.d.).
    alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments
  2. How is Alzheimer’s disease treated? (2018).
    nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet
  3. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
  4. Alzheimer’s Association. “Managing Behavioral Symptoms.”
  5. https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/treating-agitation

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