Anxiety is a state of excessive concern in an apparently innocent situation. It is common in people living with dementia, particularly in the earlier stages, where it can be the first indication of problems.
For a person living with dementia, anxiety may be linked to specific concerns about their condition, such as increasing forgetfulness, or it can be ‘free-floating’, latching onto other personal concerns. In some cases it may have no obvious triggers at all.
- Pick your moment to talk to people – wait until they are relaxed if you have something complicated to discuss.
- Explain to people what you are doing and why – never start a task with someone without making this clear. Imagine how distressing it would be if someone suddenly started pulling your clothes off with no explanation.
- Don’t talk ‘over the head’ of someone living with dementia even if they seem unresponsive – it often underestimates people’s ability to understand and is discourteous and disempowering.
- Speak slowly, use a calm tone and be relaxed and calm yourself. Be patient. Find humour where you can.
- Use reassuring gestures. Holding someone’s hand may be helpful.
- Find what relaxes people: gardens, cooking, sharing a cup of tea. Often singing and music can help.
- Allow people their own space when they need it.