What is it?
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. How carers engage with the person is a key feature in provoking or reducing that anxiety.
People living with dementia usually respond favourably to carers who use communication techniques that are tailored to the situation and to the individual, and who try to understand and communicate.
Why is it important?
As with us all, anxiety in people living with dementia is associated with a lower quality of life.
The anxiety may result from specific concerns associated with the condition such as forgetfulness, it can be ‘free-floating’, latching onto personal and environmental concerns, or it can have no obvious triggers at all.
Anxiety can particularly torment people who realize that their memory is getting worse and who are apprehensive about the consequences of the disease.
Helping people to identify anxiety and to interact appropriately will improve the quality of life of both parties and should help reduce care-givers’ burdens and risk of burnout.
As people living with dementia become progressively more impaired they may sometimes worry less about their cognitive and behavioural deficits and become more contented, and so may become generally less anxious.
- Speak clearly in a conducive environment.
- Make reassuring gestures (for example, holding someone’s hand).
- Avoid behaviours that might be interpreted as aggressive (for example, making sudden movements or interactions without the reassurance of an accompanying description of the process you are about to carry out).
- Using a calm tone, humour and a friendly smile or gesture is likely to be helpful.