Avoiding Stress – by Ed Caracappa

August 9, 2011

At Guardian Angel

In today’s world, avoiding stress is something we all seem to be attempting to manage, and the person with dementia is no exception. The reality is that there is just no avoiding many of the day-to-day stresses.  For the person who has been diagnosed with dementia, many emotions may come along with the diagnosis, and these can bring significant levels of stress.

Exercise: Routine physical exercise can improve the dementia patient’s overall mood and sense of well-being, thus reducing stress levels. If you limit activities to approximately twenty minutes at a time, and make sure they are simple tasks or projects the senior enjoys – walking, gardening or group activities –  the resulting mental stimulation and physical movement can go a long way toward reducing stress. You will need to create consistency in the dementia patient’s daily routine, as well as provide support and encouragement to help alleviate stress, and will also likely need a high degree of patience. If the dementia patient becomes agitated during activity time, stop and try later. Your goal is to reduce stress, not increase it. Other gentle physical exercise such as stretching, calisthenics or simple household chores can lift the dementia patient’s spirits, creating necessary sensory stimulation.

The Importance of Nighttime Sleep: Brain diseases can disrupt the sleeping cycle, leading the dementia patient to have disorientation and confusion, sometimes as a result of over-stimulation or fatigue. Try to provide a wide variety of physical activities during the day for the person with dementia, so they will feel more tired at bedtime. Keep afternoon naps to a minimum as excessive daytime napping can increase nighttime wakefulness. Staying consistent with sleeping times and having a routine for getting ready for bed can also help the person with dementia avoid stress.

Other Methods of Reducing Stress: Giving the dementia patient regular hand or foot massages can reduce stress in the dementia patient if they are willing. You will also need to include mental stimulation in the daily routine of the dementia patient, which can come in the form of card games, puzzles, memory exercises or even rhyming games. Individuals with dementia often respond in a positive manner to music or reading them a story, and these are also good ways to decrease their stress levels.

Feeling isolated and lonely in one’s life can bring on anxiety. Once you engage those with dementia or Alzheimer’s in conversations, group meals, games, or singing, they will be much more likely to verbalize their own feelings as well as connect with others. Doing your best to laugh, joke, or make eye contact with a person with dementia can really help in allowing them to avoid the detrimental high levels of stress. If the individual likes cats or dogs, allowing them to interact with pets can be therapeutic as well as reduce stress. Crafting activities can give those with dementia or Alzheimer’s a chance to show their creativity, encourage verbalization and build their self-esteem. All of these tips can really help the person with dementia in avoiding stress which appears in their lives.

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