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Coping With Agitation in Dementia

Aged Care

Updated 25-01-2024

Coping With Agitation in Dementia

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a challenging journey, particularly when faced with behavioural changes such as agitation. Understanding how to effectively manage agitation can significantly improve the quality of life for both the individual with dementia and their caregivers. This article delves into strategies and approaches to coping with agitation in dementia, adhering to best practice standards and compassionate care principles.

Understanding Agitation in Dementia

Agitation in dementia is a common symptom that can manifest in various ways, including verbal or physical aggression, restlessness, excessive pacing, or general emotional distress. This behaviour is often a form of communication; it's the individual's way of expressing discomfort or unmet needs when they can no longer do so verbally due to cognitive impairment.

Identifying Triggers for Agitation

The first step in coping with agitation is identifying potential triggers. Common triggers may include:

  • Environmental factors such as noise, lighting, or crowded spaces
  • Physical discomfort, including pain or the need to use the restroom
  • Psychological factors like fear, confusion, or feeling overwhelmed

By maintaining a regular routine and keeping a log of incidents, caregivers can often pinpoint the cause of agitation and take steps to mitigate it.

Creating a Calm Environment

To minimise agitation, it's important to create a calm and safe environment. Tips for achieving this include:

  • Keeping the living space uncluttered and familiar
  • Using soft, soothing colours and lighting
  • Limiting the number of people in the room at one time
  • Playing gentle music or sounds that the individual finds comforting

Communicating Effectively

Communication plays a key role in managing dementia-related agitation. Strategies include:

  • Using simple, clear sentences and a calm, reassuring tone
  • Making eye contact at the person's level to provide a sense of security
  • Avoiding confrontation by not arguing or trying to reason with irrational beliefs
  • Distracting or redirecting focus to a favourite activity or topic

Non-Verbal Communication Techniques

As dementia progresses, non-verbal cues become increasingly important. Some techniques to consider are:

  • Offering a gentle touch or holding hands to convey reassurance
  • Using body language that is open and non-threatening
  • Pacing verbal communication with the person's ability to process information

Personalised Care Strategies

Every individual with dementia will respond differently to various interventions. Personalised care strategies may include:

  • Tailoring activities to the person's former interests and abilities
  • Ensuring basic needs such as hunger, thirst, and comfort are met
  • Keeping the individual engaged with meaningful tasks to provide a sense of purpose

Medication and Professional Support

While non-pharmacological approaches are preferred, medication can sometimes be necessary to manage severe agitation. It is crucial to work with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate treatment, balancing efficacy with the potential for side effects.

Training and Support for Caregivers

Caring for someone with dementia can be emotionally taxing. Accessing training and support can equip caregivers with the skills needed to handle challenging behaviours effectively. Support may come in the form of:

  • Support groups and forums where experiences and strategies can be shared
  • Professional training on dementia care techniques
  • Respite care services to provide caregivers with a break


Coping with agitation in dementia requires patience, understanding, and a tailored approach that considers the unique needs of the individual. By identifying triggers, creating a calm environment, communicating effectively, and implementing personalised care strategies, caregivers can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of agitation. It is also vital to collaborate with healthcare professionals and access support systems to ensure the well-being of both the person with dementia and the caregiver. With the right approach, it is possible to provide compassionate care that maintains dignity and enhances the quality of life for individuals living with dementia.

About the Author

Olivia is a seasoned professional with an extensive career spanning the Aged Care sector, bringing decades of experience to her role. Her comprehensive understanding of Aged Care services and practices is a testament to her dedication. Olivia’s gratitude extends to those who have generously shared their knowledge and insights with her over the years, contributing to her wealth of expertise.

Olivia’s articles reflect her commitment to practical and informative content. They skillfully combine her industry know-how with real-world insights, providing valuable resources for navigating the complexities of the Aged Care sector. Olivia stands as a reliable advocate for delivering compassionate and effective care to elderly individuals, offering her support not only to fellow care workers and professionals but also to those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the sector.

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