Tips to calm loved ones during stressful events

By Lesia Henderson - Contributing columnist
Henderson -

Well, she came in with fury, stayed longer than expected, left a mess of things, changed our lives and went away! Florence was an unwelcomed visitor!

Many families had to leave their homes and many families lost their homes. Many of my co-workers had to leave their homes to work in the Shelters that were open during the hurricane. It is hard to leave home even when it is a mandatory evacuation. When I think of home I think about how relaxing it is, I think of all my memories of my children, birthday parties, and family gatherings, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas! I think about the meals shared there with family and friends. I think about a life lived with my husband, the times of despair and the times of precious joy that we faced together at home. I think about how wonderful it feels for my grandchildren to come for a visit and the perfect pictures of family that hang on the walls of my home. I think about a hard day at work and I just cannot wait to get home and put comfortable clothes on and kick off my shoes. Home a place that we all love!

When a person lives with a condition of dementia they may say at times “I want to go home, I want to go home.” They want to go to that place where they feel secure and loved. A place where they feel comfortable and complete. Why do they say this, knowing that it is impossible for them to go home? Remember their brain is failing, their brain is dying! They are doing the best they can do! Their long term memories are strong. When your loved one ask this, often times the person living with dementia is referring to the place where they were raised. Those childhood memories of home of gives comfort. You may want to ask them to tell you about home, ask about the house, and ask about the yard and the details of their home. You may ask about their family. Getting them to talk about this may distract them from being so persist about going home. In my office I have many brochures, one of the brochures may be helpful when your loved one gets restless and has anxiety. The following information comes directly from the content of this brochure. These tips will help with reducing restlessness and anxiety.

People with memory loss and confusion may at times be anxious, nervous or restless. This can lead to problem behaviors, such as wandering and constant pacing. While you may not know the cause of the feelings, you can take steps to calm the person and avoid problems. Listed are some helpful tips to consider.

• Check for Physical Causes: Check that the person is comfortable and does not, for example need a snack, something to drink, a swearer or to use the toilet. Avoid caffeine.

• Establish Routines: Do the same tasks, such as bathing and eating, at the same time each day. Choose the most relaxed time of day for difficult activities.

• Plan Daily Activities: Have the person exercise every day. Try taking a walk each afternoon. Involve the person in everyday household tasks. Many people are able to wash vegetables for dinner or fold laundry.

• Keep the Person Informed: Tell the person when you are doing something with him or her. For example, “Let’s wash your hands now.”

• Offer Distractions: Offer the person a favorite food or beverage. Distract the person by starting a conversation, taking a walk, or offering a new activity.

• Keep Activities Simple: Before giving directions for an activity, address the person by name to get his or her attention. Modify tasks to fit the person’s abilities. For example, the person who used to garden could help rake leaves. Allow plenty of time. If you are in a hurry, delay the activity until later.

• Create a Calm Environment: Clear away unnecessary clutter and furniture. Reduce noise levels such as TV or loud music. Limit the number of people or activities around the person. Have a radio play soft, gentle music.

• Give Reassurance: Offer affection and comfort. For example, tell the person that you care for him or her. Give nonverbal signs, Offer a hug or hold his or her hand. Look for early signs of frustration in activities such as bathing. Respond with a calm tone.

• Communicate Calmly and Clearly: Use a calm and relaxed voice. Speak in clear, short sentences. Approach the person slowly and from the front if he or she is startled by your voice. Allow time for the person to respond. If the person is anxious about time, try a simple schedule showing the day’s activities.

• Talk to a Doctor: Have a doctor give the person and exam to check for medical conditions that could cause anxiety or restlessness. Find out if the person is taking any medication – or combination of medications – that could cause restlessness. Ask if medications could help reduce anxiety.

I have this brochure in my office if you are interested in picking one up. I think we all can agree, “There is no place like home.” It saddens my heart to think about those that lost their lives due to Florence. I trust these families will find comfort when at home as they grieve for their loved ones. Come join me and Marie Faircloth Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 2 p.m. at the Sampson County Department of Aging for our Dementia Education/Alzheimer’s Support meeting. Hope you have a “Best Day Ever!”


By Lesia Henderson

Contributing columnist

Lesia Henderson is an aging specialist with the Sampson County Department of Aging.

Lesia Henderson is an aging specialist with the Sampson County Department of Aging.