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Dementia and Anxiety


We all experience anxiety sometimes. However, it’s quite unfortunate that the feelings of anxiety in some of us may sometimes get so severe and persistent.

Anxiety greatly interferes with our normal life. The condition constitutes the major symptom of various conditions such as panic disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Studies have shown that about 10% of the world population experience anxiety disorders at some point in life.

How Common Is Anxiety In People With Dementia?

Anxiety is reported to be more common in patients with dementia. The condition affects about 15% of people with dementia across the globe. Just like depression, anxiety is reported to be more common in Parkinson’s disease dementia and vascular dementia than in those with Alzheimer’s disease.

General Symptoms Of Anxiety In Patients With Dementia

Most of our loved ones living with dementia have a large overlap of anxiety symptoms. Such symptoms include;

  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Profuse sweating
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pains or tensions
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Inability to concentrate

Besides, a senior with dementia develop some additional behavioral changes. Such changes include hoarding, agitation, fear of being left alone, and seeking constant assurance. Furthermore, you may seem to appear restless by keeping on pacing or fidgeting.

Possible Causes Of Anxiety In Dementia Patients

If you have dementia, you’ll have to rest assured that anxiety will always be on your pursuit. Anxiety may be caused by various medical conditions, circumstances that worsen your ability to think or interactions with medications. Ultimately, you may experience a profound loss of the ability to negotiate new stimuli or information.

All these are the direct results of the dementia disease.

The following are some of the situations that may make boost anxiety in patients with dementia;

  • Changes in the environment. For instance, hospitalization, presence of guests or travel.
  • Threats
  • Fatigue
  • Fear
  • Moving to a new nursing home or residence

Relationship Between Anxiety And Increased Risk Of Dementia

A review that investigated over 40,000 patients found a positive connection between anxiety and increased likelihood of contracting dementia within 8 years.

When we get overpowered by anxiety, we may find ourselves wondering if this is an early symptom of dementia.

Although it isn’t an early sign, it has been found to significantly increase your risk of dementia. The following are some ways in which anxiety may boost your risk of developing dementia.

Anxiety Results In The Aging Of The Brain

Studies by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital have shown that anxiety has an aging effect in our brain. This generally results in increased chances of memory dysfunctions such as memory loss.

Anxiety Results In Stress In Older Adults

Stress is considered helpful in some cases. For instance, it gives the brain and body the energy needed to deal with intense situations. Your breath quickens, your blood pressure rises and your senses become sharper. Stress makes you see and hear things more clearly.

However, your stress may end up lasting for the long term. Your body and brain fail to return to their comfortable state, thus damaging the brain’s blood vessels. This is likely to result in dementia, as your brain may never work properly, especially in your old age.

Anxiety Reduces One’s Cognitive Function

Under normal conditions, your brain will always keep you alert. The normal cognitive function allows you to;

  • Be aware of what is happening around you
  • Think flexibly
  • Focus

Anxiety makes you lose all these functions, constituting to the symptoms of dementia.

To decrease your risk of developing dementia, you first need to address your anxiety and its possible causes.

How To Calm Anxiety In Older Adults With Dementia

Our elderly parents with dementia are likely to experience anxiety at different points of life. However, as the caregiver, you’ll need to understand that seniors with dementia experience their realities. For you to be able to appease their anxiety and aggression, you’ll have to tap and embrace this reality.

Once you notice a change in behavior in a loved one with dementia, try a variety of techniques to help them feel more comfortable. Here are some tips that will help you cope when a senior with dementia exhibit worrying behavior changes.

Comfort Them With Music

It has been found that music therapy calms down anxiety in the elderly with dementia. Besides, music helps them reflect on their happier times. Based on studies by the Alzheimer’s Association, music helps the seniors release brain dopamine which eventually triggers happy feelings.

Also, music therapy is found to encourage social engagement alongside improving memory function.

Gentle touch

By gently touching your loved one, you end up creating a bond between you and the senior. This results in an anxiety calming effect. Besides, the gentle touch improves the level of trust.

Giving a soft gentle hand pat or back rub can be a great way to reducing anxiety in seniors suffering from dementia.

Calm Interaction

Your senior’s behavior will often be based on your first interaction with him. You’ll, therefore, need to use a calm approach when you first approach your loved one. By putting on a friendly smile and using a warm tone in conversations with them, you’ll eventually be able to handle your loved one’s difficult behaviors.

Incorporate and Maintain Routines

This is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety in your elderly loved one with dementia. By allowing them to stick to a routine, they’ll gain independence and live more comfortably, as they already know what to expect at various points.

Reassure your loved one

According to the research by Alzheimer’s Association, caregivers need to use calming phrases such as “you’re safe” or “I care for you”.  The reassuring phrases enable the seniors to feel loved and safe when you’re with them.

Bottom Line

Anxiety is a common issue in elderly people with dementia. When your loved one gets tormented by anxiety, remember to be patient while trying these techniques.  Even though not all will work best for you, you’ll likely find one that will reward your calming efforts.

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