Restlessness

People with dementia may develop various restless behaviours such as fidgeting, pacing and agitation.

Causes of restlessness in people with dementia can include:

  • pain or discomfort, eg arthritic or dental pain
  • a medical reason, eg depression, constipation or the side effects of medication
  • a basic need, eg hunger, thirst or needing the toilet
  • a feeling, eg anxiety or boredom
  • communication problems
  • the environment - it may be too hot or too cold, over-stimulating or under-stimulating.

Restless behaviour can be difficult for carers because it can take many forms and can be very tiring. However, there are some things that may help.

Restlessness: tips for carers

  • Visit the GP to identify any medical causes and make sure these are effectively managed.
  • Try to make sure the person has plenty to eat and drink and that their environment is supportive.
  • A daily routine may help.
  • Engage the person in meaningful activities and hobbies, particularly those that involve movement, such as housework or gardening.
  • Encourage exercise such as daily walks, or seated exercises for those with less mobility.
  • Consider issues with continence. Does the person need to use the toilet or have any pads changed?
  • If the person fidgets a lot, try to give them something to occupy their hands, such as a soft toy or worry beads, or provide a 'rummage box' (a box containing interesting objects). They may also enjoy hands-on tasks such as folding clothes or dusting.
Games and activities for restlesness

The Alzheimer's Society shop has a range of activities that can help with restlessness, including fiddle muffs. 

Visit shop
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