Agitation including restlessness

Agitation is one of the most common behaviours that other people find difficult to understand.

A person who is agitated may be restless and fidget or walk up and down, for example. Agitation and restlessness might be caused by:

  • pain or discomfort (for example pain caused by arthritis or problems with their teeth)
  • a medical reason (for example depression, constipation or the side effects of medication)
  • a basic need (for example hunger, thirst or needing the toilet)
  • a feeling (for example anxiety or boredom)
  • communication problems
  • the environment – it may be too hot or cold, or too noisy. Or there may be too much, or not enough, for the person to do.

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

Agitation – tips for carers

  • Try to make sure the person has plenty to eat and drink and that there is nothing in their environment making them feel uneasy, such as shadows caused by the lighting.
  • Having a daily routine may help. However, if the person is in the middle to later stages of their dementia and hasn’t had a routine before this may not be helpful.
  • Engage the person in activities and hobbies they enjoy or find useful, especially if they involve moving around, such as housework or gardening.
  • Encourage the person to be physically active. They could go for a walk each day, or if they have problems moving they could try sitting exercises. Speak to your GP to get guidance on these.
  • Consider whether the person is having continence problems. Do they 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 a fiddle product or ‘rummage box’ (a box containing interesting objects). They may also enjoy hands-on tasks such as folding clothes or dusting.
  • Some people find that therapies such as aromatherapy, touch, animal-assisted therapy and music therapy can help reduce agitation.
Games and activities for restlessness

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

Visit shop
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