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.