Proactive Caregiving: Preventing and Managing Distress

Persons in the mid to later stages of dementia can have difficulty processing external stimuli, such as loud noises and sudden movements. The inability to interpret sensory information can cause a great deal of distress, often resulting in behaviors that are difficult to manage, like agitation and aggression.

Not every troublesome stimulus can be avoided, especially outside the home. Still, the caregiver can help their loved one avoid situations where overstimulation is likely to occur e.g., crowded shopping centers. At home, changes can allow for a more controlled environment. Ensuring noise volume is kept at a tolerable level and limiting the number of people in residence are examples of simple changes.

Inevitably, at some point, distress will occur, and the caregiver must know how to respond accordingly. Fear is a typical response to sensory overload and can trigger the flight or fight response, leaving individuals fearful of their safety. If a caregiver unwittingly mishandles the situation, the situation can be exacerbated, causing additional distress. In this scenario, approaching the person with a smile and friendly face, while assuring their well-being can help de-escalate him/her.

Learning these skills can significantly increase a loved one's well-being and quality of life. Furthermore, possessing the ability to prevent and manage challenging behaviors can prevent caregiver burnout and help the person avoid long-term care, allowing for continued community living.

Matthew Call, CDP

Owner, Alzheimer’s Home Therapy

For additional information on this topic, please visit www.alzhometherapy.com or call (941) 208-5489.