Imagine if someone said that there was a way you could, at this very moment, reduce the rate of mental decline in your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia by 37%?

Before you assume that this notion is a fairy tale – read on…

According to a recent study done by researchers at Utah State University (USU), a huge link has been uncovered between stress management strategies and the people receiving the care.

If that is the case, then the best stress management strategies at dementia memory care could be seen as a way to extend the happiness and wellbeing of people with dementia…

According to psychology professor JoAnn Tschanz, the lead author of a groundbreaking study at USU, adopting a problem-focused approach to handling common caregiving issues is the best approach. Furthermore, she states that this approach helps caregivers maintain good health while also providing better care to their loved one with dementia.

The key discovery in the study is that caregivers who used proper coping techniques were able to reduce the rate of mental decline in their loved one with dementia by up to 37%.


Sources of Stress for Caregivers and Patients

Common dementia behaviors are huge sources of stress for both caregivers and the person exhibiting the behaviors. These behaviors include hallucinations, wandering, anxiety, and sundowner’s syndrome.

When deciding how to react to and handle these problems, there are really two possible strategies. One is emotion-based, and the other is focused on solving the problem.

With the emotional strategy, the focus is usually on addressing the negative feelings caused by the distressing situation. These negative feelings could be anxiety, anger, shame, or guilt caused by the distressing behaviors of the person with dementia. The strategies used for handling these feelings might include ignoring the stressor, venting, creating a distraction for yourself, or even praying.

Now, the problem-focused strategy is different. It emphasizes handling the distressing behavior directly. These strategies might include forming a plan to tackle the stressful circumstances or simply stepping away from the distressing situation.

Let’s discuss an example. Let’s say that your loved one becomes agitated and begins pacing around the house. In that case, a problem-solving approach would mean researching the many possible causes of restlessness and anxiety in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Then you’d take a look at whether or not your loved one has been exposed to any of these potential causes. The first step you would take is to reassure them and make them calm by getting rid of the source that is agitating them or providing them with some sort of distraction. When the anxiety passes, you could then come up with ways to prevent this situation from ever happening again.


Useful Distractions

As you may now realize, distractions, or redirection, is the key to managing stress and anxiety-related dementia behaviors. If your loved one becomes irritated or anxious, redirect their focus and re-engage them with something else. That will help them get out of the negative rut that they’re in.

The following are some simple methods of reducing their stress and getting them to focus on something else.


1.) Physical Exercise

Doing light exercise is an excellent way to “destress,” especially when living in dementia memory care. There are plenty of helpful activities like dancing, yoga, walking, swimming, gardening, etc. In addition, doing these physical activities will allow them to get better quality sleep at night.

A senior couple going for a walk through a park

2.) Music and Soundproof Headphones

An excellent way of redirecting focus is to listen to some tunes. Music has a huge potential to positively affect the mood of those with dementia. In addition, listening with sound-canceling headphones can block out possible triggers or stimuli that can create stress.


3.) See How They Manage Their Favorite Activities

Think about the things they enjoyed doing before they were diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. What were their favorite activities and hobbies? These may be a good hint as to how you can address their anxiety problems. However, you should still understand that certain activities may make their situation worse and not better.

So what’s the solution? Easy. Just take things slow. For instance, if cooking was one of their favorite activities, then begin by assigning them small tasks. Things like bringing out measuring cups – then see how they manage it.

As is frequently the case, folks with Alzheimer’s or dementia can easily get frustrated and more stressed out if they cannot enjoy a thing that they loved to do before. So this is why it’s essential to begin slowly and adjust to their emotions and capabilities.


4.) Card Games and Board Games

Board games and card games can be great if used properly. They can serve as excellent distractions and stress relievers. However, this comes with the caveat that the game will not have too many rules or systems that make it too complicated. To play it safe, it’s better to stick with simpler games such as bingo or matching card games.

In the best dementia memory care facilities, checkers games will be readily available to residents. Playing by the default game rules isn’t even necessary; residents can feel comfort and independence simply by picking up the pieces and moving them around on the board.


5.) Keep Their Hands Busy

Lots of people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia really just need to keep their hands busy to feel better. Helping around the house is one of the most obvious and easily accessible options for helping them keep busy and feel independent.

Here are just some of the many options for good household chores:

  • Vacuuming
  • Towel, rags, and clothes folding
  • Wiping off the counters
  • Floor sweeping
  • Dusting off surfaces

These things provide an excellent means of distraction and can assist with reducing anxiety. However, it’s important to prepare them for success ahead of time. Give them manageable tasks that can be accomplished easily – not overly difficult tasks.