Caregiver Training on Agitation and Anxiety

Agitation and anxiety are common issues when caring for an older adult with dementia. There are a variety of ways to deal with these issues, including avoiding environmental triggers, limiting your own distractions, and using therapeutic activities. A caregiver training video series from UCLA discusses these issues and teaches caregivers how to prevent and respond to common scenarios. The series is available in English and Spanish.

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Taking a deep breath to calm yourself

A caregiver can relieve the feelings of agitation and anxiety by taking a deep breaths. A deep breath enables the oxygen-rich air to fill the lungs and triggers the relaxation response in the brain. Shallow breathing triggers the release of stress hormones and can lead to agitation. Caregivers can train themselves to breathe deeply by following the simple steps above.

First, pay attention to the breath that comes naturally to the body. Practice counting your breaths and slowly increasing the length of each exhale and inhale. When you feel your breathing is too shallow, try breathing deeply from the belly. You may also breathe in and out of the mouth. The deeper the breath, the calmer you’ll feel.

Avoiding environmental triggers

Identifying triggers of caregiver agitation and anxiety can be a difficult task for a caregiver. It can be helpful to talk with a health care provider about possible causes. Sometimes a few simple changes can make a big difference for your loved one.

Distractions can also be a trigger. When your loved one gets frustrated or agitated, try to redirect their attention to something else. This will improve communication and help the person refocus. Your physician can provide you with a handy tip sheet called the Redirection Tip Sheet. In addition, try to create a warm and relaxing environment for your loved one.

Limiting distractions for yourself

Limiting distractions for yourself and your caregiver is an essential part of caring for a loved one. Using a smartphone while caring for your loved one can make you less aware of your loved one’s needs and can lead to missed early signs of frustration. When possible, leave your phone in another room and try to give your full attention to your loved one. This may help reduce anxiety and agitation.

Caregiver Training on Agitation and Anxiety

Using therapeutic use of activities

Caregivers who were enrolled in a trial involving TAP had a lower incidence of depression and a higher quality of life than caregivers who did not take part in the trial. The results also demonstrated that the caregivers had reduced burden and improved IADL assistance. The study was conducted with caregivers aged 18 and older and included both male and female caregivers.

Caregivers were trained through observation and hands-on practice. Using individualized activities targeted to specific clinical symptoms was effective for improving both caregivers and PLWDs. Caregivers were also taught how to implement and review previous activities. This approach is well tolerated by caregivers.

These interventions have psychological components, including psychoeducation, counseling, and mindfulness-based programs. While the emergence of caregiver programs based on psychotherapeutic principles is a recent development, knowledge of how these programs work is limited. More research is needed to refine their active ingredients. The interventions should be tailored to the specific needs of caregivers and strengthen the family as a caregiving unit.

Caregivers who participated in the study were rated as well-tolerated and reported only a minimal incidence of agitation and anxiety. In addition, they were given information on disease management and home safety. During the TAP sessions, caregivers were also instructed on how to reduce their own stress levels.

A variety of interventions have been tested, including CBT and psychoeducational programs delivered over the telephone. These interventions are cost-effective and culturally acceptable. These programs typically focus on identifying behavioral targets and teaching caregivers how to manage them. They also incorporate nonpharmacological interventions, such as developing stimulating environments, eliminating noxious stimuli, and providing basic nutritional needs.

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