senior lady painting with friend

Unexplained mood swings are hallmarks of dementia, and can be very tough for family caregivers to work through. One moment you are enjoying a nice activity together, when out of nowhere, the senior’s countenance shifts. Family caregivers may find themselves  walking on eggshells as they cautiously try to resolve an issue they don’t fully understand.

While it’s beneficial to find out the root cause behind challenging emotions like anxiety, agitation, and fear, unfortunately, it’s not always achievable. There could be a known cause, like loud noises or sleepiness, that can easily be resolved; but there may be more arbitrary factors, such as the older adult recalling a distressing memory from decades ago that they are unable to talk about. Do-it-yourself sensory exercises can help combat these issues and restore calm.

What Should I Do Now?

After determining the older adult is not in pain or physical distress, there are two crucial actions to take:

  • Journaling: Keep a notebook close at hand while caring for the senior. Write down the date, time, and any other details relating to an event of agitation. For example, note if the individual had just woken up, was waiting to eat dinner, had not used the bathroom for a few hours, was watching the news on TV, etc. The time of day is especially significant to note, as those with dementia frequently experience more anxiety in the late afternoon and evening. Journaling helps identify commonalities and patterns to help  avoid future incidents.
  • Distraction/Redirection: After validating the feelings the senior is experiencing, it’s often beneficial to move into a different area of the home (or to go outside if the weather is nice enough) and shift the senior’s attention to something enjoyable. If it has been a long time since breakfast, a mid-morning snack might help. If the senior is pacing or wandering, try venturing out for a walk around the block or even the park. Oftentimes, listening to favorite music can offer a sense of calm. Try a variety of techniques and document the results in your journal for future reference.

Engaging the Senses

Sensory activities can help preempt or provide distraction from difficult mood swings. Try creating and implementing one or more of these do-it-yourself sensory exercises from our experts in dementia care in Topeka:

  • Fragrance Cards: Cut strips of cardboard and affix perfumed objects in small zip-lock plastic baggies to one end. Use a variety of scents that evoke memories or a feeling of peace: peppermint, coffee, suntan lotion, cinnamon, pine needles, chocolate, etc. Use your imagination and discuss each scent while enjoying them together.
  • Aquarium Bag: Fill a large zip-lock plastic bag with water beads and a number of small plastic aquatic animals, plants, etc. Employ this idea as a springboard to other sensory bags with different themes in accordance with the older adult’s specific interests.
  • Homemade Paint: Prepare a batch of this safe, nontoxic paint to have on hand, which can be used for either finger painting or brush painting. Mix together ½ c cornstarch and 2¾ c cold water in a pot. Cook and stir over medium heat until it boils. Stir 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin into ½ c of cold water and add to the cornstarch and water. Allow the mixture to cool, and then split up into different containers, adding different colors of food coloring to each.

Want More Ideas?

Our experts in dementia care in Topeka are full of imaginative ideas such as these, in addition to the skill to help successfully address even the most complicated symptoms of the disease. Our objective is always to make life the best it can be for the seniors we serve, every day. Contact us at 785-286-2273 to find out more.