How to Calm Someone Living with Dementia

One of the most difficult things to handle when caring for a loved one living with dementia is agitation. It is pretty common for someone living with dementia to escalate in their feelings of frustration and become agitated. A proactive approach is the best way to start, but sometimes this doesn’t work and the caregiver needs to redirect or intervene during a period of agitation.

Proactive Approach

We have found that giving someone a feeling of control is the first step to avoiding frustration. Control for them may be different than it is for you or me. Feeling out of control often comes from having an unmet need, or not understanding the situation. Below are some tips for giving someone that feeling of control:

  • Ensure that all needs are met. The individual may not be able to verbalize or communicate needs so check on needs such as bathroom, pain, hunger, thirst, movement, purpose, overstimulation etc. Our next blog post will focus entirely on unmet needs, but it is good to know that some needs just can’t be met, such as something that is the result of a hallucination or delusion.
  • Orient to time and place. Frequently orient the person to time and place. Just reminding them that it is a certain day, what time of day, and what is happening can be helpful. If they are not sure about the year, date, or day of the week…..that doesn’t matter. This shouldn’t be something to argue over. Just a reassuring comment such as “Yes, it is almost lunchtime. We have breakfast a couple of hours ago and I bet you are getting hungry” Or, “Today is Thursday, we will go to church on Sunday. You know I wouldn’t let you miss it.”
  • Never argue. If your loved one is focused on something that is not actually happening or appears to be tied to a different reality, don’t argue. Try to meet them where they are and use soothing strategies for the situation they think is happening, rather than tell them it isn’t happening.
  • Engagement can be very helpful. Keeping the person engaged in an activity so that they don’t let their mind wander or get distracted by the things that send them down an upsetting path. Some examples of ways to engage people living with dementia include but are not limited to: music, movement, organizing, simple tasks like folding clothes, chores or jobs, and activities such as those offered in a Connectivities box.
  • Approach is everything. Depending on what is causing the agitation how you approach the individual can be a game changer. For helpful tips watch some of Teepa Snow’s videos on TikTok.

Calming During an Episode of Agitation

  • Stay calm and talk less.
  • Don’t let them push your buttons. Remember, they aren’t giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time.
  • Play music. Possibly something soothing, or maybe something upbeat that they love that will distract them.
  • Join them in their reality and try to help them solve the problem.
  • Validate the emotion you are seeing. Such as “you sound scared”, or “that must be upsetting”.
  • Go for a walk.

For more information access our book, “Now is Found” or visit the Connectivities website at

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