Written by Active Minds on Wednesday the 27th of November 2019.
Stress can have an impact on quality of life for everyone; but especially those living with dementia. There are many indications of stress and they can vary from person to person; some of the indicators of stress can be similar to those of dementia and therefore can sometimes make it seem worse. These can include actions such as denial, anger, withdrawal, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, irritability, sleeplessness, lack of concentration and physical health problems. Signs of these traits can help you to identify stress in your loved one; here we will discuss how to recognise stress and ways to help them overcome it.
In the early stages of the dementia journey, your loved one may experience denial as a result of stress. It is quite common for those in the beginning of their journey to have difficulty acknowledging it. This can lead to feelings of anger and frustration and subsequently social withdrawal due to feelings that others don’t understand; withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed could a be a key indicator of stress and something to look out for.
Stress can lead to other mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression about the future, this can contribute to social withdrawal and other indicators of stress such as exhaustion and sleeplessness. Those dealing with stress are often irritable and may frequently lose their temper, whilst also showing a lack of concentration and even physical health problems.
Knowing the various ways stress can present itself is important in being able to recognise its presence in your loved one. It is important to understand that many of the indicators of stress can be confused with the early stages of dementia, but there may be ways to overcome the stress to allow for a better quality of life.
Typically, stress is caused by specific triggers; identifying these can help to reduce stress. It is not always possible to avoid stress triggers but understanding them can help to enforce a more positive outlook. Encourage your loved one to be more open with others about their feelings and to enforce boundaries which make them more comfortable in terms of their dementia journey. Similarly, encourage them to talk; talking can help them to work through their feelings in a calm and relaxed manner.
There are various activities which can help to combat feelings of stress, such as using a behaviour diary. Keeping a diary can help identify sources of agitation which can in turn allow for stress to be worked through and avoided where possible. It is also important to incorporate relaxation into your loved one’s day if they are feeling stressed; maybe try out yoga or meditation, or if that’s not their thing gardening or watching TV can be just as relaxing for some.
It is also important to note that caregiver stress can be common, the indicators are the same. It is important that caregivers are listened to when it comes to stress and that they know they are not alone. Ensuring that caregivers are in the best of health is important for both their own wellbeing as well as those they are caring for, so make sure to look out for stress in your own life, and others.