Coping with Panic Attacks when Caring for Someone with Dementia

Panic attacks are very distressing as they occasionally occur without warning. Be aware that an elderly person with dementia might already be feeling highly anxious for a number of reasons.

A panic attack could be brought on by:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Time of Day
  • Visual Hallucinations
  • Chronic Pain
  • General Anxiety
  • A Sense of Abandonment
  • General confusion

The typical symptoms of a panic attack include struggling to catch breath and a rapid heartbeat but there are many more. When out an about in an unfamiliar environment, it can be a particularly distressing to be faced with a sudden attack especially if you are caring for someone with mobility issues.

First and foremost, try to keep calm but bear in mind the following tips which will hopefully help deescalate a challenging situation supporting someone with dementia. However if a certain approach doesn’t work, try something different.

  • The best course of action is to help them to feel safe, secure and valued.
  • Provide support and comfort them through reassurance. If you are trying to get them to dismiss the attack or applying pressure on them to calm down, you will be doing more to exacerbate the attack further by explaining away the impact. For instance phrases like, “You are going to be ok,” “You’ll be fine,” or even worse, “Pull yourself together.” This can imply that they are on their own. Choose reassuring words that will show them you understand and that you are there for them by not forcing events to move on, which will more than likely to do so on their own accord if they are not in any immediate danger.
  • Upon reflection, you may be able to gather more information on an individual’s particular triggers and investigate ways to prevent escalations in anxiety to reduce the chances of a panic attack happening. If there are warning signs, give them the special attention they require and a plan might be devised to ward off panic attacks in future.
  • Check that they are taking the required medication as prescribed by the GP along with eating a balanced and healthy diet. Accompanying them while outside on a regular basis can boost the wellbeing of a loved one and should be considered to make sure physical health is as good as it can be.
  • When someone you know is experiencing a panic attack, it is easy to take personal responsibility for causing it. Remember, panic attacks can manifest in different ways and that a person with dementia could be unaware of their actions or what they are saying. If you are looking after your own emotional wellbeing, you will better able to support them during an outburst by keeping calm. Likewise, make sure you are able to talk to someone if you are feeling distressed yourself. Try to avoid engaging with any negative emotions such as anger and resentfulness which usually implies an overtired mind.

Living with Dementia can be a challenge. Call and speak to our advisor who can guide you through some practical hints and tips to try and help at this time.

01206368420 option 5 For Help

Dementia Support