Stress and distress

Dr Cesar Rodriguez talks about how we might understand the behaviours of people with dementia caused by distress.

Professor June Andrews comments…

All of the symptoms outlined here (difficulties with remembering, working things out, learning, coping, poor judgement and problems finding your way) give rise to dreadful stress. It is stress that explains some of the dementia-related disturbing behaviour that families and professionals find hard to understand.

I got into trouble from the nurse for calling what Ethel was doing ‘disturbing’. Well, I don’t know what the right language is but she certainly disturbed me. The nurse says that all Ethel is doing is expressing distress because of all the stress she is experiencing. She says calling it ‘disturbed’ behaviour is wrong. (I’ll call it what I like when the nurse is gone … I’m a bit stressed myself.) (Home care worker for Ethel, 92)

The more challenging the environment is for people with dementia, the more stress they and those around them will suffer. The main challenges have been identified by research. They include the behaviour of other people, the challenges in the physical environment in terms of noise and light, and the design of spaces. Another challenge is presented when the person is required to go through rapid change and faces too many people and new systems and processes. The person may already be undermined physically by poor diet, lack of exercise and even dehydration, on top of whatever cocktail of medicines they have to take for their other ailments. Any intervention that can be made to reduce stress will certainly make life easier, both for the person with dementia and for the family care giver. (from Dementia What you Need to Know)

Reviewed March 1, 2019