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Dementia: Handling the Screaming and Crying

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

1. Ask their doctor to review all their medications Sometimes, side effects from a medication or combination of medications can cause disorientation and distress. That includes anything they might be taking, not just prescription drugs.

Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their full list of prescription medications, vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and supplements.

2. Pain management Pain that isn’t well managed can cause someone with dementia to frequently scream or cry. Talk with their doctor to find out if their current pain management treatment needs adjustment.

Be especially mindful if someone is still recovering from surgery (seniors can take much longer to heal) or if they have a chronic condition like arthritis that causes pain.

3. Identify possible triggers and test your theories Review your notes to see if you can find any patterns or triggers to their outbursts.

Think about ways you can avoid these potential triggers and experiment to see if avoiding them reduces your older adult’s need to cry or yell.

4. Evaluate for depression Many seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia are also dealing with depression. Frequent crying or calling out could be a sign of depression, along with additional symptoms.

It’s important to have a doctor evaluate your older adult to find out if they could have depression so they can get proper treatment.

5. Establish a regular daily routine Following a daily routine gives your older adult’s day structure and predictability. This helps reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to crying or screaming episodes.

6. Create a calm environment People with dementia are often highly sensitive to their surroundings. Creating a soothing place to live helps minimize agitation, reduce difficult behaviors, and improve overall quality of life.

7. Reduce daily frustrations When someone has dementia, their ability to complete everyday tasks declines. Things that we do without thinking, like putting on a sweater when we’re cold or getting a glass of water when we’re thirsty actually involve many steps.

To someone with dementia, it can be difficult to remember all those steps and sequence them properly. And getting frustrated over and over again during the day could provoke an outburst of crying or yelling.

Making everyday life easier helps reduce stress, frustrations, and feelings of failure – factors that can make someone very upset.

8. Speak to the doctor about medication If non-drug techniques aren’t working and these episodes of screaming or crying are affecting quality of life, it might be time to work with their doctor to carefully experiment with behavioral medications.

When used appropriately, behavioral medication may be able to reduce or eliminate intense outbursts and improve quality of life for both your older adult and yourself.

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