For a person with dementia, sensory issues can present a challenge. Being in a noisy situation can cause confusion, agitation, and discomfort for many people with dementia. Sometimes even small noises can precipitate anxiety, anger, or fear. And since hearing can have an impact on a person’s balance, when a person with dementia becomes distressed by noise, it may increase the likelihood of a fall.
Being aware of problems that can be caused or exacerbated by noise can help caregivers to understand why a person with dementia may be agitated. It can also help them to take steps to diminish noise issues.
Noise Issues in Various Spaces
Some spaces are more likely to create discomforting noises. For example, bathrooms tend to have an “echo-y” quality which can be especially disorienting. Backyards can be quiet and soothing, but they can also be interrupted with nearby lawn mower noises or yelling neighborhood children. The kitchen may normally be a “safe” space, but sudden noises, such as an oven timer buzzing or a microwave oven in operation, may startle.
It helps if a caregiver is aware of what noises a person with dementia expects to hear in a space and to prepare the patient if an unexpected or sudden noise is imminent.
To mitigate noise issues, caregivers might try the following:
- Insulate. If a room has a “loud” feel, consider using rugs, drapes, or other fabric-based objects to help “deaden” the sound.
- Remove shoes. If footwear causes unpleasant and startling sounds in the house, remove shoes and wear slippers that will make less sound.
- Replace loudly ticking clocks with silent digital models.
- Use appliances when the patient is away or sleeping. Noisy dishwashers, driers, and other appliances should be used when the person with dementia is either away from the house or asleep.
- Experiment with “masking” sounds that the patient likes. For example, if the sound of a waterfall or white noise is pleasant to the patient, use these to mask unpleasant sounds that may cause irritation or distress.
It also pays for a caregiver to discuss with a doctor what strategies can help to diminish or mask sounds that cause discomfort for a person with dementia.