Anger and Aggression Associated with Alzheimer’s

Anger and aggressive behaviors are common in someone suffering from Alzheimer’s. Whether the aggression is verbal and/or physical, there are several things that may contribute it or anger. And there are definitely some things you can do to diffuse the situation.

Either behavior can occur suddenly, with no apparent reason. These behaviors may not be something that was normal or even seen before. Whether it comes out of the blue or is resulting from a frustrating situation, remember that the disease is causing the behavior and the person can’t help it. Aggression can be especially hard to deal with, but understanding that the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is not acting this way on purpose can help you handle the situation more effectively.

Elderly womanAnger and aggression can be caused by a variety of factors including physical discomfort, inability to communicate effectively or other environmental factors. When a situation presents itself, try to consider what might be contributing to the change in behavior.

Because cognitive function is lost with dementia, persons with Alzheimer’s are unable to articulate or identify the cause of physical discomfort and, therefore, may express it through aggression. Lack of sleep or side effects from medications could also be contributing to their behavior.

It’s also important to remember that someone with dementia is constantly struggling to make sense of the world around them. The slightest change can be a major cause of frustration. Over stimulation, too many people, clutter and unfamiliar surroundings can start uncommon behavior. Family parties that were once fun, become too much for the person with dementia to handle.

Poor communication can also contribute to anger and aggressive behavior. The loss of the ability to find words to express themselves or the inability to answer your questions or even understand what you are trying to communicate can cause these behaviors.

Tips on how to respond to anger or aggression from the Alzheimer’s Association:

Try to identify the immediate cause.
Think about what happened right before the reaction that may have triggered the behavior.

Rule out pain as a source of stress.
Pain can cause a person with dementia to act aggressively.

Focus on feelings, not the facts.
Rather than focusing on specific details, consider the person’s emotions.

Don’t get upset.
Be positive and reassuring. Speak slowly in a soft tone.

Limit distractions.
Examine the person’s surroundings, and adapt them to avoid similar situations.

Try a relaxing activity.
Use music, massage or exercise to help soothe the person.

Shift the focus to another activity.
The immediate situation may have unintentionally caused the aggressive response. Try something different.

Avoid using restraint or force.
Unless the situation is serious, avoid physically restraining the person. He or she may become more frustrated and cause personal harm.

I think the most important thing to remember is that you should not take the anger or aggression personally. No matter what they say, the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s doesn’t truly know what they are doing. Reacting to the situation will only lead to more anger or aggression. Just lead with love and understanding to get through any of these episodes. If they become frequent, see a Geriatric physician or Psychiatrist for medications that can help control the behaviors.

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