How to Handle Anger or Aggression
in People With Dementia?

How to Handle Anger or Aggression in People With Dementia?

Anger and aggression can be challenging behaviors for caregivers who care to for those living with dementia because these symptoms are common in the disease.

Dementia can exacerbate anger problems, even in those who have never had any anger issues before.

Taking precautions to protect yourself and the person you tend to during an angry outburst or episode should be a top priority as a caregiver.

It’s important for caregivers to recognize the signs of anger and aggression in those who have dementia. In addition, they should be able to help de-escalate volatile situations and implement preventative measures.

Aggressive behavior can emerge out of nowhere, and it’s important in these situations we identify what to do when these situations occur.

For example, a mild-mannered and placid person who is diagnosed with dementia can all of a sudden experience something that is upsetting for them, leading them to a behavioral outburst. This is due to the fact that the conduct is typically involuntary and is caused by the progressive degradation of the brain.

Anger and aggression brought on by dementia can be extremely challenging to handle. But if you know what sets off the anger in the first place and how to react to it, you will be able to manage the situation more efficiently.

This article for caregivers discusses how to handle aggression in people with dementia. Even if certain tasks seem simple, you must often give this your full attention to ensure you and a loved one are secure.

When it comes to coping with dementia and rage, there is no “best approach.” But on the other hand, the combination of these responses makes it significantly simpler for caregivers to manage over the long term.

Let’s start with the root causes of aggression and work our way up to the many solutions that can be implemented.

Causes of Anger And Aggression

As is the case with everyone, behaviors can be triggered by a multitude of situations. In addition, the triggers that cause us to become angry or upset may vary considerably from person to person.

There are almost always common threads and structures that may be identified. A few primary “triggers,” or reasons for anger and aggression, are present in people with dementia.

1. Physical Discomfort

People who have dementia are likely to experience aggression for many reasons. However, one of the most frequent of these is likely to be physical triggers.

“Loss in cognitive function” means that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are unable to verbalize or understand the reason for their physical discomfort. As a result, they may exhibit aggressive behavior as stated by the Alzheimer’s Association.

In addition to these, other types of discomfort, such as nausea, dizziness, and weariness, play a role in developing physical triggers. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is essential to ensure that the patient gets sufficient sleep.

One more thing that can make you feel uncomfortable in your body is something that has nothing to do with pain but rather your physical skills.

As we get older, our bodies have a harder time completing the same kinds of tasks that we used to be able to do with relative ease.

When a person has dementia, the frustration that comes from being unable to do particular tasks can be a source of rage and aggressive behavior on their part.

2. Environmental Triggers

People with dementia may experience behavioral outbursts due to grief or anxiety. They lose the ability to put their experiences into perspective as the disease progresses. Even those who have never been angry before can get upset because of the confusion.

Patients often feel overwhelmed by loud noises, hyperactive situations, physical clutter, big crowds, or unfamiliar people. In this particular instance, environmental and psychological elements are intertwined and work together.

At the end of the day, the primary contributors to aggressive behavior and angry outbursts are mental stimuli and contextual circumstances.

Take into consideration the environment your loved one is in, as well as the amount of interaction and stimulation they are exposed to. Be sure to address their feelings in order to prevent any explosive behavior from occurring.

3. Emotional Triggers

An excessive stimulus or a lack of mental challenge could cause the person to feel irritable. Anger and aggressive behavior can be triggered by a variety of negative emotions, including loneliness, boredom, and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Feelings of sadness and frustration arise when they consider all the things they used to be able to accomplish but now can’t.

This may be another source of their frustration. As an added downside, they could be unable to carry out even the most fundamental of physical activities.

4. Lack of Communication

Anger and aggressive behavior can also be the result of confusion or misunderstanding. The loss of one’s train of thought, the inability to recall past experiences, or a rapid shift in one’s surroundings, such as switching from one caregiver to another, can all be causes of confusion.

This is something that should also be noted in regards to communication. It’s important to give instructions that are easy to understand and follow.

As a caretaker, you should talk with as little tension and worry as possible. Providing care is already difficult, but ensuring we communicate in the most effective manner is crucial when encountering these difficult behaviors.

5. Poor Nutrition

According to several studies, people with dementia are more likely to have problematic behaviors if they have poor eating habits and experience weight loss.

According to research, poor eating habits and weight loss make people with dementia more likely to experience aggressive behaviors.

Even without dementia, a poor diet can affect a person’s mood, energy, and cognition. People with dementia can experience sudden outbursts of rage and impulses of aggression as a result.

You can assist limit the number of furious outbursts the person you are caring for has by ensuring that they are eating the appropriate foods and getting proper nutrition. Additionally, it will assist in maintaining a tranquil atmosphere in the dining area.

6. Sundowning

People living with dementia often experience sundowning, a collection of signs and symptoms that peak when day turns to night. Sundown syndrome could be to blame if your loved one seems irritable and agitated in the evenings.

The term “sundowning” can be treated in a number of creative ways. If sundown syndrome becomes too difficult to manage at home, a dementia-trained caregiver could help.

Tips to Coping

Now that we know what sets off our rage and aggression, we can talk about how to handle it. Although there may be several potential sources of stress, there are also several potential responses.

Naturally, one of the primary actions is to ensure your safety and the safety of the person you care about. If the person is unable to relax on their own, seek professional help.

Always dial 911 if you’re in a dangerous scenario. If you do, make sure the emergency personnel knows that the person’s dementia is what’s triggering their aggression.

Now that we know that, we can turn to the various strategies that successfully deal with outbursts without fueling further conflict. In what follows, we’ll go through some of the most useful techniques and explain when you might employ them.

1. Do Take It Personally

Alzheimer’s care can be both is emotionally and physically taxing. If your loved one makes a rude comment, it’s important to understand not to take this personally.

These episodes of hysteria frequently stem from causes that have absolutely nothing to do with you as a caregiver. It is crucial for you to bear in mind, however, that the reason behind these attacks is not one of hatred or ill intent. This is the result of dementia damaging parts of the brain.

As a caretaker, it is crucial to remember to be kind and forgiving to yourself and to schedule enough time for “me time.”

It is equally crucial to practice self-care and look after your health on all fronts, including the physical, mental, and emotional aspects. Your loved one would also be able to feel the anguish and other feelings that you are experiencing.

2. Identify The Trigger

As soon as you notice the other person taking a few deep breaths, increasing eye contact, and feeling more at ease, try to examine and identify reasons that are triggering this anger.

Anger outbursts can be caused by mental suffering, spiritual anguish, or the inability to express a physical desire that is unfilled. It may be as simple as failing to remember where the bathroom is.

3. Reassure

Some problems may seem manageable to you under the right conditions. For example, if you see that the other person is upset, attempt to recall the preceding events in order to determine what may have provoked their anger. This anger could result from the other person’s feelings of sadness or fear.

As someone with dementia will have limited context in which to apply their reason, it is best to avoid dispute and explanation in favor of reorienting and reassuring them as much as possible. If the problem is solved, the person’s anger may be quelled before they escalate.

4. Give Space

Giving the person the time and space they require to calm down is another critical approach utilized during this process. There are situations in which maintaining silence is the most appropriate answer possible.

If you contribute to the problem by feeding into it, you can end up adding unneeded stress, anger, and hostility to the person’s life, and they might react aggressively as a result.

If you can’t fix the problem or see that the other person is unhappy, remove yourself from the situation and give them time to calm down.

If the scenario is growing worse, you should assess the situation to see if you’re in danger.

Dialing 911 and providing the operator with information about the situation might lessen the likelihood that both you and the other person will have life-threatening injuries.

In addition, please take into consideration the individual’s history of traumatic experiences, incarceration, or physical or verbal abuse at the hands of those in positions of authority if they have one.

5. Stay Calm

When interacting with individuals with dementia who are angry or aggressive, maintaining calmness and tone of voice are extremely important.

In addition, maintaining your composure when answering is absolutely necessary since reacting with displeasure or frustration may cause the situation to become even more serious.

Try your best to maintain a level head and a cool demeanor in the face of the person’s furious or hostile actions. Talk to the person in a low voice and take your time so as not to frighten or baffle them further with your words.

6. Do Not Immediately Initiate Physical Contact When They Are in a State of Distress

Keeping calm and giving the other person space are two pieces of advice that go hand in hand with this one. Some people find it calming and therapeutic to make physical contact with another human being.

Nevertheless, during times when the individual is furious, confused, and aggressive, immediately offering physical contact like a hug, might lead to physical aggressiveness, which can escalate the problem. If they seem upset and angry, I’ll validate this emotion by saying something like “I see that this makes you really upset. Is there anything I can do to help?” If they seem to calm down after this, you can always say something like, “I’m sorry this is so upsetting, would a hug help?

Parting Note

Aggression and anger may be common symptoms of dementia. Knowing the background of this phenomenon will aid you in your role as a caregiver.

People living with dementia may lose touch with their emotional roots and fail to identify those closest to them. Additionally, they may have hallucinations or paranoia. Several factors may fuel aggression.

Negative dietary habits, misunderstandings, and overworked caregivers can all play a role.

You can use a variety of strategies to get through these difficult times. To recap, here are a few strategies and tips to help. First, don’t argue with them.

Never have too many caregivers at once, as this could be overwhelming for the person with dementia.

Tracing back the origins of an outburst of anger is crucial. The services of a medical professional may be required in certain circumstances.

It can be very difficult to figure out what to do when your loved one becomes upset with you. These behaviors can be easier to manage when we identify possible causes.

Remember that your loved one is probably feeling worried and upset right now. Patience and empathy will help you deal with and respond to these trying circumstances.

Mary Osborne

How to Handle Anger or Aggression in People With Dementia?

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