July 21, 2017

When Your Loved One With Dementia Acts Aggressively

“People with Alzheimer’s can’t change the way it makes them act any more than a cancer patient can keep the cancer cells from spreading.” – Brandyn Shoemaker

Hitting, pinching, scratching, hair-pulling, biting, threatening, shouting and swearing are just a few of the aggressive behaviors a person with dementia might display.

Have you struggled with any of these tendencies with your loved one? You are certainly not alone. And trying to correct these behaviors often leads to frustration and sadness because those with dementia cannot be reasoned with as other people can.

Following are some insights into why people with dementia may act aggressively, and some strategies that can help prevent or remedy these behaviors.

First, why do they do that?

People with dementia can feel cornered or trapped when approached. They can feel threatened or violated when being handled by others.

Sudden aggressiveness might be an indicator of pain, infection or illness.

Something or someone in the environment is triggering distress in the person—and they are unable to identify or express what they need.

They no longer have as much capacity to control aggressive impulses.

So, what can you do about it?

Prevention: Look for early signs of distress and discomfort—before the person acts with aggression.

Prevention: Be especially careful to approach the person from the front, make eye contact, greet, ask permission to touch, etc.

Create physical space between this person and other people.

Maintain—or try to get back to—a calm manner and voice.

Look for unmet basic needs or discomforts…and address those needs.

Engage in activities that they enjoy.

Remember that these behaviors are beyond their control. Do not try to physically overpower or corner them. Don’t try to shout them down.

Get a doctor to assess for pain, infections, fractures or other health problems.

If it is a persistent problem that doesn’t resolve with usual comfort measures, consider medications.

For additional help in caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, join us on September 7 for the Dementia Talk: Why do they do that. . . and what can I do about it?

Click here to learn more or register.