3 Tips for Handling Aggression in Seniors with Dementia

Dementia is often characterized by outbursts of aggressive behavior. This behavior may be iStock_000024996732_Mediumeither verbal (shouting, swearing, making threats) or physical (hitting, kicking, scratching, biting). It may result as part of the individual’s normal personality, but in many cases, seniors with previously calm demeanors may become aggressive as dementia develops.

The causes of aggressive behavior may be either social, physical, psychological, or some mix of the three. Possible triggers for outbursts include:

• Fear
• Mistrust
• Boredom
• Insecurity
• Perceived infringement of personal space
• Perceived injustices against them
• Depression and other mental health issues
• Pain
• Discomfort
• Misunderstandings from poor hearing
• Hallucinations
• Decreased inhibitions and social awareness

When facing an aggressive outburst from a loved one with dementia, there are a few things to remember. Acting poorly can make a situation worse and possibly result in harm to you or your loved one.

1. Keep Calm

First of all, you must remain calm. Avoid appearing shocked, afraid, or angry in response to an outburst. Keep a smile on your face, speak in calm tones, and don’t argue. Contradicting your loved one may lead to a heated argument and increased aggression.

Sometimes, your loved one may feel no one is listening to them or taking their desires into account. Take time to listen to your loved one and acknowledge their feelings. Even if you can’t give them a direct “yes” to a request, try to avoid directly contradicting them.

2. Give Them Space

Sometimes you just need to back away and give them some space. If an outburst is due to a perceived invasion of personal space, it is usually best to leave them alone or to avoid certain actions, such as touching their arm or holding their hand.

If what you are currently trying to do is not immediately necessary, try giving them some space for a while and coming back later. You will both be able to cool off, and you may be able to avoid a confrontation.

3. Use Positive Stimuli

In many cases, using positive stimuli such as a favorite song or activity may help calm down your loved one and counter an aggressive outburst. Music has been shown to have an especially powerful effect on seniors with dementia, helping them calm down and open up to others.

Ultimately, caring for a loved one with dementia comes down to understanding their unique personality and desires. Senior Care Centers strives to provide the best service possible to your loved one, and we’ll work with you to help meet their precise personal needs. To learn more about our Alheimer’s and Dementia Care Units, contact us.

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