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Does Dementia Cause Aggressive Behaviour

What Does Aggression In Dementia Mean

Aggressive Behavior in People with Dementia | Linda Ercoli, PhD | UCLAMDChat

Aggressive behaviour by a dementia patient can indicate the following emotions:

  • Feeling unprotected the involvement of a caregiver in the daily task such as bathing, dressing-undressing, and helping with personal care make the person feel insecure and helpless. The loss of independence may upset them and show in the form of aggression.
  • Frustration the inability to take care of themselves can cause a sense of failure and increases irritation, which may manifest in the form of aggressive behaviour.
  • Confusion worsening cognition affect the orientation to surroundings. The person can feel lost, leading to a sense of bewilderment.
  • Feeling afraid inability to recognise certain places and faces develops fear in the person. The unfamiliar places also increase confusion in these patients. Sometimes, a certain place or a person makes them recall an unpleasant or frightening memory.
  • Needing attention severely affected communication skills in dementia render a patient helpless when they want to communicate something.

Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia

People with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia often have trouble controlling their behavior. They may say inappropriate things or ignore other peoples feelings. bvFTD may affect how a person deals with everyday situations. bvFTD can also affect language or thinking skills. Unfortunately, people with bvFTD rarely notice these changes.

Check The Environment For Irritants

In some cases, unseen physical discomfort can be the cause of the problem, but in others, it could be more obvious irritants in the atmosphere, like too much stimulus from noise or the number of people in a room.

If you can find anything in the atmosphere that may be causing a loved one to feel agitated, remove the irritant from the space to see if that helps.

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Aggressive Behaviour In Dementia

In the later stages of dementia, some people with dementia will develop what’s known as behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia .

The symptoms of BPSD can include:

  • increased agitation
  • aggression
  • delusions
  • hallucinations

These types of behaviours are very distressing for the carer and for the person with dementia.

It’s very important to ask your doctor to rule out or treat any underlying causes, such as:

If the person you’re caring for behaves in an aggressive way, try to stay calm and avoid confrontation. You may have to leave the room for a while.

If none of the coping strategies works, an antipsychotic medicine can be prescribed as a short-term treatment. This should be prescribed by a consultant psychiatrist.

What Causes These Behaviours

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There are many reasons why behaviours change. Every person with dementia is an individual who will react to circumstances in their own way. Sometimes the behaviour may be related to changes taking place in the brain. In other instances, there may be events or factors in the environment triggering the behaviour. In some instances a task may be too complex. Or the person may not be feeling well.

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Tips For Dealing With Aggressive Behavior In Dementia

1. Be prepared with realistic expectationsReminding yourself that challenging behavior and aggressive outbursts are normal symptoms of dementia helps you respond in a calm and supportive way.

Knowing that these episodes are a common part of the disease reduces your shock and surprise when it does happen and may also make it a little easier to not take the behavior personally.

2. Try to identify the immediate cause or triggerThink about what happened just before the aggressive outburst started. Something like fear, frustration, or pain might have triggered it.

For example, your older adult might start yelling at empty areas of the room and telling people to get out. Looking around, you might notice that the room is starting to get darker because its early evening. The dim light causes shadowing in the corners of the room, making it seem like there are people in the corner.

After identifying that potential trigger, turn on the lights to get rid of the shadowy corners. That will hopefully help you older adult calm down. And, in the future youll know to turn on the lights before the room gets too dim.

In another example, you could have unintentionally approached your older adult from behind and startled them. In a sensitive moment, that could make them feel attacked and so they lash out in what they perceive as self-defense.

3. Rule out pain as the cause of the behaviorPain and physical discomfort can trigger aggressive behavior in someone with dementia.

Alzheimers Care Challenges: Handling Dementia & Anger

Handling anger is one of the biggest challenges when caring for a person whos suffering from Alzheimers or another form of dementia. While almost everybody shows some form of aggression every now and again, Alzheimers and dementia can make anger issues much worse or develop anger issues in people who previously had none. Studies show that anger issues generally worsen the more severe an Alzheimers or dementia sufferers condition becomes.

Managing anger in dementia sufferers can be difficult. It may often mean reacting against your first instincts, but proper anger and dementia strategies can make care much easier for loved ones and caregivers alike.

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Tips To Prevent And Manage Aggressive Behavior In Dementia

The first step in managing and preventing aggressive behavior in dementia is to try and understand the patients needs or wants and ensure they are being taken care of. This means responding to hunger, thirst, tiredness, boredom, or other frustrations the patient may have. Here are some tips to help caregivers prevent and manage aggressive behavior.

  • Make changes to how you approach situations
  • Do not approach aggression with more aggression, try to be as calm as possible
  • Avoid showing fear, anxiety, or alarm
  • Avoid shouting and physical contact
  • Reassure the patient and acknowledge their feelings
  • Try not to take the behavior personally
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Have the patient listen to their favorite music
  • Create social interaction and stimulation for the patient
  • Have the patient reminiscence about the past they remember
  • Have the patient exercise

If these tips are unsuccessful and you are finding that the aggressive behavior is worsening, you may want to speak with the patients doctor with regards to medications that can help control the behavior.

What Other Things Help

Aggression and Dementia

In addition to medications, there are various ways to help a person with bvFTD. Research has shown that physical exercise helps to enhance brain health and improves mood and general fitness. A balanced diet, enough sleep and limited alcohol intake are other important ways to promote good brain health. Other illnesses that affect the brain, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, should also be treated if present.

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When Does Aggression Start In Dementia

Aggression usually starts in the mid-stage of dementia. This is the time when other behaviours, such as hoarding wandering, and compulsive behaviour are also prone to develop. In most types of dementia, the aggressive symptoms occur when the patient becomes more dependent with daily activities. This can create a sense of helplessness the inability to communicate and call for help can trigger anger and agitation.

Make Sure Physical Needs Are Taken Care Of

Sometimes what seems to be the issue is really a symptom of another, underlying problem. If your loved one is experiencing physical discomfort but isnt sure how to tell you , their agitation could turn into aggression. Dr. Beatrice Tauber Prior of Harborside Wellbeing explains, There are many illnesses that can lead to an increase in aggressive behaviors.

If you notice that the usual things that work to calm your loved one are not working, make an appointment to see their medical professional to rule out a physical reason/illness that may be causing the aggressive behaviors, she recommends.

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If You’re Looking After Someone With Dementia

Your needs as a carer are as important as the person you’re caring for.

To help care for yourself:

  • join a local carers’ support group or a specialist dementia organisation â for more details, call the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053 lines are open 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 4pm at weekends
  • call Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline free on 0800 888 6678 to talk to a registered specialist dementia nurse lines are open 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm at weekends

Faqs About Mean Dementia Behaviors

Dementia and Anger: Anger, Aggression and Alzheimers Disease

Why is my mom with dementia so angry?

The short answer is that most of us dont really understand which cognitive skills dementia takes away. More importantly, we do not realize which skills are not lost. And so we inadvertently embarrass people and unintentionally belittle or frustrate them without realizing what weve done by asking them to do something that they cannot do. We then find ourselves on the receiving end of a verbal or physical blow with no idea what went wrong, and their response seems unwarranted or crazy.

Does dementia cause meanness?

Dementia patients who are mean and aggressive are most likely feeling fear, anger and embarrassment because they have been asked to use skills that they no longer have. When they fail, they may lash out at us. As companions, we can learn to support them in the areas where they have lost rational thinking skills and capitalize on the intuitive thinking skills that they will never lose. The DAWN Method teaches us to do this through how we interact with them.

How do I explain something to my husband with dementia without making him angry?

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How To Deal With Aggression And Dementia

  • /
  • How To Deal With Aggression And Dementia

  • Aggression is one of the worst parts of caring for a parent or senior loved one with dementia, but youre not powerless. Having a number of strategies on hand to deploy whenever you need them gives you the means to handle a loved ones aggression any time it rears its head.

    Learn more about how to cope with aggression and dementia.

    Responding To Aggressive Behaviour

    It can be difficult to know how to react when a person is behaving aggressively. Try to take a moment to think about their needs and why they might be behaving in this way. They are not likely to be doing it on purpose.

    As a persons dementia progresses, they will have more difficulty understanding logic and persuasion, so trying to reason or argue with them is not likely to help. It may cause frustration and distress for you both.

    The tips below may help you. They are things you can do, and avoid doing, while the person is behaving aggressively and afterwards.

    It is very important to seek support if the person you are caring for is acting aggressively, and to keep yourself safe. This may mean calling the police if you feel you are at immediate risk.

    At the time

    When the behaviour has passed

    Try not to blame or punish the person for the behaviour. They may have forgotten what happened, and may become confused or distressed if you treat them as though theyve done something wrong.

    Focus on the person, not the behaviour. They may still feel upset and distressed after the behaviour has passed, even if they have forgotten what happened or what they were responding to. Try to be as reassuring as possible. For more information see our pages about communicating with a person with dementia.

    Take some time to talk through your feelings with others. For example, talk to your GP, friends or family, a counsellor or a dementia support worker. Its important to look after yourself.

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    Our Very Active Intuitive Thinking Skills

    Focusing on the skills they wont lose can diminish mean dementia.

    Intuitive Thinking Skill #1Using our five senses.

    Dementia takes away our ability to analyze, label and interpret, but dementia does not take away our ability to see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Age might dull our senses, but to the degree theyre still available to us, our senses will provide us with raw data loud and cleardespite dementia. Mean dementia and anger result when caregivers and family members dont realize that their loved ones are still experiencing what they can no longer describe or interpret.

    Your loved one is experiencing everything around them and perceiving your emotions as much as ever , but they can no longer remember what happened moments ago or process any reasons for why youre doing what youre doing.

    Think about what this means: your loved one is experiencing everything around them and perceiving your emotions as much as ever , but they can no longer remember what happened moments ago or process any reasons for why youre doing what youre doing. Think of the mistaken assumptions they cant avoid. They need us to narrate and explain whats going on, without judgment. They need us to make sure that whatever sensory stimulation comes their way is pleasing and uplifting. They need us to do for them what they can no longer do for themselves: use memory and reasoning to avoid conflict.

    Intuitive Thinking Skill #2Feeling our own feelings.

    Mild Bipolar Disorder I

    Dialogue on Dementia (2 of 5) Violent and aggressive behaviours

    Bipolar disorder is a common, lifelong mental health condition of variable severity that can run in families, characterized by episodes depression and mania that last for weeks or months. Symptoms often start in adolescence or young adulthood.

    Mania is a state of elevated or irritable mood, with changes in behavior, such as decreased need for sleep, increased goal-directed and risky activities, and increased talkativeness. Depressive episodes in bipolar disorder are like major depression, characterized by low mood, loss of pleasure, and low energy. Mood episodes are separated by periods of remission with stable mood and minimal difficulties with daily function.

    Treatment for bipolar disorder varies from person to person, depending on symptoms and other individual factors. It often consists of medications such as mood stabilizers and antipsychotics that help reduce extreme symptoms. Hospitalization may be recommended in acute episodes. Psychotherapy can also be helpful.

    Rarity: Rare

    Top Symptoms: fatigue, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping

    Symptoms that always occur with mild bipolar disorder i: periods of feeling very energetic and needing little sleep

    Urgency: Primary care doctor

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    What To Do If You Think They Might Hurt Someone

    Here are some things you can do to help keep everyone safe:

    • Keep dangerous things like guns, knives, glass, and sharp or heavy objects out of the house or locked away.
    • Try to distract them by going for a walk, having a snack, playing music they like, or asking them to help you with something.
    • If you canât calm them, give them space.
    • Don’t hold the person back, unless you must to keep everyone safe. Holding them back could hurt you or them, and could make them angrier.
    • If you must hold them back, get help from someone else, if possible. Ask someone nearby, like a neighbor, to be ready to help if needed.

    Once your loved one is calm, check for bruises or cuts, and treat them if needed.

    If this happens often, itâs a good idea to ask a doctor or counselor for guidance or tips, or get support from others. Your local Area Agency on Aging or Alzheimer’s Association chapter for caregiver groups might be able to help.

    A Reaction Not A Symptom

    Aggressive behaviour is by no means a common response from people with dementia. Only rarely is it actually a symptom of the dementia. If aggression does occur, the most likely reason is that the person is reacting to a distressing situation for example, they are being stopped from leaving their own home or being helped with bathing by a person they do not recognise who has not explained what they are doing. The starting point in understanding aggressive behaviour from a person with dementia is to consider what might be going on from their point of view.

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    Why Is This Happening

    Some reasons why a person with dementia might be aggressive include:

    • The person might be feeling unheard or misunderstood.
    • The person might be feeling threatened or frightened.
    • The person might be feeling embarrassed, frustrated or annoyed because they need help to do things they used to do independently.
    • The person might be asserting their own wishes when others are trying to make them do something they dont want to do.
    • The person might be in pain.

    Preventing And Handling Anger In Alzheimers Care

    Dementia Care Dos &  Donts: Dealing with Dementia Behavior ...

    The more you are able to understand your loved ones aggressive triggers, the easier it will become to avoid those triggers and prevent anger outbursts. That said, it isnt always possible to avoid certain triggers. Because of this, it is important that you know how best to handle outbursts of anger, including both verbal and physical aggression.

    Here are some guidelines for managing anger outbursts in Alzheimers care recipients:

    • If you can determine the cause of their distress, see if it is possible to alleviate or solve the issue. This can stop an issue from becoming worse, and often helps dispel their anger.
    • Avoid physical contact and NEVER react to violence with force, unless your personal safety or the safety of someone else is threatened. Trying to take physical control of a dementia sufferer often increases their anger and aggression.
    • Use a calm tone of voice and avoid outward displays of distress, upset, anger, or fear. These signs are often detected by the angry person and will likely make their own distress and agitation worse.
    • If possible, remove yourself from the room or situation. Give yourself and the person time to calm down. This will make it easier for you to react and may defuse or dispel their anger.
    • Be kind and reassuring at all times. Do not attempt to argue or reason with the person. Instead, be sympathetic and accepting of their anger and frustration.

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