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How To Deal With An Angry Person With Dementia

Arm Yourself With Understanding

Dementia and Anger Outbursts (3 Mistakes That You’re Making)

Recognize that your loved one now exists in a confusing and frightening world, advises Dr. Gauri Khatkhate, geriatric psychiatrist with Chicagos Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.

Your parent may struggle to remember people and places that were once familiar, and tasks that were once routine. They may have a limited ability to understand their own limitations and why they are suddenly being told by another what to do, says Khatkhate.

Your mom or dad may also lack a good way of expressing physical or emotional discomfort. Instead, they may seem to lash out in anger shouting, insults, cursing, or physical aggression, Khatkhate explained.

The key to dealing with the negativity is reminding yourself that your loved one isnt trying to be mean.

Those are not genuine thoughts or feelings they are the symptoms of a devastating disease. Really recognizing and understanding that fact may help lessen the emotional impact of the hostile behavior, said Khatkhate.

Mood Transferenceour Mood Becomes Their Mood

Think about this: If someone experiencing dementia cannot change their own moods, what happens when a caregiver arrives looking worried or concerned, or someone walks into the room in a bad mood? What happens is mood transference, because we need memory and rational thinking skills to protect ourselves from other peoples moodsand without those skills we can only absorb their moods and feel bad too.

Causes Of Anger And Aggression In People Who Suffer From Dementia

Like with anyone, anger and aggression can surface from an abundance of sources. Our reasons for getting angry or upset may differ greatly from one another, but there are certainly some underlying themes and patterns. In people who suffer from dementia, there are three major triggers or causes of anger and aggression.

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How To Help A Person With Dementia Who Refuses To Accept Help

In the world, at least 50 million people live with dementia, and at least ten million new cases are diagnosed every year. Such disappointing statistics turn it into a global issue that needs attention.

A diagnosis of Alzheimers disease dramatically changes the life of both the person himself and his family members and friends, but information and support are available to everyone. No one should deal with Alzheimers disease or dementia alone.

We have collected the best tips on how to help a person with dementia. Continue reading to find out more!

Poor Communication & Mental Triggers

How to deal with repetitive questions of dementia patients ...

Confusion or misunderstanding can also lead to anger and aggression. According to Visiting Angels, Confusion is one of the leading causes of anger and aggression in Alzheimers and dementia sufferers. Confusion can be triggered by lost trains of thought, mixed up memories, or a sudden change in the environment, such as a change from one caregiver to another.

This is especially important to note for communication as well. As a caregiver, you are in direct communication and contact with the patient, therefore, it is crucial that you articulate your instructions in a simple, concise manner.

Additionally, its important that you as the caregiver try to communicate with as little irritability and stress as possible. We understand that caregiving is a strenuous job, but for the benefit of you and your loved one, it is crucial to make sure you properly communicate with someone who has dementia.

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Tips For Home Safety For People With Dementia

As a caregiver or family member to a person with Alzheimers or related dementias, you can take steps to make the home a safer place. Removing hazards and adding safety features around the home can help give the person more freedom to move around independently and safely. Try these tips:

  • If you have stairs, make sure there is at least one handrail. Put carpet or safety grip strips on stairs, or mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so they are more visible.
  • Insert safety plugs into unused electrical outlets and consider safety latches on cabinet doors.
  • Clear away unused items and remove small rugs, electrical cords, and other items the person may trip over.
  • Make sure all rooms and outdoor areas the person visits have good lighting.
  • Remove curtains and rugs with busy patterns that may confuse the person.
  • Remove or lock up cleaning and household products, such as paint thinner and matches.

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 รข 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

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Talking To Someone With Dementia

  • 1Speak in a calm tone and meet them at eye-level. It can be hard to stay calm when you’re stressed or upset, but it can help you manage the situation better. The person may not remember who you are, so they may view you as a threat. Instead of looking down at them when you speak, try to stand or sit at eye-level. Additionally, use a soothing, reassuring tone to help them understand that you care for them.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
  • If you speak down to them, they make feel like youre being aggressive or might feel like youre trying to boss them around. This may make them upset.
  • 2Make eye contact with the person while theyre talking to you. Eye contact is a nonverbal cue that youre actively listening to them. This helps them see that you care about what they have to say and respect them. When you ask a question or hear them start to speak, look them in the eye.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
  • Keep your face neutral or friendly while youre listening. For instance, you might give them a soft smile.
  • Its also helpful to nod along with what theyre saying so they know youre listening.
  • For instance, ask, Are you cold? rather than, Do you need another blanket to help you stay warm?
  • Similarly, say, Drink your medicine, not Okay, so now youre going to take this so you feel better.
  • You might say, Think about it as long as you need to.
  • Know That Youre Doing Your Best

    10 tips for responding to dementia anger

    Dementia caregiving is extremely demanding and stressful. Take solace in the fact that you are caring for your loved one in a special way. Focus on the good times, be patient and understanding through the tough times, and know that you are not alone in your journey.

    What dementia caregiving tips have worked for you? Share them with us in the comments below. Wed love to hear from you!

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    Thoughts On How To Manage Your Anger When Caring For Someone With Dementia

  • Denniesays:

    AM a caregiver. .My husband is battling dementia. having difficulty learning to live and cope with the issues this disease presents. Never thought this would be an issue in our lives. The anger,frustration and uncertainties keep me from feeling I am coping properly and am concerned about my well being as I travel this unknown scary path.

  • Iona Senior Servicessays:

    Dennie, thank you for your comment and sharing your fears and frustrations. You are absolutely correct that it is a scary and difficult path. But, do know that you are not alone. Ionas Information & Referral Helpline specialists can give you information about support groups and other programs and services in the DC area, or refer you to good online resources to find other services if you live outside DC. You can speak with a specialist M-F from 9 AM 5 PM by calling 895-9448.

  • Lisa Ssays:

    Do you have support groups in Queens, NY?

  • Iona Senior Servicessays:

    Thanks for your question, Lisa. Were a local nonprofit in Washington, DC and serve the DC metropolitan region. However, Ive shared your question with our Helpline staff in case they can direct you to resources in the Queens area.

  • Iona Senior Servicessays:

    Were glad that you found the article helpful!

  • Laurasays:

    Thank you for sharing. What you said really resonated with me. Im overwhelmed and not handling my mothers Alzheimers well at all.

  • Things To Keep In Mind When Dealing With Difficult Behaviors

    Whats not okay? People with Alzheimers or dementia often exhibit behaviors that are unpredictable and may be outside the bounds of what others consider normal or socially acceptable. It may be tough to know when to worry and when to be flexible.

    In general, try to remember that these behaviors do not define the person, they are just a product of the disease. If your loved one had the ability, they would probably choose to act differently.

    Also, remember to practice patience and forgiveness. The disease, not the person, is likely causing these things to occur. Try to let things go and avoid holding a grudge over something they may not have meant to do or say, or even remember doing. The exception is if your loved one becomes a physical danger to themselves or others. Physically abusive behavior is not okay. Even a one-time occurrence should be communicated to your physician or other healthcare or mental health provider immediately to ensure your loved ones safety as well as your own.

    Finally, there are so many more behavior interventions, treatments and specialty care providers now than ever before. Dont be afraid to reach out.

    What approaches do you use when dealing with difficult dementia behaviors? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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    We Can Manage Our Moodsthey Cannot Manage Theirs

    When we are not experiencing dementia and find ourselves upset by an experience or situation, we can evaluate, compare, and consider. We can choose to avoid being in a bad mood and we can choose to not inflict it on our companions. For example, if Im late for an appointment and the car ahead of me is driving slower than the speed limit, I might feel irritated and frustrated but I have the skills necessary to change that feeling before it affects my mood. I can tell myself that Im late due to my own lack of planning, that other people cant be expected to hurry to accommodate me, and that its too nice a day to be in a bad mood. I can do that with my memory skills and my rational thinking skills and change the negativity Im beginning to feel back into a positive mood. But when were experiencing dementia, we cant do any of that.

    So, with dementia in the picture, people cant help taking everything personally, and they lack the skills to change the moods that result when they feel hurt or betrayed or taken advantage of.But theres more to think about. It gets both worseand better. Theres a third truth which is the key to avoiding combative and aggressive behaviors with dementia. When we are experiencing dementia, we cannot choose our own moods.

    Responding To Aggressive Behaviour

    How to deal with dementia

    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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    Patience Love And Understanding As A Dementia Caregiver

    Dementia-related illnesses bring unique end-of-life care challenges and the challenges facing a dementia caregiver only grow more difficult as the disease progresses. It is important to remember that the anger and frustration you may feel as a dementia caregiver is normal and does not make you a bad person. Taking breaks from the caregiving role is vital to your health and your ability to care for your loved one.

    The path of a dementia caregiver is one of numerous challenges and obstacles, but by understanding the root of your loved ones difficult behaviors, and by keeping patience and love at the forefront of your emotional arsenal, you can provide your loved one with the care and support needed on the end-of-life journey.

    Tips For Caregivers And Families Of People With Dementia

    On this page

    A caregiver, sometimes referred to as a caretaker, refers to anyone who provides care for another person. Millions of people living in the United States take care of a friend or family member with Alzheimers disease or a related dementia. Sometimes caregivers live with the person or nearby, other times they live far away. For many families, caring for a person with dementia isnt just one persons job, but the role of many people who share tasks and responsibilities. No matter what kind of caregiver you are, taking care of another person can be overwhelming at times. These tips and suggestions may help with everyday care and tasks.

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    Understanding Dementia And Anger: Empathy Is Key

    The first step to handling anger with dementia is to attempt to take an empathetic approach. Often easier said than done in the heat of the moment, but it helps to know where their anger stems from.

    Although your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can easily become irritable, angry, and even belligerent without being provoked, a root cause or several causes can be determined. Gaining a better understanding of these triggers can help you prevent aggressive behavior and defuse it with more skill and care.

    Losing The Ability To Understand Why Someone Is Frowning

    When someone with dementia ruins something and makes you angry

    When we are experiencing dementia, we dont suddenly arrive in a dementia anger stage. We simply get hurt and angry often because we cant use memory or reasoning to consider the reasons for why someone might do something or say something to us. When we can no longer understand why, we take everything personally. We cant help it. So if our companions dont understand what we cannot doand understand how to help uswe all end up dealing with a lot of meanness and anger.

    The first reason for why people whore experiencing dementia often get angry and mean is that they have lost the ability to consider why other people say or do what they do.

    The second reason is because they have become unable to change their own moods.

    Think again about the cognitive skills we all have and use daily: we have memory skills that allow us to search for and retrieve memories. We have rational thinking skills that allow us to see cause and effect, follow a sequence, and prioritize actions and ideasessentially, the skills that let us perceive relationships between facts, such as what, where, how, when and especially why.

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    How To Deal With Manipulation

    Your loved one may have lost the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehoods, and they may no longer have a sense of morality around lying. These symptoms can be especially difficult for a caregiver to handle, as it may feel like a complete change in personality. In fact, a person with dementia may not realize theyre lying.

    Manipulation is often the root behavior for trust, control, and security. Sometimes, it can even be a cry for help.

    • Set limits when possible.
    • Remain aware of your personal responses. Do you feel angry, hurt, or frustrated? Acting on these emotions can bring more distress to an already stressful situation.


    • Hold dementia behaviors against your loved one.
    • Bring up events to prove or disprove statements.
    • Use accusatory language such as youre lying or youre being manipulative.
    • Engage in heated arguments.

    Dealing with dementia behaviors can quickly wear out a caregiver or family member. If you care for a person with dementia and are feeling resentment, anxiety, or depression, dont hesitate to seek help. A caregiver support group, counselor, friend, or family member can offer camaraderie and advice.

    Although there are no treatments to stop dementia behaviors in the elderly, there are medications, dementia therapies, and memory care communities that may help.

    Helping With Daily Activities

  • 1Let the person help with daily tasks when theyre able to do so. Its understandable that youd want to do things for the person because its easier and saves time. However, including them in the process helps them maintain their independence and helps them retain life skills. Overall, this will benefit both of you. Do your best to let them help when they can, such as by letting them feed themself.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
  • How you include them will depend on the severity of their condition. For instance, someone in the early stages of dementia may be able to do most things on their own. If the person is moderately affected, they may be able to try things like dressing themself or getting a snack but may need a lot of help. If the person has severe dementia, you might do most of the task for them.
  • 2Place memory reminders around the home to help them remember. Put labels on the doors so they know which room it is, and label the kitchen cabinets and drawers. Post a list of the household routine on the refrigerator or wherever the person will see it best, and set medication reminders to help them take their meds. Additionally, post reminders that are specific to the persons needs.XTrustworthy SourceNational Health Service Public healthcare system of the UKGo to source
  • For instance, soup and mashed potatoes are both easy to eat.
  • Schedule meal times so that they become a routine.
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