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How To Deal With Dementia Outbursts

Patience Love And Understanding As A Dementia Caregiver

10 tips for responding to dementia anger

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.

Managing Daily Tasks & Responsibilities

Unfortunately, along with all of the troubling behavior weve listed so far, dementia will also progress to a point where they can no longer manage daily tasks and will need assistance with everything from eating nutritious meals to getting dressed in the morning. Heres how you can help people with dementia manage day-to-day self-care and health and simultaneously promote a sense of control and independence.

Dont Be Afraid To Ask For Alzheimer’s Support

“Knowing how to detect, defuse, and prevent anger is one of the most important skills for Alzheimers care providers, says Larry Meigs, CEO of Visiting Angels. Its one of the skills we value most in our Alzheimers caregivers.

If you find that you need support in handling a loved ones dementia or Alzheimers care, help from an Alzheimers care provider can be invaluable. To discuss your options for professional, in-home Alzheimers care, call your local Visiting Angels office today.

If you are concerned about sudden changes in your loved ones behavior or have questions about caring for your loved one, please also contact your loved ones healthcare provider for information and support.

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Helping Someone With Everyday Tasks

In the early stages of dementia, many people are able to enjoy life in the same way as before their diagnosis.

But as symptoms get worse, the person may feel anxious, stressed and scared at not being able to remember things, follow conversations or concentrate.

Its important to support the person to maintain skills, abilities and an active social life. This can also help how they feel about themselves.

Common Triggers Of Problem Behavior In Seniors

Understanding the Behavioral Outbursts of Seniors with ...

Broadly speaking, there are three main triggers for behavioural outbursts:

  • Physical Your mom or dad is cold, tired, hungry or uncomfortable. They may be experiencing pain, or having difficulty seeing or hearing, causing frustration. Another physical trigger could be a new medication in your loved one’s routine, which is causing aggressive behavior.
  • Social – A senior might be frightened or intimidated by unfamiliar surroundings, or by being in a crowded space. Changes in routine can be distressing for dementia sufferers, so it would be worth noting if their outbursts happen at times of disruption to their normal day. Sometimes a person may remind a senior of somebody they knew long ago, or they might be distressed if they don’t recognize a family member.
  • Psychological – The mental health issues associated with old age and dementia can lead to outbursts. These could include paranoia, fear and anxiety, depression, increasing difficulty in processing information, and memory loss.

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Tips For Dealing With Public Dementia Outbursts

  • Keep Your CoolRemaining calm is the key to handling many different types of dementia behaviors. A level-headed approach will allow you to think more rationally. Oftentimes, your serene attitude can rub off on your loved one as well. Keeping your composure is challenging when youre flustered. While you cant control your loved ones emotions and behaviors, you can control how you react to them. Your ability to actively involve a dementia patient in your daily routine is dependent on your empathy and understanding that you are both doing the best that you can.
  • Find What Triggered the OutburstTry to determine what may have prompted your loved ones reaction and remove it from the situation. Sometimes the cause may be something as simple as hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain or the need to go to the restroom. An environment with too much external stimuli, such as loud noises, running children, large crowds or bright lights, may trigger anxious or aggressive behaviors. If you can pinpoint the cause of an outburst or the warning signs that led up to it, it may help you prevent future episodes. Validation, distraction and redirection are your best bet for getting a dementia patient to stop fixating on a particular person, place or thing and move to a more secluded spot where they can calm down and you can assess whats wrong. Note those environments which are not worth returning to together.
  • Do Not Initiate Contact

    This tip goes hand-in-hand with allowing the person space and remaining calm. For some, physical contact can be relaxing and reassuring. However, in periods where the person is angry, confused, and aggressive, contact can lead to physical aggression that will escalate the situation.

    You should never react to violence with force as this can send the situation spiraling out of control, possibly leading to bodily harm for yourself or them. Unless your safety or the safety of somebody else is threatened, avoid physical force and contact at all costs.

    At Iora, comprehensive care and treatment are priorities. When patients walk into our practice, our dedicated and passionate care teams work to treat the whole patient. Our care model seeks to empower our patients through extensive physical and behavioral care, putting the power of the patients health back in their hands.

    Of course, we understand the hardships that come with caretaking can be quite stressful. However, we have several resources to help you be the best caregiver you can be.

    Now that you understand more about the causes of dementia and anger, and how to talk to someone with dementia, check out the five main reasons for caregiver burnout.

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    Tips For Common Behavior And Mood Changes

    Aggressive & Threatening Behavior

    Sometimes things can get out of control and feel very scary. These are tips and strategies for dealing with especially challenging behaviors. If you think that you or others may be in immediate danger, call 911.


    The person with dementia is threatening you or acting physically violent, such as hitting, pushing, or kicking you

    • Give the person space and time to calm down.
    • Stay out of arms reach and position yourself near the exit.
    • Avoid small spaces like kitchens, bathrooms and cars.
    • Remove or secure objects that could be used as weapons.
    • Reduce background noise .
    • Keep a phone with you in case you need to call for help.
    • Go outside, to a neighbors house, or public place if needed to stay safe.
    • Take a deep breath and try to stay calm.
    • Listen.
    • Empathize/apologize: I am sorry this is so frustrating.
    • Offer reassurance: I know this is difficult. It is going to be okay, or I am here to help.
    • Give yourself a break take time to care for your own needs.
    • Get help .
    • Tell the dispatcher your name and location and that your family member has dementia. Tell the dispatcher if a weapon is involved.

    The person with dementia is angry and accusing you of something that is not true, such as stealing from or cheating on them

    The person with dementia is throwing fits or having emotional outbursts, such as yelling, screaming, or banging on things

    Anxiety Related to Dementia


  • Regular exercise may be another outlet for nervous energy.
  • Apathy

    How To Deal With Aggression And Dementia

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

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    S To Managing Difficult Dementia Behaviors

    1. REASSURE the person

    The hard truth: the person with dementia cant change the way he or she is. You have to change your reaction and the environment or situation.

    So putting the person first in your thinking as you react is paramount.

    Reassuring brings anxiety, upset, or other stress down a notch. It communicates Im on your side. I take you seriously. Not feeling understood makes anyone more distressed. For someone with dementia, you create a floor to what must feel like bottomless uneasiness.

    The catch: To reassure someone else, we first have to collect our own feelings. This can be hard because these are almost always emotionally charged situations!

    Its easy to feel annoyed when your parent is about to drive off yet another caregiver with false accusations. Or scared when your spouse lashes out or hits. Or embarrassed when Moms blouse comes off. Or worried Dad will fall or get lost. We want to REACT!

    Showing emotional intensity only makes things worse. It puts the other person on the defensive and adds to their instability . Also, people with dementia tend to be very sensitive to others moods, mirroring their demeanor. If youre upset, theyre apt to continue to be upset or become more upset. If youre calm and reassuring, you have a much better chance of transmitting that state.

    How to reassure:

    Approach slowly and from the front. Youre less likely to startle, confuse, or provoke.

    2. REVIEW the possible causes

    How to try to understand the WHY:

    Ten Tips For Communicating With A Person With Dementia

    We arenât born knowing how to communicate with a person with dementiaâbut we can learn. Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with a dementing illness.

  • Set a positive mood for interaction. Your attitude and body language communicate your feelings and thoughts more strongly than your words do. Set a positive mood by speaking to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.
  • Get the personâs attention. Limit distractions and noiseâturn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Before speaking, make sure you have her attention address her by name, identify yourself by name and relation, and use nonverbal cues and touch to help keep her focused. If she is seated, get down to her level and maintain eye contact.
  • Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Be patient in waiting for your loved oneâs reply. If she is struggling for an answer, itâs okay to suggest words. Watch for nonverbal cues and body language, and respond appropriately. Always strive to listen for the meaning and feelings that underlie the words.
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    Stage : Mild Dementia

    At this stage, individuals may start to become socially withdrawn and show changes in personality and mood. Denial of symptoms as a defense mechanism is commonly seen in stage 4. Behaviors to look for include:

    • Difficulty remembering things about ones personal history
    • Disorientation
    • Difficulty recognizing faces and people

    In stage 4 dementia, individuals have no trouble recognizing familiar faces or traveling to familiar locations. However, patients in this stage will often avoid challenging situations in order to hide symptoms or prevent stress or anxiety.

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    Understanding The Behavioral Outbursts Of Seniors With Dementia

    Dementia Outbursts  Home Care Now

    Agitation, aggression and unpredictable behavior caused by cognitive issues can make being a family caregiver to a senior loved one challenging and, at times, upsetting. Understanding the root cause of behavioral outbursts, knowing how to avoid them, and how to deal with them, will help you cope and be better able to care for your elderly mom or dad.

    When seniors, such as a parent, start to display difficult behaviour because of the effects of Alzheimers and other cognitive diseases, it can be extremely distressing to watch. In fact, the Alzheimers Organization states that changes in a seniors behaviour can be the most challenging and distressing effect of the disease.

    Illnesses such as dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, can change the personality of a loved one dramatically. While depression and anxiety are common symptoms of early stage dementia, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Informations Library of Medicine, physical and emotional outbursts, and verbal abuse and physical aggression are very common among people with later-stage dementia.

    These types of behaviors are known as responsive behaviors, meaning the senior is lashing out in response to a trigger, or reacting to something happening to, or around, them. Essentially, it is a means of communication much like an upset baby will scream to get his or her parent’s attention, a senior can sometimes lash out to let you know something is troubling them.

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    Why Not Try This

    Challenging dementia behaviors can be super-stressful. This basic approach can help stretch your patience and move you both toward a more peaceful quality of life.

    Best of all, you can start using the Why-This, Try-This approach right away, even if youve been responding differently before.

    To make these steps simple to refer to, Ive compiled a free downloadable PDF, 7 Steps to Managing Difficult Dementia Behaviors Without Medication, A Surviving Alzheimers Cheatsheet.

    Get Your Free Managing Dementia Behaviors Cheatsheet.

    Questions, suggestions, or try tips that work well for you? Please post them below!

    Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimers: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers . You can learn more at

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    What Causes These Behaviours

    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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    Triggers For Alzheimers Aggression

    An Alzheimers outburst can flare up with little or no advanced warning. However, WebMD points out that there are certain triggers that can cause Alzheimers aggression, like:

    • Environmental. These include excessive clutter, loud noises or too much activity.
    • Discomfort.Medication side effects, not enough sleep, or pain that cant be verbalized are all discomfort-related triggers.
    • Confusion. Someone with Alzheimers can get agitated when theyre asked too many questions at once, you are trying to explain complex instructions to them, or they are feeling confined while youre trying to assist them.

    Following A Partner Or Carer Around

    How to Respond to Anger, Aggression, Violence, TEMPER TANTRUMS in Dementia

    Dementia makes people feel insecure and anxious. They may “shadow” their partner or carer as they need constant reassurance they’re not alone and they’re safe.

    They may also ask for people who died many years ago, or ask to go home without realising they’re in their own home.

    Try to:

    • have the person with you if you’re doing chores such as ironing or cooking
    • reassure them that they’re safe and secure if they’re asking to go home
    • avoid telling them someone died years ago and talk to them about that period in their life instead

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    Aggression And Agitation In Dementia

    Behavioral and psychological symptoms are very common in dementia, and affect up to 90% of people living with dementia. In addition to memory changes, people with dementia may experience agitation, psychosis, anxiety, depression, and apathy. These behavioral symptoms often lead to greater distress than memory changes.

    When people with dementia become agitated or aggressive, doctors often prescribe medications to control their behaviors in spite of the known risks of serious side effects. The most frequently prescribed medication classes for agitation in dementia carry serious risks of falls, heart problems, stroke, and even death.

    Caregivers, who often experience burnout in managing aggressive behaviors, welcome medications that can temporarily decrease agitation. Unfortunately, aggressive and agitated behavior often contributes to the decision to transition a loved one to an alternative living situation.

    S To Calm Agitation And Aggression In Older Adults With Alzheimer’s

    The most important issue caregivers need to understand is seniors with dementia are experiencing their own realities. In order to appease a seniors agitation and aggression, caregivers need to tap into this reality and embrace it.

    How to Handle Difficult Behaviors When a Senior Has Alzheimers

    Here are 10 tips for coping when an older adult with dementia exhibits difficult behaviors.

  • Music

    Music therapy helps seniors calm down and reflect on happier times. According to research from the Alzheimers Association, listening to music releases dopamine in the brain and triggers happy feelings throughout the body.

    Music also improves memory function and encourages social engagement.

  • Aromatherapy

    According to a study in BJPsych Advances, using scents like lavender can reduce difficult behaviors in older adults with dementia.

    Benefits include improved sleep, decreased agitation, higher concentration and reduced hallucinations.

  • Touch

    A gentle human touch can create a bond between the caregiver and the senior, resulting in a calming effect. It also helps increase trust. A soft back rub or gentle hand pat may be a way to reduce agitation in a senior loved one.

  • Pet Therapy

    According to Every Day Health, pet therapy has many benefits for seniors with dementia. They include decreased agitation, increased physical activity, increased appetite and joy.

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