The behavior of people with dementia can be unpredictable. They may be frustrated, angry, or afraid. They might feel uncomfortable and don’t know what causes that discomfort. Such conditions can sometimes result in aggressive behavior.
It is not common for people with dementia to react violently, but it happens. Seniors can shout, throw stuff around the room, hit, or kick. In such situations, the expected reaction would be to fight back.
However, your aggressive reaction won’t solve the problem. We understand it is difficult to stay calm, but try to find a better way to respond. Below, we will share tips on how to best respond to an aggressive dementia behavior.
Try to Understand the Reason for Discomfort
Discomfort or fear can trigger an aggressive behavior. Thus it is of great importance to understand what is underneath such a reaction. Don’t immediately yell back at your older adult. Understand the context and what led to this situation.
For example, perhaps the room has become too dark, which causes uneasiness. Switch the lights on before you say anything, and see if their behavior changes.
What If You Can’t Find a Reason for the Aggressive Behavior?
Often you will not able to find a clear trigger. They may feel frustrated for days or even weeks, which resulted in such a strong reaction. Seniors may feel sad, depressed, and lonely. Older adults tend to feel these emotions, which accumulate negative feelings over time. Such emotions can trigger an aggressive behavior. When you are in a situation where it is not obvious what caused anger in your loved one, make sure they know you are there to help them and to understand the reason why they reacted in such a way.
Whatever the situation is, losing your temper won’t help you or your older adult. We understand it is sometimes difficult to stay calm, but the opposite reaction will only make things worse.
Take a deep breath and count to five. Talk to your loved one in a gentle tone, and try to calm them down as well. When seniors see you are not raising your voice, they are likely to cool down. Shouting will cause more negative feelings, and they will feel discomfort and frustration for a longer period of time.
Is the Environment Suitable for Your Older Adult?
Noisy environments cause discomfort to all people, not only to older adults with dementia. If they spend most of the time in a room next to a busy road, try to rearrange the house. Moving them into a calmer room could help avoid aggressive reactions.
Listening to loud music can also cause discomfort. If you or people you live with like to listen to loud music, use a headset instead of speakers.
Learn From What Happened
If it happened once, there is a chance it will happen again. When everyone calms down, analyze the whole situation. See what may have triggered such behavior, and try to avoid it in the future. Find other caregivers who take care of older adults with dementia. Exchange your experiences. Ask them if they have ever encountered a situation where their loved one shouts, curses, or throws things.
Check online for caregiver support groups. Attending a meeting will help you to learn how to better help your loved one, not only with how to deal with aggressive behavior in dementia.
My least favorite option is giving your loved one medications. This can be especially dangerous if your older adult takes other medicines. Consult a physician and try to find the best solution.
The bottom line is to always look for the triggers of aggressive behavior, and regardless of the situation, react in a calm way.
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