Anger and Alzheimer’s: 5 Ways to Manage It

When a loved one is affected by dementia, everyone around them is affected. Children of elderly parents often find themselves struggling with how to handle the emotional extremes and outbursts that often come with dementia. Symptoms of dementia show up as memory loss, confusion, disorientation, and intense anger. Anger and aggression are the symptoms that can be challenging to manage for any caregiver, not just children of a parent with dementia. 

Caregivers of those with dementia need a lot of patience – but patience isn’t all that caregivers have in their tool belts. Several other tools can help manage anger, aggression and alleviate intense outbursts. 

  1. Understand the Disease – People with dementia lash out at caregivers when they are frightened, confused, and/or disoriented. To manage anger and aggression, caregivers have to understand what triggers these episodes. This could take some time to understand, but it is extremely important in reducing stressors for the patient. 
  2. Calm Life Down, For Everyone – Overstimulation is a trigger for people with dementia. They cannot process information quickly and need more time to respond. Reducing stimulation can reduce intense and violent episodes. Keep the TV or radio down. Minimize the number of visitors. Speak slowly, simply and directly. Be patient and wait for answers to questions.
  3. Don’t Over Complicate Tasks – The most simple of tasks are not that simple for people with dementia. For them, making decisions and choices is complicated and confusing. Overwhelming them with decision making can trigger anger and aggression. Instead of asking what they want for dinner, try giving them two choices instead. Make the choice simple. 
  4. Make Space for Their Emotions – You won’t be able to eliminate every angry, aggressive episode, but you can make room for them to get the anger out. Avoid arguments and ensure there are no safety concerns for them or anyone else. As long as they are safe, allowing time to themselves is fine. 
  5. Create Structured Routines – Just like children, routines can help reduce stress. Routines eliminate an overwhelming number of choices for people with dementia and decrease confusion, as with routines they know what to expect next. Set appropriate times for dinner, activities, naps, television and exercise. Also consider keeping items in the same spot for easier location and to reduce confusion and stress. For example, keep the toothbrush on the left side of the sink, or set the TV remote on the table. If your loved one can access items more easily, you can keep aggressive episodes under control more often.

Don’t forget that caregivers need to take time out for themselves too. The more you care for yourself, the better you can care for and support those who need your help. You can depend on experienced and qualified home care aides to relieve you for the time to rest and recharge.