Wednesday, 4 April 2018

ALZHEIMER'S AND AGGRESSION: STRATEGIES TO COPE


It is my pleasure to host this guest post about managing aggression in loved ones who have Alzheimer's or dementia. This is a difficult and painful subject, but one that many caregivers have to manage regularly and often with little support. Here is some excellent advice to begin the process of understanding and managing challenging behavior in your loved one with Alzheimer's.

One of the hardest tasks a caregiver faces when caring for a loved one is coping when faced with outbursts of aggression. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can manage your loved one’s emotions in a way that empowers you in your role. Today we’ll be looking at a range of strategies caregivers can use to cope with aggression in Alzheimer’s patients.


Being a caregiver is a mentally, physically, and the emotionally-demanding role that comes with a high level of responsibility. If you feel like you could benefit from extra help, consider letting a professional trained in Alzheimer’s step in and assist.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Aggression

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, your loved one may become agitated or aggressive and unable to settle. This restlessness or worry may cause them to lash out verbally and physically.

Recognize Triggers
Aggression sometimes arises without a trigger, but for most Alzheimer's patients, there will be a regular pattern you can learn to identify. When you recognize the patient's trigger, you can potentially shut down anger before it arises. Some triggers include:
·      Side effects from medication
·      Depression
·      Pain
·      Change in routine
·      Change in bowel movements
·      Memory loss
·      Challenging task (everyday tasks such as getting dressed may becoem challenging)
·      Confusion
·      Loneliness

Schedule A Physical Exam

If a trigger isn’t obvious, but your loved one has a change in appetite or a fever consider scheduling an appointment with their doctor. Many times aggressive behavior can be a sign of discomfort. A toothache, ingrown toenail, arthitis, urinary tract infection, and constipation are just a few of the medical conditions that may be triggering their agitation.

Remain Calm

It is a challenge to keep a positive frame of mind when faced with a loved one’s 
aggression. As best as you can, try to maintain a calm and positive demeanor. This will have a flow-on effect with your loved one, who will respond better to positive resting facial expressions.

When you feel overwhelmed, take a few moments to breathe deeply and focus, then step back into the environment with a healthy frame of mind. If you feel burnt out from caregiver stress, a common condition affecting those in emotionally-demanding roles, then consider seeking help from a professional.

It is best practice to remove yourself from any physically aggressive situations, and always prevent your loved one from doing themselves harm.

Solicit Support

You’d be surprised just how much up-to-date information or even a support group or online forum can assist you mentally when it comes to coping with a loved one’s Alzheimer’s aggression. These patients have real issues and simply aren’t as in control of their faculties as the patients themselves would like to be. The more knowledge and support you have the more likely you are to view your loved one’s responses objectively but also with empathy, and this outlook means you won’t get emotionally overloaded when issues arise.

Additional Tips for Coping
  • Provide reassurance and listen to their concerns.
  • Maintain a routine.
  • Keep their favorite books, photographs, etc. nearby to provide a sense of security.
  • Limit junk food and caffeine.
  • Build in periods of quiet time as well as activities.
  • Distract them with a favorite activity or snack when they become agitated.        
Consider Additional Assistance

Being a caregiver is a mentally, physically, and the emotionally-demanding role that comes with a high level of responsibility. If you feel like you could benefit from an extra set of caring hands, consider letting a professional step in and assist.

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