Alzheimer's Disease: Tips for working with anger and aggression
A common behavior associated with advancing Alzheimer's disease is anger and aggression. People with Alzheimer's often become agitated, meaning a display of restlessness or worry. Agitation manifests itself in several outward behaviors including sleeplessness, pacing, or aggression. Lashing out in anger resulting in yelling or hitting may occur.
Outbursts of anger are difficult to manage and often result in injury to caregivers. Learning to understand triggers for anger and frustration can help caregivers avoid and/or manage these types of occurrences.
What Causes Agitation and Aggression
There is usually a reason for changes in behavior for all of us, it is important to look for the cause. Pay close attention to what is happening with the person at the time they become agitated. Finding the cause and dealing with it may solve the anger issue. Some common causes include:
- Depression or Stress
- Lack of sleep
- Sudden changes in routine, person or environment
- Feelings of loss
- Changes in mental or physical abilities
- Too much activity or noise in surroundings
- Being coaxed to do something they do not want to or do not understand for example bathing or eating
- Soiled underwear, briefs or diapers
- Reactions to medications
- Feelings of loneliness
Becoming aware of early signs can make a big difference and help to avoid outbursts or adverse reactions to environmental factors. Typically each person will have stressors that cause agitation, ignoring them will make things worse. Try to be proactive by learning what causes stress for each person and develop strategies to deal with each stressful situation.
What Are The Signs of Agitation
There are many signs that a person is agitated many are nonverbal. Communication is difficult for people with Alzheimer's, the signals of agitation are often non-verbal.
- Restlessness and fidgeting
- Far away look in their eyes
- A sense of confusion
- A statement like "I don't remember" with emotional tone
- Shutting down
Coping with Anger and Aggression
Working through anger and aggression is often difficult and requires patience. Remember to remain calm and moderate your responses in an attempt to defuse the situation. Some helpful tips for coping in difficult situations include:
- Speak calmly and listen to his/her frustrations
- Reassure the person and let them know you understand how they feel
- Change is difficult, try to maintain routines such as bathing, meal times and activities
- Alzheimer's involves feelings of loss, allow the person to maintain as much control over their life as possible
- Quiet times can be very rewarding, build them into daily activities as much as you can
- Keep familiar and loved possessions around and available as they help the person feel more secure
- Be gentle
- Play soothing music, take walks or read stories
- Reduce the number of people in the room
Take Care of Yourself
Caregiving in any case is difficult and overwhelming and is particularly challenging when caring for a person with Alzheimer's. Please remember to take care of yourself.
- Schedule respite care as often as you can
- Have a spa day
- Take a walk
- Get help around the house
- Do the things you enjoy, continue as much as you can with your life.