What to Do About Alzheimer’s and Aggression

At some point, many people who have Alzheimer’s disease or other type of dementia become agitated or aggressive. Some may scream and/or curse; others become physically violent. There are a number of reasons why this happens:

  • Pain or other type of physical discomfort
  • Unmet needs (e.g., hunger, thirst, soiled undergarments, constipation)
  • Confusion
  • Excessive environmental stimulation
  • Not enough rest or sleep
  • Medication side effects or interactions
  • Loss of control (e.g., being told what to do)

Here are some things you can do as a caregiver to help prevent aggressive behavior:

  • Try to avoid loud places where there may be large crowds; there are plenty of places to go in Kansas City that are fun, but not overstimulating.
  • Offer regular meals, drinks, and healthy snacks.
  • Leave time for rest during the day.
  • Give pain medication as often as prescribed. If it’s supposed to be given “as needed,” ask periodically about pain.
  • Don’t argue if the person who has Alzheimer’s doesn’t want to take a bath or brush his teeth. Just give him some time and try again later.
  • Ask the doctor if any prescribed medications could be causing the aggression; a pharmacist can tell you if there are any potential drug interactions.

If you’ve done all you can to prevent aggressive behavior in a loved one who has Alzheimer’s and he still becomes angry or violent, here are some things you can do to diffuse the situation:

  • Don’t get angry. Speak calmly and listen to what your loved one is saying so you can try to figure out the cause of the aggressive behavior.
  • Ask about pain. Offer medication if necessary.
  • Try changing the subject to see if you can get your loved one to focus on something else.
  • Move to a quieter location where there is less noise and minimal distractions.

When dealing with aggressive behavior and Alzheimer’s, remember that safety comes first. If at any time you feel like you or your loved one is in danger, call 911.