Anger & Agression
Aggressive behaviors may be verbal or physical. They can occur suddenly, with no apparent reason, or result from a frustrating situation. While aggression can be hard to cope with, understanding that the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is not acting this way on purpose can help.
Aggression can be caused by many factors including physical discomfort, environmental factors and poor communication. If the person with Alzheimer’s is aggressive, consider what might be contributing to the change in behavior.
The main cause of behavioral symptoms associated with dementia is the progressive deterioration of brain cells, but other factors — such as pain — also can cause symptoms or make symptoms worse.
• Is the person able to let you know that he or she is experiencing physical pain? It is not uncommon for persons with Alzheimer’s or other dementias to have urinary tract or other infections. Due to their loss of cognitive function, they are unable to articulate or identify the cause of physical discomfort and, therefore, may express it through physical aggression.
• Is the person tired because of inadequate rest or sleep?
• Are medications causing side effects? Side effects are especially likely to occur when individuals are taking multiple medications for several health conditions?
Treating Behavioral Symptoms
Anyone experiencing behavioral symptoms should receive a thorough medical checkup, especially when symptoms appear suddenly. Treatment depends on a careful diagnosis, determining possible causes and the types of behavior the person is experiencing.
Is the person overstimulated by loud noises, an overactive environment or physical clutter? Large crowds or being surrounded by unfamiliar people — even within one’s own home — can be over-stimulating for a person with dementia.
• Does the person feel lost?
• Most people function better during a certain time of day; typically mornings are best. Consider the time of day when making appointments or scheduling activities. Choose a time when you know the person is most alert and best able to process new information or surroundings.