Caregiver’s guide: How to control and calm down dementia patients when they are angry.

By guest blogger, Erica Silva

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Most of us think that the only sign of dementia is when an aged individual finds it hard to remember information. However, the behavioral changes associated with the disease are vast and not limited to forgetfulness and memory loss only.

Dementia is an umbrella term that is used to describe a variety of symptoms that cause cognitive functions to weaken severely. Although the main symptom of the condition is memory loss which is usually so severe that it can interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily tasks, those with the condition are often found to have behavioral changes as well.

These may include aggression, restlessness, depression or irritability. From frequent anger outbursts, physical hostility to a quiet sadness – these changes can occur suddenly and mostly for no apparent reason.

While the aggressive behavior may be hard to deal with for dementia caregivers, it is important to remember that the patient is not behaving erratically on purpose, and hence can’t be blamed for it. In fact,30 to 90% of patients with dementia have from some form of behavioral problem.

Why does dementia cause behavioral change?

Most of the time, the behavioral changes occur as a result of changes in the brain. The human brain is divided into different regions which are responsible for memory, thinking patterns, emotions, and feelings. Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells. This damage, consequently, impacts the cells’ ability to interact with each other.

In some cases, environmental changes, medications, and physical health may also contribute to behavioral issues. Some situations that may lead to agitation include;

  • Moving to a new residence or nursing care center
  • Travelling
  • A new caregiver
  • Fear
  • Lack of sleep
  • Physical pain

In short, dementia affects people in different ways. Understanding the underlying cause of the change in their unmanageable behavior may help you learn how to cope with it.

Where to begin?

The patient should be taken to the GP for assessment to rule out any physical concern that may be agitating the patient. He will also advise you if there is an underlying psychiatric illness associated with the behavior.

Can depression cause dementia?

Dementia has always been linked with brain health and according to recent research, depressed individuals above the age of 50 are two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and related cognitive issues than other people in the same age bracket.

How to cope?

Coping with the challenging behavior of a dementia patient can be difficult. The anger and aggression is usually targeted towards family members and caregivers as they are the closest to the patients. This is why, it is important to remember that their behavior is not deliberate and the patient does not have any control over the situation.

Here are some tips that will help you overcome the difficult moments;

Always examine the behavior objectively

Ask yourself what could be a possible cause of agitation? Did something you said angered the patient? Or is it some particular day/time that is proving to be difficult for the patient? Looking at the situation critically will minimize the outbursts in the future.

Remove the stressors

Is the person agitated because of a certain noise in the room? Keep them in a calm and quiet area. Or, perhaps they don’t like the distractions at their nursing home? Once you have assessed the possible causes of agitation, try keeping the patient away from the scene and see how they respond to the change in environment.

Give them more attention

Make sure that the patient is comfortable at all times. Check for pain, hunger, thirst, constipation, bladder and infections. Monitor the temperature in the room. Be sensitive to their needs and dislikes.  It is possible that a sudden outburst may be a result of something they want but can’t put in to words.

Give them a change of environment

Try diverting their attention to a different activity. Maybe, the situation they might be experiencing at present caused an aggressive response. Change their environment or play some music. Even changing the topic can help.

Sometimes, the agitating behavior is a result of being locked up in a room all day. Take them out for a walk in the garden. Put on music and dance together. If possible, take them for shopping or a dinner. It has been observed that people with dementia respond well to social engagement and have a better chance of an improved quality of life.

Join the dementia community

Taking care of a patient with dementia is not just a tough task but also a distressing one, especially if the affected individual is a loved one.  It can also get lonely as others don’t understand what you go through each day.

To overcome these feelings, join online communities such as our Caregivers Connect private Facebook support group and share your experiences with others who are in the same boat as you. Apart from being an outlet for your emotions, such communities can help you get several good coping ideas from other caregivers.

Don’t react

Regardless of how frustrated you are, never raise your voice or behave aggressively. If you feel you may not be able to handle the outburst, immediately leave the room and let somebody else handle the situation (if possible). Understand that the patient’s difficult behavior is not to irk you or test your limits.

Above all, practice forgiveness. Don’t hold grudges over something that the patient has no control over. However, physical abuse is not okay and if you, the patient, or anyone near the dementia patient is in physical danger, immediately contact the physician or other mental health provider to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

It is best if dementia is detected in its early stages as it gets much easier to intervene and stop disease progression while it’s still possible. If you or a loved one are facing cognitive decline, use the brain test app for self-assessment and take the results to your physician for full diagnosis.


ABOUT Erica Silva

Erica Silva is a blogger who loves to discover and explore the world around her. She writes on everything from marketing to technology, science and brain health. She enjoys sharing her discoveries and experiences with readers and believes her blogs can make the world a better place.

Find her on Twitter: @ericadsilva1


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