The Blog

5 Ways to Manage Alzheimer's Aggression

Here are five tips for caregivers looking to manage aggression in their loved ones with dementia:
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
Man holding elderly woman's hands
Man holding elderly woman's hands

When it comes to caring for a loved one with dementia, there is one behavior that many experts will fail to prepare friends and family members for- aggression. This is an often undiscussed yet very important side effect of Alzheimer's disease and it is one that often catches many people off guard. While there are ways to manage aggressive behaviors that typically come with dementia, many doctors worry about over-medicating individuals with this condition and prefer to take a more hands-on, natural approach to managing aggression. Here are five tips for caregivers looking to manage aggression in their loved ones with dementia:

1. Learn Common Triggers
Many times if you study the individual's behavior and learn triggers that cause them to get upset, you can learn how to prevent aggressive outbursts from happening. Learn to accommodate your way of doing things to work around the aggression instead of getting angry about their aggression. Taking a slow approach and working around triggers typically goes much better than telling a person not to get angry.

2. Acknowledge Their Feelings and Validate Them
Individuals with Alzheimer's tend to go through a range of emotions at a moment's notice. Don't ignore their feelings or tell them that their feelings are wrong, instead try to validate the way they are feeling. If they are upset, sad or frustrated, tell them it is ok, because it is.

3. Label Things
Many times the number one reason individuals with Alzheimer's disease get angry or frustrated is because they don't remember something that they feel they should remember. Instead of letting them suffer and stew in this type of frustration, consider labeling things to help them. Whether it is labeling objects around the room, writing notes so they remember things like dinnertime and bedtime, or providing visitors with name tags if you can remove this potentially frustrating situation then you can often eliminate their anger.

4. Stick to a Schedule
The more on-schedule you can be, the fewer surprises you will have. Surprises and unplanned events can really confuse an individual with Alzheimer's and act as a trigger for their anger.

5. Try Soothing Strategies
There have been plenty of studies on the benefits of soothing approaches on anger outbursts in Alzheimer's patients. Music, a bath, a walk, or even a brief hand massage can all go a long way in comforting an individual with an Alzheimer's-related outburst and it can help keep anger at bay.

Consider these tips for managing a loved one's Alzheimer's related aggression. While this can be a frustrating side effect of this disease, being prepared for aggressive outbursts and knowing how to handle them can only help an individual battling this disease.

Follow Eric J. Hall on Facebook!