Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s disease lash out for no clear reason. They may get upset or angry easily. They may curse, hurl insults, or scream. They might even throw things or resist caregivers by pushing and hitting. This kind of aggression usually starts when people get to the later stages of the disease.
No one knows for sure why it happens. Aggression may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease itself. It could also be a reaction when a person feels confused or frustrated.
A dementia diagnosis can be devastating -- not only for the person with the disease, but for those who love him, too. “There’s a grieving that occurs. You haven’t lost your loved one, but the person you know is going to change,” says Rosanne M. Leipzig, MD, professor of geriatric medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
If you or someone close to you has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, here are six steps to help you deal with the disease now and in the future.
The environment around her, including loud noises, too much activity, or clutter
Confusion from being asked too many questions at once, trying to understand complex instructions, or feeling the stress of caregivers
Tips to Ease Alzheimer’s Aggression
Once you understand the triggers for Alzheimer’s aggression, you can take steps to prevent it. A few things to try:
Think ahead of time if a situation might make your loved one uncomfortable, overstimulated, or confused.
Don’t ask too many questions at once, give instructions that are too complex, or criticize. That way, you’re less likely to confuse and upset the person you are caring for.
Limit the amount of loud noises, activity, and clutter around her.
Don’t argue. People with Alzheimer’s disease see a different reality than you do. Rather than challenge them about it, sit and listen. Ask questions about it.
Focus on the past. Alzheimer’s affects short-term memory, so it’s often easier and less stressful for someone to recall and talk about distant memories than what they watched on TV the night before.
Use memory cues. As the disease gets worse, remembering when and how to do everyday tasks like brushing teeth or getting dressed gets harder. Reminder notes around the house can help prevent frustration.