Being a caregiver for someone who has dementia is an act of love. But it can also be a big challenge, especially when your loved one gets aggressive or agitated. Here, Liberty Resources Home Choices shares recommendations and tips for how to deal with a dementia patient who is aggressive.

Why Do People with Dementia Become Aggressive?

Aggression in patients with dementia can have many different causes. For some, aggressive behavior may be caused by:

  • Discomfort: If a person with dementia is hungry, thirsty, or overtired, it’s normal for frustration to build up.
  • Confusion: If an older adult experiencing dementia feels confused, disoriented, or scared, they might act aggressively.
  • Medications: Some dementia medications help manage agitation and aggression. If a person has recently changed medications or is having trouble with their medication regimen, they may show aggressive behavior.
  • Vision or hearing loss: When a person is having trouble seeing or hearing clearly, it’s normal for them to become more disoriented. This can compound dementia symptoms.

Some people become restless, upset, or aggressive in the late afternoon or early evening, a symptom known as sundowning. It’s not clear what causes sundowning, but it affects around 20% of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Strategies for Handling Aggressive Behaviors

Managing aggressive behavior can help caregivers be more successful and effective. Use these best practices to address and minimize aggression:

Avoid Confrontation

If you get upset or begin yelling when your loved one is aggressive, the situation can quickly escalate. Instead, take a few deep breaths, speak in a reassuring tone, and try to offer a distraction or an alternative activity. Give the person space if they need a minute to calm down.

Create a Calm Environment

If your loved one experiences sundowning, there are steps you can take to help them feel less stressed and agitated. In the late afternoon, reduce noise and clutter in their home and adjust the lights. Eliminate sources of distraction like loud music.

Don’t serve the person alcohol or caffeine during the day, which can disrupt natural sleep cycles. Encouraging exercise earlier in the day can also help reduce sundowning in the late afternoon and early evening.

Introduce Yourself to the Aggressive Patient

Whether you’re a professional caregiver or you’re caring for a loved one, people with dementia may forget who you are. Introduce yourself each day, reminding the person who you are and what you’ll be doing, such as helping them get dressed or organizing their medications.

Practice Self-Care

Caregiving can be overwhelming at times. Remember that aggressive behavior isn’t personal or a reflection of your abilities as a caregiver. Take time for yourself when you need it: ask friends or family members for help, or consider using respite care.

Get in Touch with Liberty Resources Home Choices

If you need assistance caring for a loved one, the team at Liberty Resources Home Choices is here to help. We offer personal care services for senior citizens and people with disabilities. Our staff is trained to respond appropriately toward aggressive patients and use strategies to keep themselves and the person with dementia safe.

Liberty Resources Home Choices is proud to serve older adults throughout the Philadelphia metro area and Eastern Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg and Lancaster. For more information about our services, contact us today.

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