Judy’s mom, Lois, had always been known for her sweet disposition. She was infallibly kind to everyone. Even when things upset her, Lois remained level-headed and responded calmly. Judy could hardly remember a time when her mother had even raised her voice. At the age of 74, Lois had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Now, a few years later, she hardly seemed like the same person at times. Sometimes Lois became incredibly irritable and even angry. She would hurl insults at Lois and other family caregivers, even cursing at times. She even occasionally lashed out physically or threw things.
If you’re a family caregiver dealing with Alzheimer’s aggression like Judy, you may wonder why the behavior happens and what you can do about it. While it is a difficult behavior, understanding what causes it and how you can cope may make the situation a little easier.
Causes of Aggression
Alzheimer’s aggression usually occurs in the later stages of the disease. Doctors don’t know exactly what makes it happen, but experts believe it happens when the older adult is feeling frustrated or confused. Some things that may trigger aggression are:
- Being Uncomfortable: If the senior is in pain, tired, or suffering from medication side effects, they may become aggressive.
- Environment: An environment that is loud, busy, or cluttered can cause confusion.
- Confusion: If the senior is confused by things like being asked too many questions or having difficulty with complex instructions, they may lash out.
Regardless of what is causing aggression, it’s important for family members to know that the behavior is not personal. It is caused by the disease and is not the fault of the older adult.
Tips for Handling the Behavior
There are many ways you can help prevent aggressive behavior or deal with it when it occurs. Some tips for handling the behavior are:
- Identify Triggers: Think about what happens right before your aging relative has an aggressive episode. Was the room loud or busy? Were you asking questions? Was the senior trying to do something difficult? Once you’re aware of triggers, you can avoid them in the future.
- Stay Calm: Yelling or arguing with the older adult will only make the situation worse. Try to stay as calm as possible, even if you have to walk away for a moment to take a breath. Just make sure the senior is in a safe place and you can still monitor them.
- Use Simple Communication: Complicated instructions and questions can be confusing for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Break instructions down to a single step at a time. Instead of asking open-ended questions, try to use questions that offer a choice between two things.
- Stick to a Routine: Routines are comforting and help the person to know what to expect next.
Elder care providers can also assist family members to deal with aggressive behavior. Elder care providers can help to watch for triggers and avoid them. Because elder care providers are often experienced in helping people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they may be able to separate themselves from the situation more easily than a family member, allowing them to remain calm. Elder care providers can also use simple communication techniques and help the family to follow a daily routine.
IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED-ONE ARE CONSIDERING ELDER CARE IN WILSON, NC, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT SENIORS HELPING SENIORS TODAY. CALL (919) 761-5346.
Kathy is a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) who is active in several other senior related organizations, including Alzheimer’s State Champion program, Friends of the Northern Wake Senior Center board member, Ambassador for the Rolesville Chamber of Commerce, Aging Life Care Association (ALCA), Health Affairs Round Table (HART), and Senior Information Networking Group (SING).