Why does dementia and anger happen?
When someone has dementia, their ability to function well in the world declines. Tasks that we consider simple, like brushing teeth, are actually quite complex. To a person with dementia, it can be difficult to remember all the steps and sequence them properly.
For example, these are the major steps needed to brush teeth:
- Enter the correct bathroom (the one with their toothbrush) - Find switch and turn on light - Locate correct toothbrush (theirs) - Locate toothpaste - Take cap off toothpaste - Put an appropriate amount of toothpaste on toothbrush - Put toothbrush (with toothpaste still on) in mouth and gently brush every tooth surface - Spit out toothpaste - Rinse mouth thoroughly with water – spit, don’t swallow So, even a simple task isn’t that simple
Once we break it down, brushing our teeth is far less simple than we might think.
And, someone with dementia may also have trouble with the smaller steps that make up many of these major steps. When even the most basic parts of the day can be difficult and overwhelming, it’s easy for frustration to build up. When someone with dementia needs to complete yet another “simple” daily task, it could cause an angry outburst.
For example, when you’ve had an extremely stressful day, someone coming to you with even a simple request can cause you to lose your temper – it’s the last straw, right? That’s often what’s happening to seniors with dementia.
Because their world is becoming more confusing and difficult to navigate, it doesn’t take much for them to reach that “last straw” feeling and react with anger.
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