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Manage the Mean Monday

Part 4: Aggressive Behavior in Dementia


Some people with Alzheimer’s or dementia may enter a combative stage of dementia.

This is a normal part of the disease and can happen even if your older adult’s typical personality has been kind and non-violent throughout their lives. It’s caused by the damage that’s happening in their brain. Because they’re not able to clearly communicate their needs, people with dementia may lash out when they’re afraid, frustrated, angry, or in pain or discomfort. These aggressive outbursts can be scary and difficult for caregivers to handle. Older adults could scream, curse, bite, grab, hit, kick, push, or throw things.

Since you’re feeling attacked, your instincts might prompt you to argue and fight back – but that only makes the situation worse.


1. Be prepared with realistic expectations Reminding yourself that challenging behavior and aggressive outbursts are normal symptoms of dementia helps you respond in a calm and supportive way.

Knowing that these episodes are a common part of the disease reduces your shock and surprise when it does happen and may also make it a little easier to not take the behavior personally.


2. Try to identify the immediate cause or trigger

3. Rule out pain as the cause of the behavior

4. Use a gentle tone and reassuring touch

5. Validate their feelings

6. Calm the environment A noisy or busy environment could also trigger aggressive dementia behavior.

If your older adult starts behaving aggressively, take notice of the environment to see if you can quickly calm the room. Turn down music volume, turn off the TV, and ask other people to leave the room.


7. Play their favorite music

Music can be calming and de-escalate the situation.

8. Shift focus to a different activity

After giving your older adult a minute to vent their feelings, try to shift their attention to a different activity – something they typically enjoy.


9. Remove yourself from the room In some cases, nothing works to calm the person. If that happens, it may be best to leave the room to give them some space and to give yourself time to calm down and regain balance. They may be able to calm themselves or might even forget that they’re angry.

Before leaving, check to see that the environment is safe and that they’re not likely to hurt themselves while you’re gone.


10. Make sure you and your older adult are safe and call for help in emergencies

Find more in depth information at Daily Caring .com

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