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5 Ways to Address Aggression in Older Adults with Dementia

By , 9:00 am on

Changes in mood and personality are common symptoms among seniors with dementia. As the disorder progresses, seniors who used to be calm and polite may start acting out. Dementia-related aggressive behavior can be difficult for caregivers to manage, but it’s not impossible to soothe seniors. Family caregivers should try the following strategies to calm their loved ones down.

1. Understand the Trigger

When seniors with dementia act out, there’s usually an underlying reason. Lack of recognition is one of the main triggers for aggression. When seniors forget a person or thing, it can cause them to become agitated. Aggression can also be a sign of physical discomfort. Many of the medications used to treat dementia can cause physical side effects like nausea, headaches, and constipation. If seniors are incapable of verbalizing their physical pain, they may become aggressive. Seniors with dementia often act out when they need to use the bathroom, want food, or feel thirsty.

Dementia is just one of the many medical conditions older adults are susceptible to. There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional home care. Edmonton families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place.

2. Promote Calming Behavior

If your loved one is exhibiting aggressive behavior, don’t respond in kind. While your parent’s behavior can be frustrating to manage, yelling or getting angry will only exacerbate the situation. Instead, speak in an even, reassuring voice and maintain eye contact with your loved one. Never speak from behind your loved one. If your loved one can’t identify the source of the voice, it could be disorienting for him or her. Though touch can be therapeutic for seniors with dementia, you should only try to hold your loved one’s hand once he or she has calmed down. Seniors in the midst of an outburst often need space rather than human contact.

3. Listen and Distract

Though your loved one may have difficulty verbalizing his or her emotions, you should try to figure out the cause of the distress. Even if your loved one doesn’t give verbal cues, examine his or her body language for signs. Regardless of whether you can figure out the message, make a point of listening to your loved one. If your loved one notices you want to help, he or she may start to calm down. When listening isn’t enough, try to distract your loved one. Through trial and error, you may find something that breaks through the aggressive behavior, like a specific song or a beloved object. 

Caring for a senior loved one can be rewarding, but it can also be overwhelming for family caregivers who have other responsibilities they need to focus on. For these families, the perfect solution is respite care. Edmonton families rely on our caregivers whenever they need time to rest, work, run errands, and even go on vacation.

4. Maintain Your Own Calm

After the aggression has abated, don’t chastise your loved one. He or she may not even remember the outburst, and any harsh words could lead to more aggressiveness. Instead, continue to be kind, calm, and gentle until the episode is entirely over. Controlling post-tantrum behavior can be emotionally tiring, so you should have someone you can talk to about these experiences. If you don’t have an outlet of your own, it may be difficult to keep your cool when your loved one acts out.

5. Try Different Types of Therapy

Several types of therapy can mitigate aggressive behavior associated with dementia. Musical therapy soothes and relaxes seniors with dementia. If your loved one is going to face a known trigger, make sure to keep his or her favorite music on hand. Art therapy gives seniors with dementia a new means of communication, which can reduce outbursts. Seniors may also respond well to pet or doll therapy.

Hiring a professional caregiver is one of the best ways to provide your elderly loved one with the high-quality care he or she needs. Families looking for top-rated Edmonton senior home care providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones. To learn about our high-quality in-home care options, give us a call at (780) 490-7337 today.