What can senior caregivers do when their loved one with dementia becomes aggressive?

Senior caregivers in Brookline and Boston MA in charge of taking care of a loved one who has dementia may see them enter a combative stage. This is normal and can happen if your loved one’s personality has been non-violent and kind throughout their lives. This aggression is caused by the damage that has taken place in their brain.

People who have dementia may lash out when they’re frustrated, afraid, in pain, or angry because they may not be able to communicate their needs.

These outbursts can be difficult and scary for a caregiver to deal with. Their loved ones can curse, scream, grab, bite, kick, hit, throw things, or push them.  When you feel attacked, your instincts may make you need to fight back and argue, which can only make things worse.

Why does the aggressive behavior happen?

Aggressive behavior is almost always caused by something. Figuring out what that something is will make you and your loved one much happier. If they seem angry and acting aggressive, check to see if they are in pain first. Your loved one might not know how to express any pain or discomfort to you. To identify what is causing their aggression, look for signs such as:

  • They are pulling or stroking a specific part of their body.
  • Facial contortions such as inverted eyebrows or clenched teeth.
  • Body language, like pulling or rocking away.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Existing conditions such as arthritis.
  • Dental problems such as toothaches
  • Constipation

Finding a pattern can help to explain and manage your loved one’s aggressive behavior. One idea to consider is keeping a diary that lists what’s going on when your loved one is angry. Details such as what activities were going on, the time of day, and how the aggressive behavior occurred can be helpful for you to identify any problems. Having these notes will be beneficial if you need to bring your loved one to a doctor and address the behavior issues and get a medical opinion.

How you can respond when they become aggressive

  • Establish safety: When someone has dementia, they can turn violent and aggressive without any warnings. In these situations, you need to remove yourself from harm’s way. You will also need to remove dangerous objects such as glasses and knives, so your loved one doesn’t injure themselves.
  • Calm them down: Talk to your loved ones to help them relax. Try to get them to focus on a distant memory since dementia affects recent memories.
  • Draw the line: As their condition progresses, your loved one’s memories can worsen, and they become more aggressive. This can be an emotional event for you. So when taking care of them, take care of yourself as well and address your behavioral health needs.

Senior caregivers in Brookline and Boston, MA: things to do after an aggressive outburst

Senior caregivers can take the chance to de-stress and calm down after an aggressive situation by taking a step back to see if there is anything to learn from the situation. Doing this can help you take the outburst less personally and make it easier to think about what could have been done differently next time to help avoid an aggressive reaction.

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