Preparation reduces aggressive dementia behavior and increases safety
These aggressive dementia behaviors can be scary and difficult for caregivers to handle. Older adults could scream, curse, bite, grab, hit, kick, push, or throw things.
It’s important to remind yourself that they’re not behaving this way on purpose or to be hurtful. The brain damage caused by dementia is the reason behind these actions.
There’s no solution that can prevent all angry outbursts, but there are effective ways to minimize upset, reduce your stress, and increase the safety of everyone involved.
We share 7 ways to reduce and prepare for these aggressive dementia episodes.
7 ways to reduce and prepare for aggressive dementia behaviors
1. Notice indications of an upcoming outburst
Sometimes, but not always, there are indications that an aggressive outburst is approaching.
Minor outbursts, heightened confusion, agitation, anger, and frustration could be signs that things aren’t quite right. Often, since you know them so well, you might have a feeling that something is “off” with them.
When you sense that a storm could be approaching, try heading it off by switching to a soothing activity they enjoy, calming the environment, giving them a snack or drink they love, or providing some extra comfort and support.
But it’s also possible that an aggressive episode could come out of the blue, so don’t always count on having a warning.
2. Stick to a regular daily routine
To minimize unexpected and stressful events, create and stick to a regular daily routine for your older adult.
With dementia, they’re losing control over their cognitive and physical abilities along with their independence. That means their lives are filled with more and more unknowns.
If your older adult’s days are unstructured and unpredictable, life can become even more stressful – and stress contributes to the anger and anxiety behind aggressive dementia behaviors.
3. Create a calm living environment
For someone with dementia, a calm and relaxing environment helps minimize confusion and agitation.
It also helps them feel calm and able to concentrate on essential daily tasks.
When the environment is distracting or makes it difficult to complete basic tasks, it increases your older adult’s frustration and agitation. That can trigger or contribute to an angry outburst.
4. Be mindful of nonverbal communication
Often, the nonverbal messages we send with our body language and facial expressions come through more clearly than the words we speak.
Using body language and facial expressions that help your older adult clearly and easily understand your meaning can reduce confusion, agitation, and anger as well as increase cooperation with essential tasks.
To keep everyone safe, it’s important to remove all potential weapons. This goes beyond obvious items like guns, knives, and sharp objects.
Think also of regular household implements that could also be used as weapons – heavy rolling pins, scissors, fire extinguisher, matches and lighters, glass bottles, or screwdrivers and other tools.
For example, your older adult could have a hallucination or delusion that someone was breaking into the house or mistake you for a burglar.
If that happened, they could unintentionally attack you with a weapon with the good intention of protecting you, themselves, or other family members.
6. Create a safe place for yourself
In some cases, the best thing to do is remove yourself from an aggressive situation and wait until your older adult calms down or forgets that they’re upset.
That means having a safe place where you can get away from an angry older adult, like a room that can be fully secured or a clear path to get outside. You’ll also need to have a plan for times when the situation gets out of hand.
Knowing that you have a plan to fall back on reduces stress and helps you stay safe.
7. Prepare emergency responders to keep things from escalating
Do your best to prevent a situation where emergency responders like police, fire, and EMTs mistake your older adult’s aggressive dementia behavior for intentional aggression and threats.
They could respond with force, which would make the situation worse and could result in injuries, jail, or an involuntary psychiatric hospitalization.
When you’re not in an emergency situation, call the non-emergency number for police, fire, and emergency responders.
Ask if they can place a prominent “flag” or notification on your address or phone number to let responders know that your older adult has dementia and how they could best de-escalate an aggressive situation or provide protection for all involved.
If your area’s emergency responders use a service like Smart911, sign up to add this important personal information to your address or phone number.
Recommended for you:
- How to Understand and Manage Dementia Behaviors: A Comprehensive Guide
- 10 Ways to Respond to Dementia Hallucinations in Seniors
- 8 Ways to Deal with False Dementia Accusations
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
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