How to handle anger outbursts from someone with dementia
Managing anger and aggression from someone with dementia can be difficult, regardless of whether it is verbal or physical.
While the anger may be part of a person’s personality, these outbursts can also come from those who never behaved in such a way previously. Some people believe that anger outbursts are part of dementia or are a symptom of the condition, but this isn’t always the case. A person can become angry in situations such as the following:
- They are in pain and struggling to express this to you
- They are tired as they haven’t been sleeping well
- They feel threatened, slighted, frustrated or even bored
- They feel powerless, that they are not being listened to or understood
- They feel disorientated or confused, possibly by loud noises, physical clutter or by too many confusing questions
The world can be a frustrating and frightening place when you are struggling to understand what is going on around you. It is important to remember that there are typically reasons behind angry behaviour such as physical discomfort, environmental factors and communication barriers – the person isn’t usually just trying to be hurtful.
How to manage and prevent anger outbursts
It is important for you to try and see beyond the anger, and instead focus on what might be causing it, as the person may need your help and support.
What can I do during an anger outburst?
- Remain calm - avoid confrontation, which may mean leaving the room for a while. Be positive and reassuring, speaking in a slow, soft tone.
- Determine whether there’s any pain or discomfort - book an appointment with their GP if you are uncertain as undiagnosed pain, untreated depression or an infection can lead to anger, or can be a side effect of medication they are on.
- Think about other possible causes - what happened just before the outburst? You may also want to keep a diary to work out any regular triggers. Do the anger outbursts happen at certain times of the day, in certain places or around certain people? Is it when they are asked to do a particular task that they struggle? If so, what can be done to alleviate these responses?
- Validate their emotions and try a relaxing activity - let them know that you understand why they are feeling like this, so that they don’t feel isolated or misunderstood. Then use music, exercise or another activity they enjoy to help them relax.
What can I do to prevent anger outbursts?
- Stick to routines - maintain habits such as getting dressed before breakfast, going for a stroll after lunch or sitting at the same table for dinner. These habits can help a person with dementia to avoid agitation and confusion.
- Keep communication clear - a person’s inability to communicate effectively can leave them feeling frustrated and misunderstood. Be patient and help them with words they are struggling with to keep the conversation flowing. Avoid quizzing them on names, make eye contact, demonstrate what you want them to do and make sure the environment is free from too much noise and physical clutter.
Dementia support with Priory Adult Care
Our dedicated and friendly team are here to help you when caring for someone with dementia. Short-term stays are available if you are looking for respite, where you can be safe in the knowledge that your loved one is in the hands of people experienced in delivering dementia care.
For longer term stays, our dementia care homes also offer the best level of support so that the people in our care lead a happier and more fulfilling life. If you would like to find out more about our services at Priory Adult Care, please make an enquiry online. You can also call us on 0808 159 3772 to speak to someone directly.