6 Tips to Prevent and Manage Anger and Dementia

Last updated on August 08, 2023

Caring for an elderly loved one with dementia can be extremely challenging—and sometimes exasperating. It takes time, effort, and a heavy dose of patience to effectively care for and interact with a person who has dementia symptoms such as:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Problems recognizing or communicating with friends and family

People with dementia may also exhibit intense anger and aggression, causing many caregivers to struggle with responding properly and safely.

Unfortunately, anger and aggression are not uncommon symptoms of many types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. People with dementia can become confused and frightened easily and are more likely to become angry or aggressive. This may lead them to yell at, hit, push, kick, or even bite the people around them, including their caregiver.

Dealing with Anger and Aggression

Thankfully, there are effective strategies for preventing and managing dementia and anger. Often, people with dementia become angry and behave aggressively when confused, frightened, or disoriented. Although it is not possible to completely prevent anger and aggression, there are steps you can take to reduce confusing and frightening situations.

Here are six tips that may reduce the amount of anger and aggression your loved one expresses:

  1. Set a routine
  2. A daily routine can simplify the number of decisions a person with dementia needs to make and reduce distress. For example, a person with dementia may have trouble deciding when to eat dinner or knowing where to find the remote control for the television. If you establish a routine in which dinner is always at 6 p.m. and the remote control is always on the left side of the coffee table, your loved one may feel more at ease.

  3. Simplify tasks and decisions
  4. A simple task such as getting dressed can become overwhelming for those with dementia. They may struggle with deciding what to wear, finding it, and remembering how to put their clothes on. Present them with limited options, such as wearing a red or green shirt or offering straightforward dinner choices like rice with chicken or steak and potatoes, to help reduce stressful decisions while preserving their sense of control.

  5. Keep life calm
  6. It can be difficult for a person with dementia to process what is happening around them or what people ask them to do. Speak slowly, use short and direct sentences, and understand that it may take longer than usual for a response. Reduce the amount of stimulation in the background by turning off the radio or TV when not in use, or stay in an area where there are fewer people to distract your loved one.

    Allow people with dementia to make decisions and take actions at their own pace, even if it seems extremely slow. Rushing a person with dementia may increase distress.

  7. Identify and remove triggers
  8. Some people with dementia may have certain triggers that cause them to become angry or aggressive. For example, if your loved one becomes upset hearing a certain voice on the TV or radio, avoid playing that station. Learning to recognize these triggers is important to avert these situations in the future. 

  9. Use distractions
  10. If you can’t avoid a certain trigger that angers your loved one, use distractions such as music or video clips to diffuse the situation. For example, if the sound of a vacuum is distressing, have your loved one listen to their favorite music or radio station in another room while you clean.

  11. Step back
    If your loved one becomes aggressive, give them time and space until they calm down. Do not physically restrain them unless there is absolutely no other alternative or if they are a danger to others or themselves. Also, avoid arguing because it will most likely lead to more confusion and anger. Instead, make sure your loved one is safe and allow them to be on their own for a time.

Visiting Angels Can Help Loved Ones with Dementia

If you are worried you may be experiencing caregiver burnout or need additional support caring for an elderly loved one with dementia, consider a Visiting Angels in-home care specialist. Our Visiting Angels care coordinators are available to discuss your loved one’s needs during a free home care consultation.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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