Handling Alzheimer's, Dementia & Anger
Handling anger is one of the biggest challenges when caring for a person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. While almost everybody shows some aggression now and again, Alzheimer’s and dementia can make anger issues much worse or develop anger issues in people who previously had none. Studies show that anger issues generally worsen the more severe an Alzheimer’s or dementia sufferer’s condition becomes.
Managing anger from dementia sufferers can be difficult. It often means reacting against your first instincts. That said, sound anger prevention and coping strategies can make Alzheimer’s care much easier for loved ones and caregivers alike.
"Knowing how to detect, defuse, and prevent anger is one of the most important skills for Alzheimer’s care providers,” says Larry Meigs, CEO of Visiting Angels. “It’s one of the skills we value most in our Alzheimer’s caregivers.”
Understanding Alzheimer’s & Anger
The first step to dealing with anger in Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers is understanding where their anger stems from. While angry or aggressive behavior can sometimes seem spontaneous in those suffering from mental or memory disorders, a root cause – or multiple causes – can often be determined. Having a better understanding of the triggers and sources of your loved one’s anger will help you prevent aggressive behavior and make it easier to defuse volatile situations.
Anger in Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers can be related to:
- Physical Triggers. The person may be angry due to discomfort, soreness, dizziness, nausea, or exhaustion – or they may become frustrated by the inability to do simple physical tasks.
- Emotional Triggers. The person may become angry from over-stimulation or boredom. Feelings of being overwhelmed, lonely, or bored can all trigger anger or aggression.
- Mental Triggers. Confusion is one of the leading causes of anger and aggression in Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers. Confusion can be triggered by lost trains of thought, mixed up memories, or a sudden change in the environment, such as a change from one home health aide to another.
Preventing & Handling Anger in Alzheimer’s Care
The more you can understand your loved one’s aggressive triggers, the easier it will become to avoid them and prevent anger outbursts. That said, it isn’t always possible to evade specific triggers. Because of this, it is crucial that you and your loved one’s caregiver knows how best to handle outbursts of anger, including both verbal and physical aggression.
Here are some guidelines for managing anger outbursts in seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s:
- If you can determine the cause of their distress, see if it is possible to alleviate or solve the issue: This can stop a problem from becoming worse, and often helps dispel their anger.
- Avoid physical contact and NEVER react to violence with force, unless your safety or the safety of someone else is threatened. Trying to take physical control of a dementia sufferer often increases their anger and aggression.
- Use a calm tone of voice and avoid outward displays of distress, upset, anger, or fear. These signs are often detected by the angry person and will likely make their distress and agitation worse.
- If possible, remove yourself from the room or situation. Give yourself and your loved one time to calm down. This will make it easier for you to react and may defuse or dispel their anger.
- Be kind and reassuring at all times. Do not attempt to argue or reason with your loved one. Instead, be sympathetic and accepting of their anger and frustration.
Sufferers of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory disorders should not be punished or chastised for anger or aggressive outbursts. This is one of the most common mistakes made by loved ones and untrained caregivers. Remember: your loved one is suffering from a disorder over which they have no control. What’s more, they are unlikely to understand why they are being punished or reprimanded. Many dementia sufferers forget their outbursts immediately or soon after they happen.
If you find that you need the support in handling a loved one’s dementia or Alzheimer’s care, help from a senior home care provider can be invaluable. Visiting Angels Newton/Canton provides professionally certified HHAs and CNAs with additional training in dementia care. We are an affiliate of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and our directors and case managers are certified by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (CDPs).
Our Caregivers: Education and Empathy
All Visiting Angels Newton/Canton Caregivers undergo a two-part specialized dementia care training during the orientation program. They are required to complete this training before they can begin to work with our clients. After viewing a presentation and reviewing information with the Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) case manager in a Q&A session, they begin a sensory deprivation training. The CDP trainer challenges the caregivers' abilities to see clearly, hear well, use their hands, and function with limited mobility. They are given specific everyday tasks to complete while they are compromised, such as, taking medication from prescription bottles and placing them in the correct compartment in a pill dispenser. The caregivers have a follow-up session with their trainer to discuss how they felt and solidify the importance of empathy and compassion for clients who have a hearing, vision, and or mobility deficits.
Every Visiting Angels home care provider has the support of the entire staff. If a caregiver is having a challenging time with a client and needs further assistance, they call or come into the office for guidance. The case manager will assess the situation, adjust the care plan, and provide as much support as possible to clients, caregivers, and family members.
About Visiting Angels Newton/Canton
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton senior home care agency provides quality in-home care services to seniors and people with disabilities. Countless families have benefited from our dementia home care, Alzheimer’s care, companion care, respite support, transitional aid, and elder home care services in Dedham, Needham, Wellesley, Natick, Newton, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Canton, Westwood, Watertown, Stoughton, Roslindale, Norwood, and nearby towns. The services provided by Visiting Angels Newton/Canton will be sure to make a positive impact on your loved one’s happiness and quality of life. To discuss your options for professional, in-home Alzheimer’s care, call Visiting Angels Newton/Canton at 617-795-2727 today!