Anger and Dementia: What Family Members Need to Know

If your loved one has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you already know that every day can seem challenging in its own unique ways. Unfortunately, many family members observe personality changes in their loved ones that can leave them feeling worried or upset. Anger, for example, is a common emotion and expression that can lead to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and unhappy visits.

Anger and Dementia

dementia care in Washington, D.C.
Our caregivers use dementia care best practices to keep clients calm, comfortable, and happy

Anger is a common emotion that we all feel. However, people living with dementia can sometimes have a shorter fuse than they once did, causing family members to feel worried or upset. Further, people living with dementia can have difficulty expressing their frustration or anger verbally, which leaves them using actions or behavior to show how they are feeling. This can lead to confusion from family members as they watch their loved one push, hit, pace, or even cry.

It is important to remember that it is always okay for someone living with dementia to feel anger. They can feel angry at their diagnosis during the early stages of the disease, or feel angry at themselves for not being able to do tasks they once could. As the disease progresses, they can feel angry if they cannot communicate their needs or if someone doesn’t understand them. To make matters even more complicated, dementia can cause personality changes and even increase the chance of aggressive behaviors.

What Loved Ones Can Do

Anger, aggression, or personality changes can stand in the way of a healthy relationship between a senior and their loved one. Family members can find themselves reacting to their loved one’s anger with their own anger or sadness. In almost all cases, family members can find themselves losing their relationship with the person living with dementia.

At CaringGivers, we counsel family members who are trying to navigate anger that can come with dementia. Here are a few of our tips:

  • Keep the environment calm and peaceful. Overstimulation can quickly lead to anger and aggression for people living with dementia. Choose to eliminate this stress by creating an environment that is peaceful and calm. For example, skip the huge (and loud) family gathering for the holidays and instead bake cookies at home with your loved one.
  • Use validation followed by redirection. When your loved one is angry or confused, resist the urge to tell them what to do. Instead, validate their feelings by saying something like, “I can tell you are frustrated, Dad.” Then, redirect them with a calming and active activity like a stroll around the neighborhood, a dance to their favorite song, or a cup of tea.
  • Notice patterns to help you anticipate behaviors. For example, does your Mom always get angry when it’s time to help her with a shower? Is Dad always angry in the evenings? Noticing these patterns can help you change how you react during these times to see if you can find an approach that works better.
  • Talk to the doctor. If your loved one’s behaviors or mood has changed drastically, ensure you are communicating with their medical team about it. There could be some underlying medical issues, like chronic and untreated pain, that could be causing the outbursts.

CaringGivers Dementia Care in Washington, D.C.

At CaringGivers, we know what it is like to navigate the challenging moods and behaviors that come with dementia. Our caregivers are well-trained on dementia best practices and we use a personalized approach to make interactions pleasant, comfortable, and calm.

When we work with a client, family members are allowed to become family members again and not take one the caregiver role. This shift creates new opportunities to connect and have a healthy relationship.
We would be honored to serve you and your loved one, giving them the services they need to stay independent and happy at home for as long as possible. Call us today to learn more about our services.

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