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How to Defuse Anger in a Senior with Alzheimer's

Couple Arguing

If you are a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, you already know that it can be difficult for them to appropriately express anger. So, what to do when that anger seems to be spewed at you? Read on.

What is the Root of the Anger?

It’s not uncommon for an outburst of anger or irritation to happen at any point in time from Alzheimer’s patients. While it might feel like it’s totally freak and out of control, the truth is the person with Alzheimer’s often feels they have no other way to express what is wrong. Alzheimer’s disease makes verbal communication difficult by impairing parts of the brain responsible for language skills. Seniors with the disease can feel quite frustrated with the inability to express how they feel, and the only way to be heard is to be angry. Rest assured, this is stressful for them as much as it is for the caregiver!

How to Help an Alzheimer’s Patient Get Through Anger

It’s important to understand the triggers that your loved one has. There are things you can do to help them manage feelings of anger once you understand what triggers it. Or, if you are sure that certain things will be a trigger for angry outbursts, you can avoid those situations altogether.

Following are a few common causes of anger in adults with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Environments that are chaotic or noisy
  • Being startled or surprised
  • Changing the routine
  • Being uncomfortable by feeling too hot or too cold
  • Needing to use the bathroom
  • Being thirsty or hungry
  • Being in pain, even if it’s low-level discomfort.
  • Loud noises from the television, radio or loud conversation
  • Feeling tired or wound up
  • Being around people they don’t know
  • Not enough sleep
  • Frustration from feeling unable to communicate clearly
  • Feeling confused or afraid

Also, make sure you understand the medications your loved one takes. Many of them can cause anxiety or drowsiness, adding to an already anxious feeling. If it’s a problem, their doctor needs to know!

Calming Feeling of Anger with Alzheimer’s

Much like pinpointing the needs of a child, you will need to do the same thing with your loved one when they are struggling. Once you know they aren’t hungry or in pain, you can begin to help them calm their nerves. The most important way to do this is to stay completely calm yourself! Your loved one will react to your energy, so staying peaceful is the biggest way to defuse stress and anxiety in them.
Here some other tips:

  1. Use a soft and calming tone of voice
  2. Validate what they are saying by giving them a voice and a right to feel that way
  3. Voice your understanding to them. They need to be reassured.
  4. Never scold or correct. Harsh tones will likely make things worse.
  5. Give them space. Alzheimer’s patients are already frustrated with life and know things are not right. Just like the rest of us, they need space to decompress when things feel out of control.
  6. Let them shout it out if necessary. As long as they cannot harm themselves, they may need a room to just pace or yell if that’s what helps bring them down. 
  7. Soothing music. Nothing soothes anxiety like soft and relaxing music. Find out what music they have always loved and have it ready to go in times of crisis or frustration.

For more tips and help on managing anger and anxiety in seniors with Alzheimer’s, please contact us today!

Home Helpers of Little Rock is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, 24-hour home care and live-in care, Alzheimer's & dementia care, Parkinson's care as well as homemaker services in Little Rock, Maumelle, Bryant, North Little Rock, South Little Rock, East Little Rock, West Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville, Mabelvale, Alexander, and Benton, Arkansas.

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