Anyone caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s knows that angry, aggressive outbursts are one of the disease’s greatest challenges. Often, caregivers think in terms of managing these episodes once they occur. How can I redirect their attention elsewhere? Is there medication mom or dad can take? These solutions can be helpful, but it’s even more effective to find the cause of the outburst, in order to prevent such incidents before they even occur.
There are five common reasons why someone with Alzheimer’s disease may become upset. The problem could be one specific thing, or a combination of factors.
Their Surroundings: Is there something about the environment that’s making your loved one uncomfortable? Are they too hot? Is there some noise that’s bothering them? Are there too many people around? Frustration with being unable to control what’s happening or even communicate that they have a problem with it may make them upset.
Physical Difficulties: Your loved one’s agitation may be caused by some kind of a physical impairment. Check to see what might be wrong. Is there some kind of irritation or pain that’s bothering them? Are they having digestive problems or are they tired? These kind of problems may cause your loved one to lash out with a tantrum.
Psychological Issues: It’s common for Alzheimer’s patients to develop mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or delusions. If you suspect this might be the case with your loved one, take them to the doctor. Medication can make an enormous difference in these situations.
Interpersonal Problems: Alzheimer’s patients are very sensitive to the tone you set, and thus are likely to react strongly to feeling rushed, forced, or otherwise rudely treated. Be gentle and calming in your approach and try not to talk down to them. Be alert for your own frustration and do your best to keep it in check. Ask them to do things rather than issue commands.
Disappointed Expectations: Because you know what your loved one used to be capable of, it’s easy for you to ask them to take on a task that might be too difficult for them. When they realize that they are not able to carry out the assignment that you gave them, they’re likely to have an outburst. Be careful to keep in mind what they’re capable of, and remember that rather than learning and growing, as we normally expect from people, they are instead in decline. What was possible a few months ago may no longer be.
If you’re finding that your loved one is frequently aggressive or agitated, consider these root causes when trying to address the problem. If you can prevent such incidents from happening in the first place, you’ll both be better off.