How to Calm People Living with Dementia: Managing Anger in the Elderly

Caring for a relative, loved one or client with dementia? You may discover they start to experience anger, anxiety, or aggressive tendencies as part of their illness. Don’t despair — there are management methods out there. Discover more in our blog post.

Dementia is not just a disease that affects memory. It is a progressive condition that can have an impact on all facets of the brain. This means mood and personality of an individual can be affected, and affected in different ways; an important thing to know when providing elderly home care.

Some people become quieter, others sillier or happier, while occasionally individuals experience increases in anger, anxiety or agitation.

This is an unfortunate symptom of the disease, yet there are ways to help support dementia and anger in the elderly. If you are caring for somebody who experiences anger as a result of dementia, you may find this blog a helpful resource. Today, we look at how to calm people living with dementia.

Important note: Please be aware that these are techniques and strategies employed by many individuals and carers but, as everyone is unique, the methods may have varying levels of effectiveness. It’s always a good idea to try different ideas and find out what fits best.

Avoid Triggers of Anger in the Elderly

The best tool you have in your arsenal against aggression in the elderly is prevention. If you can support the avoidance of situations that result in negative emotional responses, everyone will be better off.

Every individual is different, which means all triggers will be different. You’ll only know what causes the worst reactions after experiencing them. However, common causes are:

  • IrritationExternal factors that are proving to be annoying, like noises, strangers or temperature.

  • Fear Anger can often relate to anxiety or apprehension in those with aggressive-tendency dementia. This may include environment, such as being in hospital, or worries over their condition if they are aware of it.

  • Discomfort Pain, hunger or thirst, needing the toilet, tiredness and physical discomfort; such as uncomfortable seating.
Comforting Elderly patient.jpg

Maintain the Right Atmosphere

Avoidance of potential aggregators are not the only way to keep things calm. Often, environmental setup can play a huge role. There a few things you can do to create the right atmosphere and reduce the chance of dementia, causing anger in the elderly:

Keep Things Easy

Frustration may result from difficult-to-perform tasks. If you take the pressure off some with dementia by ensuring they don’t have to face such challenges, then you’ll encourage a more relaxed and comfortable environment.

Provide Distractions

As the mind can settle on the more recent thought, concern or fear this can grow into frustration and anger. Help the individual to break their current train of thought by instead focusing their attention on things they like. This is a powerful technique that encourages a much happier mood. Go for walks, have conversations, and partake in hobbies that they enjoy.

Use Therapeutic Practices

Alternative therapy, such as pet therapy, music and aromatherapy, have all been shown to have positive effects on those living with dementia. When looking for ways to work with people with dementia who are aggressive, or who often become aggressive, this kind of therapeutic practice can be highly beneficial.

Maintain Good Health and Medication

Problems such as infections or missed medications can prompt more extreme reactions to stressors and result in higher-than-normal levels of aggressiveness. This may be due to imbalances in the brain or simple levels of added discomfort. Ensuring good health is maintained and medication schedules are followed is important.

How to Work With People Living with Dementia Who Are Aggressive

Sometimes, aggression may be unavailable. In this situation, it’s important to take steps to manage emotional problems. Here’s how to calm individuals with dementia should they experience anger, anxiety, fear, or agitation:

Listen

Make sure the person with dementia understands that you have listened to their problems and are prepared to support them if possible. Ignorance can simply lead to greater frustration and more anger.

Address the Problem

It sounds obvious, but it’s always worth keeping in mind. If there is a clearly identifiable stressor that has resulted in aggressive or anxious behaviour, removing that stressor may defuse the situation.

Reassure

Sometimes, there will be no obvious trigger for aggression. At this time, the best thing you can do is offer reassurances and calm body language.

Be Patient

Depending on their personality, and their progression into the disease, it may take someone with dementia a while to overcome feelings of anger or stress. Time and patience may be all that is required as the brain balances out again. Sometimes, there is nothing to do but wait, especially if they aren't responding to other methods of anger management.

Don’t Forget to Look After Yourself

Dementia and anger in the elderly can be very hard to handle sometimes. There are times when it can even escalate to violence. We understand you often feel you have a duty to care for these individuals but don’t risk your own mental or physical health to do so.

If you are unable to care for yourself, how can you hope to care for them as well? Look after yourself and seek support from others if situations become unmanageable.

Are you working or living with someone living with dementia who is aggressive? Abney & Baker are experts in supportive care for those living from this disease. We can help assist you in taking care of your client, relative, or loved one. Get in touch today to learn more, or just ask for some advice.