How to deal with aggressive behaviours in Dementia patients

Photo credit: Active Global Specialised Caregivers
Photo credit: Active Global Specialised Caregivers

Aggressive behaviour is quite common with dementia patients, dealing with them is part of a caregiver’s job and it is their task to know how to deal with them. 

Aggressive behaviour can be either be verbal (swearing, screaming, shouting, making threats) or physical (hitting, pinching, scratching, hair pulling, biting).

While there are several causes of aggressive behaviour, here are some that you may encounter:

  • Pain or physical discomfort (including being constipated or thirsty)
  • Side effect of too many medications
  • Environment: It could be too hot or too noisy or too bright
  • Hallucinations: (seeing things that are not there) or delusions (believing things that are not true), can be frightening, leading a person with dementia to respond in an aggressive way.

Dealing with aggressive behavior is both physically and mentally draining, but there are some helpful tips that you can follow.

  • Take a deep breath, step back to give the person space and take some time. You may need to leave the room until the person has calmed down.
  • Stay calm, do not show fear or anxiety. Do not raise your voice, do not confront the person. Do not initiate physical contact.
  • Reassure the person, tell them: “I understand what you feel.”
  • Listen to what they’re saying.
  • Try to find what is causing the behaviour.
  • Try to distract their attention with another activity.

Caring for dementia patients also involve knowing how to prevent future adverse behavior.

Tips to prevent aggressive behaviour:

  • Understanding what caused previous aggressive behaviours and try to solve or avoid the cause.
  • Listening to the person’s favourite music may reduce aggressive behaviours.
  • Social interaction and stimulation: make sure that the person with dementia has opportunities to chat or interact with others.
  • Reminiscence (Life story activities): discuss with your patient of key events in his life story (where they went to school, where they worked, where they went on vacation, etc.)
  • Physical exercise.
  • Caring for a small pet.

No matter what, there will always be good times and bad times. Remind them of the good times and what they used to be so that they hold on to the happy memories that might calm them down. Some patients might feel like they are fighting all alone so help them feel supported and encourage them with humour and compassion.

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