How to Handle Aggression and Agitation in Dementia Care at Home

Understanding Agitation and Aggression

Agitation and aggression are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Agitation means the person is restless, worried, or unable to settle down. Aggression is when the person lashes out verbally or tries to hit or hurt someone.

Agitation and aggression usually happen for a reason. As a caregiver, try to understand the causes behind these behaviors. Pain, depression, stress, lack of sleep, constipation, soiled clothes, sudden changes in routine or environment, loss of independence, too much noise or confusion, feeling lonely, and medication interactions can all trigger agitation or aggression.

Watch for early signs like restlessness so you can address the underlying cause before problem behaviors start. Ignoring agitation and aggression will likely make things worse. Talk to a doctor, who can check for medical issues and recommend medications if needed.

Exasperated pensioner threatening his caretaker with his cane Irritated gray-haired old man brandishing the walking stick at his in-home caregiver standing before him Aggression and Agitation stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Tips for Handling Agitation and Aggression

Here are some tips for coping with agitation and aggression at home:

  • Speak calmly and reassuringly. Listen patiently to frustrations. Show you understand if the person is angry or scared.
  • Maintain daily routines for bathing, dressing, meals, and activities. Consistency and structure are comforting.
  • Build in quiet times and activities during the day. Limit noise, clutter, and people.
  • Distract with a favorite snack, object, or activity. Gentle touch, music, reading, and walks may also help.
  • Reduce caffeine intake which can increase agitation.

Take breaks from caregiving and try to relax. Your own stress can spread to the person with dementia. If aggression occurs, stay at a safe distance until it passes. Also protect the person from self-harm.

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Creating a Safe, Supportive Environment

You can make changes at home to help prevent agitation and aggression:

  • Keep familiar objects and photographs around to create a sense of security.
  • Post signs and notes as visual cues for daily routines like meals or bath time.
  • Make sure rooms are well-lit to avoid shadows and confusion.
  • Lock up potentially dangerous items like sharp objects, tools, or weapons.
  • Use monitoring devices like door alarms and motion sensors if wandering is an issue.
  • Have comfortable spaces for the person to retreat to when overwhelmed.

Getting Help for Aggression and Agitation

If agitation or aggression persists, consult a doctor about behavioral management strategies and medication options. Ask for referrals to support services like respite care, adult day programs, or in-home assistance which allow you breaks. Consider residential dementia care if behaviors pose too great a risk.

Joining a caregiver support group can provide stress relief and advice from others facing similar challenges. Be patient, stay calm, and don’t hesitate to ask for help – you don’t have to manage dementia behaviors alone.

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