How to Deal with Agitation and Anger in Dementia

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Dementia and anger is a common combination for the afflicted. In fact, studies show that the majority of people with dementia will experience some degree of agitation as their disease progresses. 

But despite the numbers, the behavior can seem anything but normal to those around them. The signs of dementia anger may begin with general irritability and an uncooperative attitude before progressing to verbal abuse and even physical aggression. 

Finding the right coping skills starts with understanding the cause behind the agitation.

1. Causes of Dementia Anger

Most loved ones and professional caregivers begin with good intentions when they first begin caring for the elderly. 

They understand that the person needs support and love during the worst of times. But at some point, this rationale will evaporate if caregivers can’t deal with dementia and anger outbursts.

Some people affected with dementia act out because they’re in pain or general discomfort. Others may just be bored, tired, or frustrated with environmental or schedule changes in their life. 

Elderly with dementia may also experience delusions or paranoia, which can lead to agitation.

Subtle Clues

Because it’s not always easy for a person with dementia to communicate what’s wrong, even simple fixes (e.g., repositioning their body, changing the TV channel, etc.) may not always be obvious. 

Caregivers should write down the environmental conditions when each outburst occurs to better understand why a person is reacting the way they do.

2. Five Ways to Deal with Anger

There is no magic cure when it comes to pacifying the anger. Each person will have their own triggers, so you may need to tailor the remedy to the circumstances. 

However, there are a few proven solutions that can help mollify even the most extreme anger outbursts:

1) Animals: Pets can give people with dementia something else to focus on besides their anger. The simple act of stroking an animal’s fur can be a meditative process that puts the person back in the moment.

2) Music: Playing a soothing song or melody can be enough to take the person out of their agitation, so they can return with a clearer head. When appropriate, sing along with the song and encourage the elderly person to do the same.

3) Sensory experiences: From aromatherapy to physical touch, you can redirect their energy into something less intense. Try lighting scented candles or giving the person a gentle shoulder run when they’re feeling angry.

4) Exercise: If the person is capable of walking or moving their arms, then they’re capable of exercise. Encourage the elderly person to take their anger out through constructive activity. Try having them dance it out or lift a few weights until they calm down.

5) Routines: All people enjoy routines to a certain extent, but the elderly can particularly come to rely on consistency. If there have been recent changes to a person’s everyday schedule, consider finding ways to soften the change as best as possible.

Just remember that certain tactics may only cause a person with dementia to become angrier — especially if they feel as though you are patronizing them. Consider their needs first before you begin experimenting.

3. Get Help Today 

If you are dealing with a loved one who suffers from dementia, contact us today to learn more about GYC’s Dementia care services. 


GYC Senior Care’s founders are nurses that have extensive experience managing memory care facilities and giving Dementia and Alzheimer’s care training, including to GYC caregivers. You and your loved one will be in the best hands possible and will get the best support system. Contact us here

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