According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and above will live with Alzheimer’s in 2022. While some people with Alzheimer’s cope well with the memory-loss condition, others may develop unexpected outbursts of anger for no apparent reason.
The condition is progressive and may lead to episodes of rage and impulsive behaviors as it reaches the middle stages. As a result, giving care to seniors with Alzheimer’s is the top priority for families with older family members undergoing such a significant cognitive decline.
In addition to comforting their agitations, it’s essential to take an in-depth look into the causes and other external factors that might upset them. Keep reading to learn practical caregiving strategies and prevention tips to help calmly handle situations where Alzheimer’s-related anger rises up.
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What Makes Alzheimer’s Cause Irritability and Anger?
One of the most common symptoms affecting those with Alzheimer’s disease is the tendency to lash out for no apparent reason. Their sudden behavioral changes are varied, ranging from physical reactions to severe mental distress.
Many health experts are still unsure about the triggers behind impulsive behaviors due to Alzheimer’s. What causes anger in the affected individual can be observed before and during an outburst. They may include:
- Lack of sleep.
- Loss of recognition for their loved ones.
- Distortions of reality.
- Side effects of medications.
- Confusion or discomfort but unable to communicate with caregivers.
- External stimuli or their surroundings.
- Internal stimuli (cold, thirst, hunger, hot, tired).
- Being criticized.
- Improper caregiving—if the caregiver is forceful or aggressive, a person with Alzheimer’s may respond similarly.
- Paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
- Enormous amounts of stress or intrusive thoughts.
- Health problems (constipation, urinary issues, headaches).
- They feel like their privacy is violated.
- Disruptions in their routine.
- Environment changes and shifts.
- Being forced to do something.
- Being questioned too many times.
- Not permitted to go somewhere or do something.
- Feelings of isolation or loneliness.
- Feeling threatened or rushed.
Most importantly, external stimuli or environmental factors are one of the leading causes of the emergence of aggressive behavior.
As a caregiver, you may need to pay extra attention to their surroundings first to determine whether or not they are over-stimulated or bothered by an overactive environment before moving on to other possible factors.
Essentially, you may want to ask yourself the following questions.
- Were there any weird or loud noises in the background?
- Were they in an enclosed space packed with unfamiliar people?
- Did the room lack light?
- Was there no air conditioning in the room?
Sometimes, seniors with Alzheimer’s are protective of their privacy and routine, meaning minor changes in consistent daily activities can upset them.
MORE TO EXPLORE: Guide To Understanding & Coping With Dementia Behavior
Alzheimer’s Anger: How to Deal With It?
When your senior is in distress, they may lash out and resort to hitting, grabbing, kicking, scratching, screaming, and throwing things. However, it’s crucial to remember that their current irritating nature has nothing to do with you, so don’t take it personally.
The key to handling angry outbursts is to be proactive and watch out for any premature signs of Alzheimer’s disease before these episodes progress. Doing this can help you deal with their emotions without making them feel like you are interfering with their personal life. Here are some tips to help you manage seniors exhibiting challenging behaviors.
- Stay Connected With Healthcare Providers: Since the doctors have an extensive understanding of your parent’s medical condition, they can recommend the best approaches and provide effective prescriptions if their outbursts are associated with physical pains. For example, if your senior is angry due to arthritis but unable to address their discomfort, prescribed medications can help. In some cases, a doctor may help rule out triggers faster and offer short-term treatments when their anger episodes are out of control.
- Understand the Triggers: Avoid jumping to conclusions. Instead, take your time to think, consider, and evaluate the situation that may provoke annoyance in your seniors.
- Check for Physical Discomfort: Sometimes, your parents may have communication difficulties, preventing them from telling you that they are uncomfortable or something is bothering them, such as headaches, thirst, or hunger. Before moving on to other management tips, check if their aggression results from pre-existing pain.
- Maintain a Calm Approach: Most seniors’ behaviors frequently reflect their caregivers’ reactions. Therefore, it’s best to maintain a positive and reassuring attitude while slowly speaking in a soft tone during conversations. Be as empathetic and patient as possible. Additionally, be transparent about what you would like them to do, but in a less commanding manner. For example, say, “Let’s sit over there” instead of “Stay out of the kitchen.”
- Focus on Feelings: Always put your seniors’ emotions first, even if their actions or words are irrational and inappropriate.
- Declutter the Distractions: External stimuli or surroundings can negatively impact how a person with Alzheimer’s reacts. Examine their living environment and make sure to turn off the TV or radio when speaking with them.
- Initiate Relaxing Activities: Music, massage, low-impact exercises, and other relaxing activities can help calm them down. Encouraging your parents to try out recreational activities, such as reading, painting, or watching their favorite TV shows, is an effective strategy to switch off the noises inside their heads.
- Provide Reassurances: When it comes to soothing those who are irritated, use phrases like “I’m here for you,” “You are safe with me,” or “I’m sorry that you are feeling upset.” These phrases are proven to have high effectiveness in coping with Alzheimer’s anger, allowing them to feel validated, loved, and protected.
- Avoid Using Force: Using force on seniors with Alzheimer’s is generally banned in most cases since it only worsens the situation and strains the relationship between you and your seniors.
- Take a Break: When the aggressive situation is under control, walk away to clear your head and recharge yourself. You deserve a break, too!
- Seek Support: Ensure that you and your seniors are safe. If the situation is out of your control, don’t be afraid to seek extra help from others or call 911 in emergencies.
Extra Tips to Ease Alzheimer’s-Related Aggression
Once you have figured out what causes Alzheimer’s anger and how to deal with it, you can take some proactive steps to prevent the anger issues from worsening over time.
- Avoid asking too many questions at once. Feeling overwhelmed by questions may make your parents feel embarrassed and irritated, especially if you keep repeating the same old questions regarding their memory.
- Limit their visits to crowded places like restaurants or diners.
- Think ahead of time.
- Lock hazardous objects in a drawer, such as knives, scissors, and paper cutters.
- Prevent access to dangerous substances (cleaning products, detergents, alcohol).
Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay at 12 Oaks Communities
With advanced memory care approaches, we offer tailored programs to assist seniors with Alzheimer’s and ensure that the program meets each person’s unique needs and requirements.
Our team is available 24-hours a day to provide residents with support, including taking care of their hygiene needs.Our primary focus is to keep your family members living with dignity. We also have specially designed programs to work on their memory and agility.
The 12 Oaks approach to Alzheimer’s care is research-driven and is up to date on the latest treatments and best practices for helping residents. Our team becomes an extension of your family, creating a safe home environment for various accessible living options.
If you have questions about how to calmly deal with anger in a family member with Alzheimer’s, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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