Every 65 seconds, a person in the US develops Alzheimer’s disease. That’s more than 45 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every year.
Unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 18.4 billion hours of care that is valued at over $232 billion.
Are you one of those caregivers?
If so, you may have noticed a spike in aggression and violent behavior in your loved one. Read on to learn all about Alzheimer’s aggression and how to cope.
Causes of Alzheimer’s Aggression
Scientists aren’t sure if aggression and violent behavior are caused by Alzheimer’s disease or if it is a reaction to the person’s confusion.
Even if we don’t know for sure what causes it, you can start to see a trend in what causes the combative behavior. Once you understand the triggers, you can help diffuse the situation for a more peaceful outcome.
Understand the Triggers in Alzheimer’s Patients
Many times aggression and violent behavior happen for a reason. Once you become familiar with what situations trigger these reactions in your loved one, you can often find the problem before a violent outburst.
People with Alzheimer’s may get frustrated when their surroundings are noisy, cluttered or have too many things going on.
Or they may get confused when they are bombarded with multiple questions at once. Or if there is a sudden change in their routine or environment.
It is possible that violent behavior is due to constipation or soiled underwear. It may also be that your loved one feels lonely. Loneliness is a disease and is linked to Alzheimer’s.
Also, your loved one can sense your frustration. So even though he or she can’t understand everything that’s happening, your frustration is clear.
Sometimes, combative behavior is due to lack of sleep, pain or a side effect from the interaction of medications. Speak to your loved one’s doctor if you aren’t able to pinpoint any other triggers.
When others push people with Alzheimer’s to remember things, it can be extremely frustrating for them. Alzheimer’s patients may lash out with aggression and violent behavior.
Tips for Coping with Combative Behavior
Your reaction can play a big part in helping de-escalate the situation. Especially if your loved one is confused.
Here are some helpful ways you can deal with aggression and violent behavior.
First, watch your tone. Speak calmly and softly. If your loved one is expressing frustration or telling you what is bothering him or her, just listen.
Focus on showing empathy and that you understand how they feel.
If possible, allow the Alzheimer’s patient to make decisions. You could say, “I see you are feeling frustrated. What would you like to do instead? Do you want to go for a walk or listen to some music?”
Letting your loved ones make decisions helps them to feel that they still have some control over their lives.
It is helpful to stick to a set daily routine. Keep eating, bathing and outside time on a schedule to avoid disruptions that may feel overwhelming or confusing.
Having some quiet time each day can help with Alzheimer’s aggression. Make sure that there are also daily activities your loved one enjoys so that they get enough socialization and stimulation.
Having familiar objects and photos placed around the house can also help establish a feeling of normalcy and safety.
The TV shouldn’t be on all day long. The sounds and lights can cause your loved one to be overstimulated.
Try playing gentle music and using soft lighting during times of the day when your loved one may be particularly combative.
Avoid clutter, excessive noise and having too many people in the room.
As Alzheimer’s disease gets worse, people forget how to do everyday things.
Taping cue cards around the house can help prevent frustration. You could put a reminder on the sink to wash hands or brush teeth. A note right under the light switch can be a reminder of how to control the lights.
Just like with children, people with Alzheimer’s may react negatively to junk food. Limit the amount of sugar and caffeine your loved one eats.
A well-balanced diet can go a long way towards regulating moods.
Don’t ask your loved one too many questions at once.
Avoid giving him or her many instructions at once. Instead of “get ready to go, we have a doctor’s appointment” say, “please put your coat on, mom.”
Step-by-step instructions are easier to process and less overwhelming.
Remember, Alzheimer’s affects the short-term memory in individuals. Many times, their long-term memory remains clear and intact.
You can diffuse a combative Alzheimer’s patient with a prompt to talk about a cherished memory. You might say something like “remember when we took a trip to Florida when I was 10 years old?”
When your loved one is feeling overwhelmed or confused, being reminded about happy times in the past is a good way to ease the tension.
Once you know what the common triggers are, plan ahead. If dinner time with the kids slamming cupboards and the TV glaring is a trigger, find ways to adapt.
Maybe that can be the time when another family member comes to take the Alzheimer’s patient for a walk.
Or that could be the time when your loved one goes to a program for seniors in your community. Maybe you can prep meals at another time during the day and just reheat or use a slow-cooker.
When anyone is aggressive, you need to think about your safety and the safety of others. If necessary, keep a safe distance from the combative individual until he or she stops being combative.
If you can’t control the person from hurting him or herself or others, call 911. Explain that your loved one has Alzeihmers and is sometimes aggressive.
Being a caregiver is very taking. It’s common to feel isolated and overworked.
You should reach out to friends and family for help. Try to take a break from caregiving.
Be realistic about what you can reasonably do. If it’s too much for you, consider how assisted living can help with the Alzheimer’s aggression in your loved one.
Remember, if you take good care of yourself, you will be able to better love and care for others. Request a tour of seasons memory care today and see how we can help.