How to Properly Respond to Alzheimer’s Aggression

Out of the many difficult behaviors that come with the disease, Alzheimer’s aggression is perhaps the most complicated to manage. A loved one who has always been mild-mannered can suddenly lash out in outbursts which are truly distressing: hitting, yelling, cursing, kicking, biting, or throwing things. How can you, as a family caregiver, safely help reestablish a feeling of calm?

To start with, emphasize to yourself that the Alzheimer’s aggression is a result of the disease. It is not something the person can control, and it is not intentional. With that being said, it must be diffused in order to keep both you and the senior safe from harm. 

The 6 R’s of Managing Difficult Behavior,” developed by Dr. Peter Rabins and Nancy Mace in their book The 36-Hour Day, could be an effective way to help. Go through and refer back to these suggestions so you are equipped for the next burst of aggression.

The 6 R’s:

  • Restrict. Maintain a calm demeanor and tone of voice while you strive to help the person disengage from the behavior. 
  • Reassess. Think through what might have provoked the incident. Causes could include physical pain, too much distraction or noise in the room, fatigue, hunger, thirst, etc. Maintaining a journal of what was happening before and during each incident often helps provide clues.
  • Reconsider. Empathize with the senior loved one by imagining yourself battling a disease that impedes your ability to clearly communicate your needs and wishes, to accomplish tasks independently which were once so easy, to feel disoriented and confused, etc.
  • Rechannel. Redirect the older adult to a pursuit the senior takes pleasure in, or relocate to an alternative environment, such as moving out onto the front porch or going into the living room together for a snack.
  • Reassure. Let the older adult know that everything is okay and that you are there. If the person responds favorably to touch, place your hand on their shoulder, offer a pat on the back or hug, or take their hand in yours.
  • Review. Make note in your journal what went well – or what didn’t – to aid in using the most reliable response when the aggression arises again.

Knowing that aggression may occur at any time in an older adult with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is helpful to assess the home environment and take steps to make certain it is as comfortable and calming as possible, such as:

  • Playing relaxing music the senior enjoys in the background. 
  • Placing familiar, comforting objects within easy access. 
  • Avoiding movies that may show violence or other distressing images. 
  • Opening the shades in the day to allow a lot of day light to stream in.

Home Sweet Home In-Home Care is here for you as well with specially trained dementia caregivers who understand the nuances associated with the disease and how to best manage the associated challenges. Contact us online or call us at (269) 963-9888 for additional information on how we provide the kind of senior home care Marshall, MI and other area communities recommend most. For further information on the different areas we serve in Michigan, please visit our Locations page. 

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