Coping with anger and Alzheimer's disease or dementia

Dealing with your family member's mood swings are a challenge of caring for someone with dementia. Anger and dementia can go hand in hand.

In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, the person retains a sense that something is wrong or missing. She may be aware that she is making mistakes which can lead to angry outbursts. When a family member struggles, those closest to her are likely to feel her anger and frustration.

Here are some suggestions about what to do when your family member becomes angry:

  • Create, when possible, a calm environment where you do not have to rush your family member which can lead to frustration and anger.
  • Break more complex tasks into smaller tasks to allow your family member to be more independent and successful
  • If you have already experienced an outburst, think back to the events that led up to it. Where there any signals that can help you prevent an outburst in the future?
  • When an outburst begins, back off and stop doing what you were doing.
  • To help your family member to calm down, offer a distraction.
  • Put your safety first. If you do not feel safe, leave the room.
  • When your family member is extremely upset, you may need to call for assistance.
  • If regular outbursts occur and you are not able to manage them, discuss the outbursts your family member's doctor to see if there are any prescription drugs that might help.
  • Anger and striking out may be signs of pain in a non verbal person. Report changes in behavior to his doctor.
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