If you are the caregiver for a friend or family member who has Alzheimer’s disease, one challenge you might encounter is what to do when they get angry. Loved ones are often intimidated by a sudden angry outburst or by escalating aggression. It can feel like the senior is deliberately being difficult.
The truth is the senior may feel that anger is their only avenue for conveying that something is wrong. Because Alzheimer’s often impairs verbal communication skills, seniors aren’t able to express unmet needs, fears, and frustrations. Getting angry is their way of seeking attention and being heard.
Finding the Root Cause of Alzheimer’s-Related Anger
To help an adult with Alzheimer’s manage their anger, you must first get to the root of the problem. Once you better understand their triggers, you can take steps to avoid putting them in situations that might cause them to get angry.
Here are some common causes of anger in adults with Alzheimer’s disease:
- Noisy or chaotic environment
- Being startled or surprised
- Change in routine
- Being too hot or too cold
- Needing to use the bathroom
- Feeling hungry or thirsty
- Being in pain or discomfort
- Loud voices or loud background noises (e.g., the television)
- Being overly tired
- Unfamiliar place or unfamiliar people
- Lack of sleep
- Frustration at being unable to communicate
- Being confused or fearful
- Crowded or cluttered environment
It’s also important to know that some medications can cause anger or anxiety. Reviewing your loved one’s medication list with their physician or pharmacist can help you make that determination.
Deescalating Anger in a Loved One with Alzheimer’s
Once you’ve eliminated potential triggers like hunger, pain, and thirst, you’ll want to move on to try to calm your loved one down.
To deescalate anger and soothe a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you must remain calm yourself. That isn’t always easy, especially when you feel as if their anger is directed at you. Practice taking deep, calming breaths and speaking in a soft voice.
Other tips for helping to calm your family member’s anger include the following:
- Validate their feelings: Don’t try to rationalize with your loved one or get them to change their mind. When a person has cognitive loss, they aren’t able to process situations like they used to. Instead, validate their feelings. Use a soft, sympathetic voice to let them know you understand their concern. Don’t try to scold them or use a loud, authoritative voice. You’ll likely make things worse.
- Give them space: Just like the rest of us, adults with Alzheimer’s might just need a little time and space to cool off. If they are in an environment where they can’t cause harm to themselves or others, the best solution might be to let them pace and shout until their anger fades.
- Soft music: It sometimes helps to change the environment a little. Music has been known to help soothe the soul, and that includes adults with Alzheimer’s disease. You might want to create a playlist of songs your loved one enjoys and use it when they are feeling angry or upset.
- Take a walk in nature: Another method to try—if you have a safe space to do so—is to invite your loved one to take a quiet walk outside with you. The fresh air and soothing sounds of nature might be just what they need to calm down.
If you are looking for more advice and information on managing the care and safety of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, our video library will be of interest. Click here to learn about topics ranging from self-esteem to caregiver health.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living