This is a fairly common question we hear… “Is anger is a sign of dementia?” Below we answer this question and take a look at anger and aggressive behavior.
Is Anger a Sign Of Dementia?
The short answer here is yes. Those with dementia can show more anger and aggression. This is a symptom that can get worse as the dementia progresses.
That said, it is not as widespread as many believe. And this anger and aggression tends to come in short term outbursts. Rarely does it become a permanent state of anger.
Anger can be caused by many things, however. So just because a person seems angrier than normal, it does not mean it’s a symptom of dementia. Dementia cannot be defined by only one symptom.
A person with dementia may have trouble remembering, reasoning, and thinking. This can lead to confusion and cause them to become emotionally sensitive. And this can lead to increased anger and/or signs of aggression.
Let’s take a look at some common triggers that can cause anger in those with dementia.
Potential Anger Triggers
If the person is in an environment or situation that they do not want to be in, don’t like and/or aren’t comfortable with, this can trigger anger. And the longer they stay in there, the more likely they will turn aggressive.
Lack of Recognition
In later stages of dementia, a person may not even recognize friends and family members. This can lead to them feeling scared and threatened by those around them. Some may become so scared they lash out in anger at the “strangers” in their home.
When the patient experiences physical pain and is not immediately treated, or treated well, s/he may get upset and irritated.
Some with dementia may be affected by hallucinations. This, and other things that can distort their reality (ie. paranoia, delusions), can be a trigger for anger and aggression. This can cause them to become scared and confused which can trigger anger.
The patient is aware that their mind is playing tricks with them. Yet, s/he does not understand why or how to cope with the changes. For those reasons, the patient may lash out in anger.
People diagnosed with dementia often have difficulties communicating with others. During conversations, they may lose focus, which can cause them to forget the words they say. And when others don’t understand them, the person may become angry.
When the diagnosed person experiences an accident or requires something they may find humiliating or humbling, the patient can get angry and become aggressive towards caregivers.
The reason for this is that the person diagnosed may think they should handle their care and hygiene. However, their mind and body do not cooperate. This feeling of shame and embarrassment of no longer being able to take care of themselves can lead to feelings of anger.
Tips For Handling Anger in a Person With Dementia
Anger and aggression caused by dementia can be challenging for families who are coping with these emotions. Ideally you want to plan how to handle your loved one’s dementia and anger to prevent them from flaring up.
If you care for a person with dementia, here are some tips to help you plan to control your loved one’s anger.
Always Remain Calm
It is imperative that you, the caregiver, try to remain calm at all times and control your emotions. Easier said than done, we know. However, arguing with your loved one or losing control of your temper will only do more harm than good.
Use a Reassuring Voice
If the patient is yelling, losing control, or about to lose control, do not yell back at them. Avoid raising your voice to make a point. Instead, talk to him/her in a much gentler and reassuring voice. This can help the patient calm down.
Have One Person With Them At a Time
Being approached, or surrounded, by too many people can trigger fear, anger and aggression. Limiting their interactions to just one person at a time can help alleviate this.
When the patient is angry or feels like they are about to get angry, think of something that may shift their attention. Try putting some soothing music on or suggest an activity that they enjoy or calms the patient.
Determine the cause of anger
When the patient is angry, try to understand why they are angry. The patient may be hungry, in pain, or tired.
Take a Break and Give Them Some Space
When you feel like you are about to get angry and lose control, walk away for a moment (assuming your loved one is safe).
Take a deep breath and regain your composure before trying to deal with him/her. When the patient is angry or about to get angry, back away for some time until you know they have calmed down.
Anger and Dementia
We hope that answers the question “Is anger a sign of dementia?” for you. And also provides some additional helpful info.
Having a loved one diagnosed with dementia is difficult and can be heartbreaking. But whatever the situation may be, always remain calm and understand when dealing with your loved one diagnosed with dementia.
Always remember that they are not getting meaner because they want to, but because they are sick. It’s not anyone’s fault.
And lastly, remember there are resources available to help you. From healthcare workers to The Alzheimer’s Association to friends and family, you don’t have to go through this alone.
More on the Signs of Dementia
This article is part of a series we’ve written about the signs of dementia.
The first article in the series is the “Early Signs of Dementia Checklist“.