Managing Anger and Aggression in Loved Ones with Dementia

Man and womanAn essential skill for family and professional caregivers is knowing how to prevent and cope with anger and aggression in those with dementia. If you feel like you’ve reached your limit, know that there are specialists at Dakota Home Care that can help. You are not alone in what you are experiencing, and there is help.

 Not all people with dementia experience personality changes, but when someone with dementia becomes angry, they may raise their voice, yell, scream, throw things, or become combative and hit, kick or push you.

Dementia damages the brain’s ability to manage anger, which is called disinhibition. This can cause patients to lash out because they feel ignored, mistreated, or as though they are in danger. Frustration at being unable to complete simple tasks that used to be easy can be another cause.

Anger or aggression can’t always be prevented, but try these prevention tips:

  • Avoid or quickly resolve triggers like these:
    • Not being able to recognize you or another person
    • Disorientation caused by not understanding why you’re trying to help
    • Fatigue, hunger, thirst, or physical discomfort that they can’t identify or express
  • Make eye contact. Take three minutes to establish a rapport by talking before acting
  • Explain one step at a time or demonstrate what you’re going to do to help before you do it
  • Simplify decision making or don’t expect them to make most decisions for themselves.
  • Reduce stimuli and interaction that your loved one is uncomfortable with
    • Avoid loud noises and large crowds made up of people they don’t know
    • Stay as calm as you can so they won’t mirror your irritability and stress
    • Don’t touch them until they seem calm and ready for interaction
  • Stick to a schedule, slow down, and when possible, avoid a sudden change in environment
  • Treat them with respect, even when they struggle with decisions or everyday tasks.

If anger turns to aggression, ensure that both you and your loved one are safe. Medication is an option in dealing with challenging behaviors. If aggressive behavior persists, tell the doctor. A doctor can determine if medication or another therapy could help. There are also things you can try first, along with arranging for help from a professional caregiver.

If the person you are caring for lashes out verbally or physically, try some of these coping tips:

  • Give them a minute to vent their feelings and calm down; the best response can be no response
  • Use distractions such as familiar music, a favorite TV show, massage or exercise
  • Shift to a different activity, something they typically enjoy
  • Look for and address the feelings behind the words or actions
  • Offer a familiar item to hold or wrap them in a soft blanket
  • If the person is in a safe environment, take a break and walk away

The home care specialists at Dakota Home Care go to great lengths to keep older adults and their family members safe. As the top home health agency in Bismarck, Mandan and Fargo, they are experienced  and trained in dementia care.  They are always available to offer help and support to you and your senior loved one. Call us any time at (877) 691-0015 for a free in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help someone you love live a healthier, safer life at home.


Aggression & Anger | Alzheimer’s Association

Dementia & Anger: Why Outbursts Happen & How to Respond (

How to Respond to Anger and Aggression in Dementia (

Dementia and Anger: 9 Calming Strategies – DailyCaring

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