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Dealing With Aggression In Dementia Patients

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Community, Dementia

Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. In our previous article on dementia, it is estimated that by 2030, there will be 80,000 people living with dementia. A decline in cognitive function, memory loss, and changes in behaviour characterise it. One of the most challenging behaviours associated with dementia is aggression. Aggression in dementia patients can be physical, verbal, or even sexual, and it can be distressing for both the patient and their caregivers. This article will discuss how to manage aggression in dementia patients effectively.

Understanding Aggression in Dementia Patients

Aggression in dementia patients is a behaviour observed worldwide, yet it could impact one’s emotional health. It is essential to understand the underlying causes to manage and prevent it effectively. Some of the common causes of aggression in dementia patients include physical discomfort, fear, frustration, and confusion. Dementia patients can exhibit different types of aggression. Physical aggression includes hitting, kicking, and pushing, while verbal aggression includes shouting, cursing, and name-calling. Sexual aggression, although less common, can also occur in dementia patients. Understanding the type of aggression the patient displays can help find the appropriate management strategies.

Strategies for Managing Aggression

Prevention is key when it comes to managing aggression in dementia patients. By identifying triggers, caregivers can anticipate and prevent aggressive behaviour. Triggers can be anything from loud noises to changes in routine. Creating a calm and familiar environment can also help reduce the likelihood of aggression. Establishing a routine can provide a sense of structure and predictability for the patient, reducing their anxiety and frustration. When patients display signs of aggression, it is important to remain calm and not react angrily or aggressively. Using verbal and non-verbal communication can help de-escalate the situation. Speak calmly and reassuringly, using straightforward language. Non-verbal communication, such as maintaining eye contact and gentle touch, can also help calm the patient. Distracting the patient with a favourite activity or music can reduce aggression.

In some cases, medications may be necessary to manage aggression in dementia patients. Antipsychotics and antidepressants can help reduce aggressive behaviour, but they should only be used as a last resort and under the supervision of a healthcare professional. These medications can have side effects, and their use should be carefully monitored.

Coping with Aggression

Caring for a dementia patient who displays aggressive behaviour can be physically and emotionally draining for caregivers. It is crucial to prioritise self-care to prevent burnout. Taking breaks, getting enough rest, and seeking support from family and friends can help caregivers cope with the challenges of managing aggression. It is also essential to seek support from healthcare professionals, such as therapists or support groups, who can provide guidance and advice on managing aggression in dementia patients. 

Aggression in dementia patients can be challenging to manage, but with the right strategies, it can be effectively controlled. By understanding the causes and types of aggression, caregivers can prevent and de-escalate aggressive behaviour. It is also essential for caregivers to prioritise self-care and seek support when needed. With patience, understanding, and proper management techniques, caregivers can provide the best care for their loved ones with dementia.

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About Growing Needs

Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.

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