Wednesday Workshop – How to Respond to Aggression in Alzheimer’s
Hello and welcome to Wednesday Workshop. When we think of our loved ones, we don’t usually think of them as violent or angry. Our memories of them tend to be of happy times spend together. So, when our loved one reaches the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease you may be surprised by their change in behavior. People living in this stage of the disease, while not very common, may become more aggressive.
Here are some tips to help you respond to your loved ones aggression.
The first thing you’ll want to do when you notice that your loved ones agitation is increasing is to de-escalate the situation. Speak to the person calmly and with a soothing tone to try to pin point what the issue is. Most of the time a situation escalates when we (the caregiver) try to get our loved one to do something that they just don’t want to participate in. It may be that they don’t want to take a shower (and we’ve all been there). The best thing to do in this situation is to not argue with the person. If your loved one says no than you need to respect their wishes. Try again later when their mood has improved.
Another trick you can try when you see that your loved one is getting aggressive is to apologize, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Arguing will only make the situation worse. Take the blame for whatever it is that is upsetting your loved one. This might help the person calm down and realize that your there to help. Also, acknowledging their feelings may ease their aggression because it gives them a sense of well-being.
If all else fails, you could always change the mood by switching to a new topic. We call this technique “redirection”. Redirection techniques divert the individuals’ attention away from the stressful event to something that is more pleasant. So, for example you could offer your loved one their favorite snack when you notice they are becoming aggressive. Obviously, techniques and their usefulness depend on what is sensible in the situation. You’ll need to be creative and experiment to see what works and what doesn’t with your loved one.
Remember, although it’s not extremely common, aggression can work its way into being part of the Alzheimer’s disease process. In and around the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, people become very sensitive to noise and are easily fatigued. Over-stimulation and little rest throughout the day may make your loved one agitated, irritable and even confused late in the day. This is what is known as sundowning or sundown syndrome. Talk to your loved ones doctor to find out if there are any medications that can help with your loved ones behaviors.
If the aggression in your loved one turns into violence, than you need to get help immediately. Call 911 if you feel threatened. Trying to physically restrain your loved one may only escalate the situation and cause injuries so avoid that. To talk about your feelings as a caregiver to a loved one, reach out to our 24-Hour Caregiver Helpline at (855) 476-7600. Thanks for watching today’s Wednesday Workshop and we’ll see you again next week!