Many elderly individuals suffering from dementia are prone to angry outbursts. It is common for those with dementia to have outbursts in frustration, especially as their memory continues to deteriorate. Families often see this anger as distressing, and it can be hard to handle. As time goes on, your loved one may seem like a completely different person. This article will explore these emotional outbursts, and how you and your family can better handle them.

Outbursts of Anger and Dementia

As your loved one’s dementia progresses, changes in mood and attitude can persist. Mood swings, especially in terms of anger, aggression, frustration, or sadness can become more commonplace. There are many theories as to why these occur. One of the most widely accepted explanations is that the individual is getting frustrated while trying to communicate their unmet needs or wants. They may not be able to express themselves and get angry.

Anger and “Emotional Contagions”

A fairly new explanation for these angry outbursts may come from somewhere unexpected, empathy. Humans can innately pick up on the emotions of others, and feel similar emotions. If we see someone who is sad, we may feel sadness with them. Evolutionary scientists believe that this is a part of our growth as a social species, being able to mirror other’s feelings. They refer to this picking up of other’s feelings as an “emotional contagion.” New research may suggest that those with dementia are more susceptible to emotional contagions. This means that they may mirror the emotions of those around them. If you are feeling upset around them, they may also feel upset and can act out because of it.

Helping Your Loved One

There are a variety of ways that you and your family can handle these outbursts while caring for your loved one.

Don’t Argue With Them

Fighting back or arguing against their emotional outbursts will generally make the situation more intense. It is best to try to keep a level head and speak calmly. Reassuring your loved one and listening to their concerns is a good idea. Ask questions to help them better express their feelings or needs. If all else fails, try changing the subject to a pleasurable memory from their past.

Don’t Take it Personally

Most of the time, their frustration is not going to be focused on you. They are simply lashing out. It can be hard to not blame yourself, but remember that it is just a factor of the disease. Getting angry or anxious at their outbursts may only make them feel more angry or anxious in turn. Trying to sympathize and understand them will help de-escalate the situation.

Creating a More Calming Environment

Creating a calming space can help them feel more relaxed. This can, in turn, reduce their outbursts of anger. Limit excess noise when possible. Reducing clutter can help them feel more comfortable while reducing potential tripping hazards. Consider playing calming music that they like, or reading to them. Try to maintain a routine.

Finding the Source of Their Anger

Their anger is probably coming from not being able to express their needs or desires. Finding the source of their anger can be an essential part of remedying these outbursts. They may not be able to tell you that they are hungry, in pain, or tired. They may not remember how to do something. Or they may feel overloaded in a noisy or crowded room. If you can figure out the source of their anger, you may be able to help them.

Talk to their Doctor

Their physician may be better able to find a source of frustration with a medical examination. If they are suffering from pain, loneliness, constipation, lack of sleep, or even side effects of medications, their doctor may be more equipped to find the source of their frustration, and help them solve these issues.

Additional Care in the Home

Hiring a home health aide or in-home care nurse can help your elderly loved one receive the care they need to stay happy. Full-time home health aides can provide companionship and care when you cannot be with them. Our aides are trained to help elderly individuals in their day to day lives and can provide support for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Safe Harbor Healthcare Services does not provide medical or healthcare advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for medical advice.
Safe Harbor Healthcare Services has been providing excellent home care on Staten Island since 1967. Our services help the elderly and disabled live safely and independently; while giving their families the peace of mind they need. For more information, contact Safe Harbor by clicking here, or call us at (718)-979-6900.