According to a study that was recently conducted by Alzheimer’s Disease International, one person on Earth develops a new case of dementia every three seconds.
As of 2015, there were 46.8 million people worldwide living with the disease. By the end of 2017, that number had already grown to as many as 50 million people.
By as early as 2050, that number is predicted to explode to a catastrophic 131.5 million – pointing to a problem that is only going to get worse as time goes on.
Understanding Dementia & Anger in Elderly Family Members
As a caregiver of a loved one suffering from dementia, part of your job entails helping them live as comfortably as possible.
Most times, this involves managing the new and different emotions that they’re now experiencing, which include anger as well as:
Many people with dementia don’t intentionally behave this way towards their loved ones. It’s far more complicated. Their brain is literally changing the way it functions to the point where it becomes very difficult to effectively manage on their own.
Fortunately, you can help manage dementia and anger in elderly family members, but first, you need to understand the stimuli.
Identifying the Cause of Anger in Elderly Family Members
One of the most important steps you can take involves gaining a better understanding of what might be causing these mood swings.
Perhaps, it’s a situational event.
For example, if your loved one is taking a nap and you knock on the door to announce your arrival, it could suddenly awaken and startle them. They’re already prone to bouts of confusion and irritability, so this seemingly simple act could take a bad situation and make it even worse.
There are also physical causes of anger in dementia patients. Whenever one of these situations occurs, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your loved one constipated, or do they have an impacted bowel?
- Does your loved one have something causing them pain, like a urinary tract infection or a toothache?
- Has your loved one been getting enough sleep or, conversely, have they been sleeping too much?
- Is he or she having trouble hearing?
- Has his or her vision blurred or darkened to the point where they’re having a hard time seeing?
- Are they taking a new medication?
Physical conditions like any of these can have a terrible impact on someone’s mood or behavior. It’s essential that you’re aware so that you can adequately monitor them moving forward.
Likewise, complex emotions like anger or even suspicion can be psychologically rooted, too. Depending on the situation, you may want to consider psychiatric evaluation and other non-pharmacological interventions to help get to the underlying cause.
Environmental changes could also be contributing to stress and making them more prone to outbursts.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you recently moved your loved one from their home into a place like a skilled nursing facility?
- Have you modified their home to help you provide a better level of care, but now they no longer recognize it?
- Did another family member recently pass away?
- Have you changed caregivers in the recent past?
- Has this loved one’s eating habits or some other routine changed?
Sometimes it’s fairly easy to figure out exactly what is going on at the moment. Other times it may seem impossible. However, when it comes to managing dementia and anger in elderly loved ones, it’s critical for you to understand that there is always a reason behind what you’re seeing – and that reason is never as simple as “it’s dementia.”
Tips for Easing Emotions Resulting From Dementia & Anger in Elderly Loved Ones
Here are some rules of thumb that may help you when faced with anger.
Short-Term, Immediate Strategies
When in the moment, the best thing you can do it not take it personally. Understand it’s not directed towards you. Your loved one is speaking from a place of fear and frustration and the dementia is causing this all to manifest in a particularly unpleasant way.
Do whatever you can to diffuse the situation and restore peace.
Don’t yell back during an argument or other confrontation. If you do, chances are you’ll win, but all you’ll create is a frightened silence, nothing more. You certainly won’t achieve a genuine change of inner feeling, which is your primary objective from the start.
You should also try to avoid reasoning whenever you can. If you’re dealing with a loved one who is shouting at you because they think you stole money out of their dresser, it won’t actually help to point out that they haven’t stored money in their dresser for decades.
People with dementia who are A) angry and B) suspicious are never moved by reason or logic. Sadly, the disease has likely taken that away from them.
Try to Engage Conversation
Ask questions about the situation and the events that contributed to this outburst. Above all else, listen attentively to the explanation you receive, keeping in mind whether or not it’s sensible doesn’t really matter.
Conversations give you valuable insight into what is really going on beneath the surface of these emotions.
Effectively Managing Dementia & Anger in Elderly Loved Ones
The most important thing you can do when managing dementia and anger in elderly family members is to be kind.
Comfort and compassion are by far your most valuable weapons in the fight against dementia. They’re the two assets that the disease itself will certainly never possess.
It’s also extremely important for you to take time for yourself to refresh and renew, especially after difficult encounters with a family member. North River Home Care is on hand to provide compassionate, patient, experienced dementia care, offering much-needed respite for families.