Many of the illnesses that afflict our elderly cause some pretty terrible side effects. One that is common, especially with sufferers of dementia, is uncharacteristically aggressive behavior towards family and friends. This can happen in a number of ways, from lashing out in nursing home attacks, to biting and being verbally aggressive at random moments. Due to the lack of education on what to do, it can be one of the leading reasons to move a loved one into a home, where they are better equipped to handle them.
These random aggressions could be linked to the personality and behaviors the person exhibited before they started suffering from dementia. However, it is common to see people who have never been aggressive before, develop uncharacteristic behavior with the onset of dementia. Some other common and strange side effects can include an increase in sexual behavior and random urges to walk, with no destination in mind.
Remember, that before you react to any aggressive behavior, you need to take a step back. Try giving the person a little bit of time. Leave the room if it is safe to do so. There is a lot of value in cooling down. Try and stay calm if you can, getting angry back will only escalate the situation. That being said, your safety comes first. If you feel threatened, walk away and try and get help.
Do not shout or engage with physical contact, this could be a trigger for the person to turn aggressive towards you. Instead, reassure the person. Make sure that you acknowledge how they are feeling about the situation. If they are angry because they have been forced to stay in bed for the day, sympathize with them, stay with them and try and ease their agitation.
A really important thing is to know not to take whatever your loved one says in anger. They are expressing their stress or pain and don’t know how to do so. This can lead to things being said that aren’t meant and actions that were not intentional.
Try and project a calm and warm aura. Keep your body language open. Keep your arms and legs uncrossed and smile. Another good tip, especially for those who are not quite sound of mind, is to mirror. If their hands are on their knees, do the same, if they are a little slouched, slouch with them. Doing this subconsciously shows them that you are on their side.
When the behavior is passed, it is likely that your loved one is going to feel embarrassed about the way they acted. It is important at this point to be extremely forgiving. Do tell them that it was out of order, but also tell them that you understand.
Above all, remember that this behavior is coming from some kind of stress, agitation, unease or pain. The number one rule is to never take it personally, keep a calm attitude, and keep yourself safe.
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