Managing aggressive behaviour in people with dementia

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Last week we blogged about how you can immediately deal with a person with dementia being aggressive, but if it is or has become a regular occurrence it’s important to understand how to manage it and hopefully reduce it too.

Identifying the problem is one of the first steps to managing aggressive behaviour in a person with dementia. Could their behaviour be a reaction to other people or their surroundings? Are they in pain?

Talk to them and try to work out what is causing the problem. You should also look at the situation the aggressive behaviour is happening in. Do they always act this way in the same place or in the company of the same people? If so, it’s important to identify and perhaps stop them going to this place and limit visits from or to certain people.

It might be helpful to make a diary of when aggression occurs. Document the time of day, surroundings, people, places and even things like the weather and noises in area. You might start to notice certain things triggering aggressive behaviour, helping you to identify what the problem might be and to avoid it in future.

As well as surroundings and other people, aggression can also be caused by the person being unwell or in pain, over tired and under/over stimulated and even anxious and frustrated. These are tricky emotions to recognise, but over time as you both get to know each other better you’ll be able to notice these easier.

A trip to the doctor might be an idea if there is a physical problem that might be causing a person to behave aggressively. You should also look at signs of discomfort such as being restless, a high temperature, hunched or drawn in body language or a change in appetite.

Communication is key – talk to the person with dementia and see if you can figure out what is wrong. It could be that you go through a tick list with them to find the problem and once identified you can work on managing and reducing it.

Music can also help reduce aggression. If you notice the behaviour occurring at a certain time of day or before/after you do a certain activity, pop on the person’s favourite music to help keep them calm and relaxed.

Music therapy groups are also a great way to get a person with dementia interacting and socialising with other people while enjoying music/singing or playing instruments. We all need to talk to and interact with other people so ensure they have this as part of their routine, whether it’s at activity groups or having a friend/family member or neighbour pop in for a chat and a cuppa.

Being artistic, doing exercise and having enough stimulation in their day to day lives can help reduce aggression.

It might be a case of trial and error when it comes to identifying what is causing aggressive behaviour in a person with dementia, but once you know, you can work hard on managing it and reducing it and making them feel much happier in their day-to-day life.

If you are still struggling to care for a loved-one with dementia that is being aggressive, you may need some extra support and we can provide carers to do this, just get in touch with us to discuss.