How to Safely Handle Aggressive Alzheimer’s Patients

February 10, 2012

Dementia Monitoring In her younger days, Gladys was a loving mother to her three children, an adoring wife to her husband, and a model neighbor. However, as she entered her mid-sixties, her family and friends began to notice a change. It wasn’t just that she was more forgetful; she seemed constantly agitated, and sometimes even mean.

Five years after her doctors diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s, Gladys was a different person. She had occasional moments of lucidity, during which she once again became her kind self, but all too often she was a stranger to her family. She lashed out at them, accusing her daughter of stealing money and her son of trying to poison her. She even physically attacked her seventy-two year-old husband, with whom she’d always had such a wonderful marriage.

*Don’t forget that Alzheimer’s disease steals the identities of its victims. As the disease progresses, a loved one slips away, becoming a person you don’t know any longer. It is as devastating to the family as it is to the one being taken away by Alzheimer’s. 

Like many Alzheimer’s patients, Gladys experienced radical personality changes as her disease progressed. As many as 5 -10% of victims of Alzheimer’s become violent, even if they were previously peaceful individuals. Caregivers often bear the brunt of this violence, and elderly spouses can even be in danger. If someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and is exhibiting signs of violence, how can you safely handle the situation?

Tips For Dealing With Aggressive Alzheimer’s Patients:

Don’t insist.

If the patient refuses to perform mundane tasks such as dressing, bathing, or brushing teeth, it may be wise to back down. While proper hygiene is important, it’s not necessarily worth upsetting the patient to the point that he or she becomes violent.

Ask forgiveness – even if you’re right.

Remember that the person you’re arguing with isn’t following accepted rules of logic, even if he or she was highly logical before the onset of Alzheimer’s. You’re not going to win an argument by using reasoning, but you can calm your loved one by apologizing,  and thus avert a possibly dangerous situation.

Redirect the conversation.

If your family member exhibits signs of violent behavior, remain calm, and see if you can change the topic of conversation. Direct your loved one’s attention to something he or she enjoys, such as a lovely garden or a delicious meal.

Remember the cause of the outburst.

The person lashing out at you is not the same person you knew and loved twenty, ten, or even five years ago. Your family member sees the world through a distorted lens,and he or she now lives in a confusing world in which just keeping up with daily events can be exhausting. Fatigue only makes the situation worse, and just as a small child becomes cranky when deprived of a nap, an Alzheimer’s patient is more likely to lash out when tired. Many patients are more prone to outbursts toward the end of the day.

Phone 911. 

When Alzheimer’s patients become so agitated that they may injure either their caregivers or themselves, it’s time to get help. Don’t just assume that they’ll rationally back down.

Chris Lerch, Owner Home Instead Senior Care HoustonWe hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior that could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Houston, please call us at 832 379-4700 or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff supervising more than 100 quality-trained home care personnel covering the Houston, Texas area.

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Chris M. Lerch, Owner

We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior that could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Houston, please call us at 832 379-4700 or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff supervising more than 100 quality-trained home care personnel covering the Houston, Texas area.

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