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Is aggression a sign of Alzheimer's?

Status: Open    Mar 05, 2015 - 07:35 PM


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APFM Staff Answers

Apr 09, 2015 - 08:10 AM

It can be a sign and it can manifest as verbal and/or physical. This behavior can occur suddenly, with no apparent reason, or result from a frustrating situation. While aggression can be hard to cope with, understanding that the person with Alzheimer's is not acting this way on purpose can sometimes help.

There are triggers that might bring on aggression such as: physical discomfort, environmental factors and poor communication.

Physical discomfort

· Is the person able to let you know that he or she is experiencing physical pain? It is not uncommon for persons with Alzheimer's to have urinary tract or other infections. Due to their loss of cognitive function, persons with Alzheimer's are unable to articulate or identify the cause of discomfort and, therefore, may express it through aggression.

· Is the person tired because of inadequate rest or sleep?

· Are medications causing side effects? Side effects are especially likely to occur when individuals are taking multiple medications for several health conditions.

Environmental factors

· Is the person overstimulated by loud noises, an overactive environment or physical clutter?

· Does the person feel lost?

· Most people function better during a certain time of day; typically mornings are best. Consider the time of day when making appointments or scheduling activities.

Poor communication

· Are your instructions simple and easy to understand?

· Are you asking too many questions or making too many statements at once?

· Is the person picking up on your own stress or irritability?


· Try to identify the immediate cause.
Think about what happened right before the reaction that may have triggered the behavior.

· Rule out pain as a source of stress.
Pain can cause a person with dementia to act aggressively.

· Focus on feelings, not the facts.
Rather than focusing on specific details, consider the person's emotions.

· Don't get upset.
Be positive and reassuring. Speak slowly in a soft tone.

· Limit distractions.
Examine the person's surroundings, and adapt them to avoid similar situations.

· Try a relaxing activity.
Use music, massage or exercise to help soothe the person.

· Shift the focus to another activity.
The immediate situation may have unintentionally caused the aggressive response. Try something different.

Avoid using restraint or force.
Unless the situation is serious, avoid physically restraining the person. He or she may become more frustrated and cause personal harm.


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