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Palo Alto Dementia Care - Handling Verbal & Physical Abuse

by Amy, December 04, 2015

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If your aging loved one suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's, you may have witnessed situations in which he or she becomes verbally or physically aggressive. What triggers these outbursts, and what can you do? Studies have shown that in those with moderate to severe dementia, about one-third have behaved aggressively. By knowing what causes this and how to react, it will help you better cope with future episodes and even reduce the number of aggressive incidents. Our Palo Alto dementia care professionals have provided information below to help you cope.

Triggers that may result in aggression. Most of the issues that result in aggressive behavior are categorized as biological, social, and psychological. For instance, some of the psychological triggers may include paranoia, anxiety, or difficulty processing information. Social triggers may include feelings of mistrust, being in an unfamiliar crowd, or in a confusing setting. Some biological triggers of aggression may include delusions or hallucinations, problems with vision or hearing, or even medications or physical discomfort (being cold, thirsty, hungry, etc.) By understanding what the triggers are, it makes it easier for you to take control of the situation before it escalates into something more serious.

What action should you take when someone with dementia has a verbal or physical outburst? Here are a few tips:

First, take a deep breath and try not to take the outburst personally. Even if you have to remove yourself from the area your loved one is in, do your best to stay calm.

When talking, use a voice that is reassuring and calm. If you feel anxiety, anger, or even fear, don't show it as this could result in escalating the senior's agitation or aggression.

Look the senior in the eye when you talk to him or her.

Truly listen to what your aging loved one is saying, even if it doesn't seem to make sense. This will let him/her know you are acknowledging his/her feelings, and demonstrate that you are trying to help - it can also help you as a caregiver to understand what may be the trigger.

Give the senior space when needed, and try to distract his/her attention from the problem when you can't resolve the issue. Often, changing the subject to something pleasant will calm an agitated senior down.

How to reduce the frequency of aggressive behavior

There are many things you can do to help an aging senior with dementia that may reduce the number of aggressive episodes or outbursts. These include:

Therapy. Music, pet, doll, and art therapy are all effective for calming those with dementia and even increasing positive behavior. Music and art can both be very calming and relaxing; art helps those with mental issues express their feelings and emotions. Pets are great companions who provide love and help reduce agitated behavior. When someone with dementia cares for a doll like it was his/her own child, it can be extremely effective for increasing positive behavior while reducing negative behavior.

Exercise. Something as simple as a daily walk can substantially impact a dementia patient's emotional state. Staying physically active helps fight boredom, relieves stress, and promotes good health.

Staying busy and interacting with others. Staying occupied is important, and it can be something as simple as straightening up a living room or watering houseplants. It's also important that those with dementia have plenty of one-on-one with family members or even hired in-home caregivers, as this combats loneliness and helps seniors feel more needed and connected.

At Care Indeed, we know that dealing with a loved one who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's can be very distressing. When you need a break or someone to fill in while you take care of yourself (which is extremely important), call our Palo Alto dementia caregivers. You can trust our staff for compassionate, tender, and loving care.