Elder's hand holding doctor's hand

Aggression and Aging: When Your Elderly Loved One Becomes Hostile

It’s a tough job to take care of someone with Alzheimer’s. Not only because of the physical exhaustion, but more so on the burden on emotional health. You see your loved one slowly drifting away from the right frame of mind. You become unknown to them. You feel helpless, as they themselves are helpless. But perhaps the worst of all is being on the receiving end of verbal abuse, the emotional outbursts. Because in these moments, it becomes more difficult to care for them, to love them.

When you find yourself frustrated in these situations, as much as it’s hard to think objectively, try to. Know the root of the problem, so you can better help your loved one. Here are some of the possible reasons your elderly relative is acting up:


Your relative may be in pain. They’re probably feeling unwell. Since they’re unable to communicate, they lash out instead. It’s also possible that your loved one is having trouble using their senses. They may not be able to hear or see clearly, so they’re confused and disoriented. In other instances, someone with dementia may burst into a temper tantrum when there’s a need that’s not met. They may be hungry or thirsty. They could be feeling cold or hot. They’re uncomfortable, and as a result, they become aggressive. In these instances, you just have to be sensitive as to what’s causing their discomfort. Of course, it’s also necessary to consult their doctor. They should be able to prescribe medications to deal with the pain and the vision or hearing challenges. In a nursing home, Ogden therapists also adjust dosages of some drugs or recommend alternatives, as medicines sometimes can be triggers.


In other instances, it’s not necessarily physical challenges causing the emotional outbursts. Sometimes, it’s due to people who remind them of the past. They might call out to their mom or dad when they see their doctor. They would even ask their physician to go home with them. They’d be upset when they don’t get what they want. Usually, your loved one feels this way because they’re looking for a sense of security (that a parent, for instance, can provide). Rather than correcting them, validate their feelings. Reassure them that they’re safe. There are also times when someone with dementia will burst into anger out of boredom. They become jittery. They wander. Eventually, they become aggressive. For this reason, doctors highly recommend activities planned out for the day. If your loved one can still exercise, let them do some walking around your neighborhood. In nursing homes, they have different fitness classes. The social aspect of the sessions helps in curbing aggression.


taking care of the elder

When elderly people find trouble processing information, tantrums can also erupt. This happens, for example, when you talk about a lot of things in one breath. Remember your relative suffers from cognitive impairment. It will be a lot to take in when you say too many things, so speak slowly. Talk about one subject matter at a time. Don’t overwhelm them with difficult words and too much information. It’s also possible that your loved one is experiencing paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. They’re seeing flashing lights or strange people in the middle of the night. They’re scared, at the core, and so inevitably, they would be hostile.

It’s hard not to be hurt by what your loved one says or does when they burst into these wild, emotional episodes, but don’t take it personally. It’s the disease doing that to them. Take a break from caregiving every once in a while. Or consider putting your loved one in assisted living facilities. The bottom line is, take better care of yourself so you can take better care of them.

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