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September 20, 2017

What is the Best Way to Handle Aggression Due to Alzheimer’s Disease?

One of the most troubling aspects of being a caregiver for an older adult with Alzheimer’s disease is the behavior changes that occur as the disease progresses. This is especially true if the senior shows signs of aggression.

Sometimes aggression occurs for no apparent reason and the person may lash out at family members or senior care providers. They may be verbally abusive, swear, or scream. At times, they may even be physically aggressive, throwing things, hitting, or pushing. Family caregivers and senior care providers who are familiar with the behavior issues associated with Alzheimer’s are better prepared to manage them.

Possible Causes of Aggression

Sometimes there is no identifiable cause of the aggressive behavior, but other times there are things that things that can trigger the behavior. Possible triggers for aggression are:

  • Physical Issues: The senior may be experiencing physical pain or they may be tired, hungry, or thirsty.
  • Medications: Medications can sometimes cause side effects that make a person uncomfortable and trigger aggression.
  • Environment: Sometimes there are environmental factors, like a room that is too loud or crowded, that cause the person to be uneasy and lash out. They may feel overstimulated or unsafe.
  • Time of Day: Many Alzheimer’s patients have difficulty in the late afternoon and evening hours.
  • Frustration: Communication can be frustrating for people with Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty making their thoughts or feelings known. Consider whether you are keeping instructions simple and statements short.

If there seems to be no trigger for aggressive behaviors, it may be a good idea to talk to their doctor. Sometimes there are medical treatments that can help ease the symptoms.

Strategies for Managing the Behavior

There are several things that family caregivers and senior care providers can do at home to deal with aggressive behaviors. Some strategies that may help are:

  • Identify triggers and think ahead about situations that might cause aggression so that you are prepared for the behavior.
  • Avoid arguing with the senior. People with Alzheimer’s don’t experience reality the same way, so arguing with them will only escalate the behavior. Instead, listen to them and ask questions about what they are feeling.
  • Reduce distractions in the senior’s environment that might cause confusion.
  • Use distraction to draw the senior’s attention to something else. Offer them a snack or engage them in an activity they enjoy.
  • Give yourself a break. If the senior is safe for a moment on their own, step away from the situation and give yourself a short time to gather your thoughts and patience.

If aggression is an issue for your older adult family member with Alzheimer’s disease, having a senior care provider can help. A senior care provider can give family caregivers a break so that they can relax and step back from the stress caused by caregiving. Taking a break can allow you to return to your caregiving duties with a fresh mind and more patience.


If you or an aging loved one are considering Senior Care Services in Chicago Heights IL, please contact the caring staff at Big Hearts Home Care today! 

Matthew Calcagno

Matthew is a graduate of Robert Morris College and is a U.S. Navy veteran.Matthew founded Big Hearts Home Care after over a decade at HP. Spending time volunteering at his grandparent’s senior center inspired him to make a bigger difference in the quality of care seniors receive.His grandfather whom turned 100 in 2015 is still a major inspiration to him in seeing that service is provided with a family focused touch.

It is his passion and commitment to providing quality service that has awarded Big Hearts Home Care as Provider of Choice and Employer of Choice in the Chicagoland area. He believes that being an independently owned and operated company allows him the flexibility to manage the business in a way that better serves the clients.


"Helping people is what I was meant to do; it inspires and motivates me," Calcagno said. "I also get to help veterans - assisting them in the VA pension process and providing care for several in the area. This is what I love to do."

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