Is Anger a Sign of Dementia?

Caring for someone with dementia can be a challenging experience for everyone concerned. When a loved one begins to show signs of diminishing cognitive functions, family members may not understand the behaviors that accompany a diagnosis of dementia.Image of senior woman yelling at a senior man

Dementia can’t be defined by one sign or symptom. The person with dementia may have trouble remembering, reasoning, and thinking. He or she may become more emotional than usual or display signs of depression or anger.

Dementia progresses in stages. You can review the common stages of dementia here.

It is important to recognize the signs of dementia anger and to understand why anger may occur.

Let’s take a look at some common dementia anger issues and why dementia causes anger and aggressive behavior in many people who are experiencing cognitive decline.

Unprovoked Mood Swings and Aggression

Moods are unpredictable when dealing with dementia. A person can be anxious and crying one moment and fly into an angry rage the next.

We know there are certain triggers that may cause these troubling angry episodes.

  • The person may feel threatened. He knows his mind is playing tricks on him, but he doesn’t understand why, or how to cope with the changes, so he lashes out in anger. Dementia and anger at loved ones can be the most difficult challenges family members face when dealing with dementia.
  • He may feel misunderstood. People with dementia often have difficulty communicating with others. They forget words and lose the ability to focus on the conversation. These symptoms can be frustrating and subsequently lead to an outburst of anger.
  • He may be embarrassed. When a person with dementia has an incontinent accident or requires help with bathing or dressing it can be humiliating and humbling. The person may realize that he should be able to handle his own personal care and hygiene, but his mind just won’t cooperate. This often leads to anger and aggression toward caregivers.

Dementia anger toward caregivers can make it very hard for families who are coping with their own emotions. It’s a good idea for caregivers to have a plan to handle dementia and anger management before an outburst takes place.

Here are some tips to help manage anger when a loved one with dementia is out of control.

  • Keep calm. It is very important for you to maintain control of your own emotions. Do not argue with your loved one or lose control of your temper.
  • Use a gentle, reassuring voice. If your loved one is yelling or losing control, don’t try to talk over him or raise your voice to make a point. A calm and controlled approach is much better and will encourage your loved one to settle down, rather than become more combative.
  • Try to shift the focus of the anger. Put on some music, suggest a walk or another activity they might enjoy, reassure the person that they are safe.
  • Rule out pain or discomfort as a trigger for the anger. Ask questions. Does your loved one have a headache? Pain from another source? Has he been to the bathroom lately? Maybe he has a wet or soiled brief.
  • Take a break. If you feel you’re losing control, walk away for a moment. Breathe deeply and regain your composure before trying to deal with an angry individual.

Dementia and anger at loved ones can be a challenge and a heartbreak for both the person with dementia and their family.

Knowledge about the disease and empathy for the person who is trying to cope with the symptoms and hardships caused by the devastation of dementia can go a long way toward a successful and loving relationship with your loved one.

Don’t hesitate to educate yourself about dementia and anger issues. You may benefit from the help and encouragement of a support group or a home health agency.