How to Handle Aggression in Patients Diagnosed with Dementia

woman on wheelchair

Dementia is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions, affecting everyday activities. Although it does not turn into hostile behavior, it may turn patients aggressive, lashing out verbally, or trying to hit people around them.

Aggression can happen anytime, usually with no apparent reason. Since its triggers are unexpected, it may be difficult for the patient and their aid to cope with. However, it is important to understand which causes it and how to handle it in case it comes.

1. Identify the Cause

Aggression can be caused by various reasons. Factors such as negative emotions, fear, anger, pain, and frustration may create aggression. However, keep in mind that returning the energy does not prevent escalation. It helps to ask the patient in a calm manner and assure them that it’s fine if they will be honest about their thoughts. Try to determine which among the common factors triggered them and work your way up from there.

2. Alleviate Physical Needs

Patients with dementia are seldom vocal about what they feel. Most of the time, they won’t tell you their specific needs and simply act out on them to get what they want. After identifying the cause, try to alleviate their physical needs. Patients can get tired, hungry, or thirsty without you knowing. It helps to tick off possible causes of aggression by ruling out what they need. Simple issues, such as constipation or soiled underwear or diapers can make them display aggressive behavior.

3. Simplify Their Environment

People struggling with dementia react to an overactive environment—loud noises and physical clutter easily trigger behavioral problems or changes. Therefore, keeping them out of crowded areas or places with unfamiliar people may be the best way to calm them down if you’re in public. Meanwhile, it’s best to clean up in their room at home to avoid making them aggressive or over-stimulated by what they see. If signs of aggression are shown, try to identify the look, smell, or sound that triggers the behavior. It will be useful in the future in case of another attack.

4. Better Communication

Communication is important in dealing with people suffering from dementia. As they are in a different state of mind, not understanding instructions can trigger aggressive behavior. Asking too many questions or making too many statements may also be confusing to them, also leading to aggression. Therefore, establishing clear communication with the patient is a great way to avoid lash outs and maintain a positive relationship.

5. Avoid Extreme Emotions

People with dementia can react with aggression once they feel overwhelmed, fearful, uncomfortable, or confused. It’s best for them to feel casual and comfortable with their surroundings and the people they’re with. Although emotions are unavoidable, it’s important to be by their side as soon as they experience feeling something to help explain it to them. Assuring them that everything is alright is a great way to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed.


Since dementia affects a person’s memory, attention, communication, reasoning, judgment, and problem-solving, it’s best to make the patient follow a specific routine every day. It also helps to reduce noise, clutter, and the number of people in a room with them. Limit their consumption of caffeine, sugar, and junk food. In case an attack happens, stay composed and remember to be calmer than they do.

Gateway Home Health & Hospice aims to be a premier provider of post-acute care by perfecting our ways to care for people. By committing ourselves to serve in our community of Denver and Phoenix, we hope to become the best home health care and hospice in the area. Visit our website to learn more about how we can help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *