5 Strategies for Managing Combativeness in Seniors with Alzheimer’s

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During the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, your senior loved one may begin acting out and get upset or angry for no apparent reason. This anger may manifest itself as screaming, swearing, insulting you and other caregivers, throwing things, hitting, and acting aggressively. This is known as the “combative stage” of the disease. Learn how to manage this behavior with these tips.

1. Look for Triggers

Though your loved one may sometimes act aggressively for no apparent reason, there are triggers for this type of behavior you can look out for. When your loved one acts aggressively, make note of the time of day and what happened throughout the day. Many seniors may have a flare-up of aggressive behavior when they:

  • Are tired
  • Take certain medications
  • Experience pain
  • Hear loud noises
  • Are located in a cluttered environment
  • Are hungry
  • Feel confused or frustrated due to being asked questions or trying to understand difficult instructions

If there’s a pattern to your loved one’s aggression, try to avoid the triggers that may cause it. For example, if your loved one didn’t get enough rest the night before, make sure his or her room is quiet and dark, and encourage napping.

Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Huntington Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

2. Don’t Argue

It can be tempting to try to reason or argue with your loved one. However, instead of calming your loved one down, your attempts at reasoning may make him or her more aggressive. Calmly and respectfully state your opinion and allow your loved one to talk. Respond calmly and listen to his or her feelings. Leave the room for a moment if you’re tempted to argue.

3. Offer a Familiar Item

Many seniors with Alzheimer’s disease become attached to certain items. A therapeutic doll, stuffed animal, photo album, or lap quilt can be very comforting. If your loved one is behaving aggressively, gently offer the familiar item to him or her. Holding the item may calm him or her down. If you believe your loved one may throw the item, make sure it won’t harm anyone if he or she does throw it.

The cognitive challenges that accompany Alzheimer’s often leave aging adults unable to manage everyday tasks, which puts their safety and health at risk. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of homecare families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

4. Calm the Environment

Assess the situation and determine if the environment caused your loved one’s aggression. If it did, immediately calm the environment. Turn off the television and other electronic devices, dim the lights slightly and play soft, familiar music he or she enjoys. When your loved one has calmed down a little, offer a gentle, reassuring touch, and speak softly.

5. Switch Caregivers

If your loved one continues to have outbursts, the reality may be that both of you need a break. Consider asking another family member or close friend to help. If this isn’t a possibility, a professional caregiver can provide respite care. Switching caregivers can help your loved one feel calmer and give you a break.

Symptoms such as agitation, confusion, anger, and frustration are common in elderly people with Alzheimer’s. The days, weeks, and months following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be challenging for both seniors and their families. However, these challenges can be made less stressful with the help of caregivers trained in professional Alzheimer’s care. Huntington Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one enjoy the golden years while simultaneously managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. If you need reliable Alzheimer’s home care for your loved one, Home Care Assistance is just a phone call away. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (304) 521-2909.


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