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How to Deal With a Dementia Patient Who Is Aggressive

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
7 minute readLast updated February 23, 2024

Witnessing dementia aggression or dealing with early signs of Alzheimer’s (like anger) in your senior loved one can be among the most challenging aspects of caregiving. These sudden changes in behavior can be distressing or confusing for everyone involved. However, there are several strategies you can use to manage aggressive behavior in your loved one with dementia to ensure they enjoy a better quality of life. The methods outlined below can provide you with the tools necessary to handle these challenging situations more effectively.

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1. Check the environment for triggers

In some cases, unseen physical discomfort can be a trigger for dementia violence or anger. For others, it could be more obvious factors in their immediate surroundings, like too much stimulus from noise or the number of people in a room. If you can find anything in the environment that may be causing a loved one to feel agitated, remove the trigger to see if that helps. If you can’t change the circumstances, move your loved one to a calmer area.

2. Communicate clearly

When you speak with your loved one, be sure to communicate calmly and clearly. Direct and simple language helps your loved one better understand what you’re saying and avoids potential confusion that may result in anger. Be sure to break down tasks into simple steps, and don’t expect too much or overwhelm your loved ones with complex requests.

3. Create a routine

Following a schedule can remove some of the uncertainty in your loved one’s life. Establish a consistent time of day for having meals, scheduling doctor’s visits, taking medication, etc. This can help keep both dementia and aggression symptoms manageable, as each day is already preplanned and requires no additional thought trying to figure out what to do.[01]

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

4. Give your loved one their space

This is important for both you and your loved one with dementia, as it may be necessary for your own safety. Giving your loved one their space if they begin to show signs of aggression or frustration can help prevent fits of rage or violence. Taking a minute to regroup and return to the situation also gives you space to decompress your nerves before addressing the issue again.

5. Make sure physical needs are taken care of

Sometimes, what seems to be the issue is really a symptom of another underlying problem. If your loved one is experiencing physical discomfort but isn’t able to express it (or is too embarrassed to), their agitation could turn into aggression. Many illnesses (such as a urinary tract infection) can also lead to an increase in confusion, aggression, and agitation in dementia patients. If you notice that the usual strategies for calming your loved one are not working, make an appointment to see their medical professional to rule out a physical reason or illness that may be causing the aggressive behaviors.

6. Try redirection

If you can get your loved one to focus on something other than what’s upsetting them, you may be able to redirect them from the negative emotions or delusions they were feeling. This can be as simple as putting on a favorite TV show, asking them for help with another project, or offering to go for a walk. Even if you just go out in the backyard, a change of scenery can make a world of difference.

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7. Practice understanding

Think about the specific emotion underlying your parent’s aggression. No matter how far from reality their perception is, begin with what they perceive the situation to be. Many seniors become aggressive because they are frustrated with their own memory loss. To minimize their potential for outbursts, first minimize their confusion.
Take time to ask them about what they’re feeling and listen to what they’re saying. This simple act can help you figure out what they need to hear to feel better about the situation.

Final thoughts: Handling dementia aggression effectively

As a caregiver, understanding what happens to aggressive dementia patients can be crucial. Often, this behavior is a sign of the deep frustration, confusion, or discomfort they’re experiencing while trying to cope with the changes in their brain. Using the strategies outlined above can help you better interact with your loved one and ensure they continue receiving the support and care they need.
If these challenges are becoming overwhelming, consider seeking guidance. A Senior Care Advisor can provide support and help you find memory care or other care options for your loved one. Remember, taking this step is not just about finding help for your loved one — it’s also about ensuring your own well-being as a caregiver.


  1. National Institute on Aging. (2023, October 4). Tips for Living Alone With Early-Stage Dementia.

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OurParents Staff

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