Coping with Dementia-Related Senior Aggression: Tips for Families


Dementia is a difficult disease because it eats away not just the cognitive abilities but the memories and personality of the person who has it. Seniors who are known within their family and friends as gentle and kind may suddenly become hateful. It’s not their fault, and it’s not something that they or anyone can control.

Dementia-related senior aggression can be difficult for families to cope with. The elderly person may become agitated, verbally abusive, or even violent. It can cause a lot of stress and fear for family members, who may feel like they can’t even go to the grocery store without their loved one becoming upset and aggressive.

There are a few things that families can do to help them deal with this difficult situation:

Understand what is causing the behavior

Dementia can cause changes in a person’s mood and behavior, so it’s important to try to understand what might be causing the aggression.

  • Is it a certain time of day?
  • Was the senior was having a bad day in general?
  • What could have been going on in their daily life before this behavior occurred?

It’s important to keep track of when and where these incidents occur, because it will help the caregiver to either avoid these triggers, or to take actions before they become too much of a problem.

For example, if your loved one has dementia and is upset about waiting for their morning coffee try making them an extra pot in the afternoon.

To figure out what triggers your loved one’s dementia-related senior aggression, start keeping a journal or log that includes descriptions of the situation and the person’s behavior. This will help you to keep track of potential triggers and can also be helpful for doctors once they begin treatment.

Seek help from a doctor or therapist

If the aggression is proving to be too much for you to handle on your own, it’s important to seek help from a professional. A doctor can help you create a plan to handle the behavior, either by prescribing medication or recommending therapy.

If your loved one is in need of constant supervision due to their dementia-related senior aggression, it might be time for you to find a medical home health care provider who can offer support to the family and give their elderly loved one the help they need. These trained professionals are better equipped to deescalate agitation among seniors who are suffering from dementia. They can also guide the family continue to have a positive relationship with the patient despite their illness.

Create a safe environment for your loved one

mom and daughter

It’s important to remember that aggression in seniors with dementia is not something they can control. Your family member might lash out when they’re agitated, due to the way their disease manifests itself in their brain.

Look around their home and determine things that may harm them such as cords around the house that could get wrapped around their neck or furniture that they might fall backwards into. Keep dangerous objects safely out of reach.

For those with dementia-related senior aggression who are still able to walk and move around unassisted, it might be a good idea to put locks on their bedroom door, so they can’t get out when they wake up in the middle of the night and aren’t sure where they are.

A caregiver can also reduce dementia-related senior aggression by making a space that’s comfortable for their loved one to be in. Keep it clean, well-decorated, and try to maintain a sense of normalcy.

If your loved one becomes aggressive, put your safety first. Leave the room and make sure everyone else stays safe as well. If someone gets hurt, call 911 immediately.

Encourage activities that reduce agitation

In order to help seniors with dementia reduce feelings of anxiety or agitation, encourage activities that they enjoy. These could include painting or coloring, listening to music, going for a walk in the park, or reading a book.

Try to keep a senior with dementia as active as possible. Physical activity has been shown to help reduce agitation, and it can also stimulate their mind and lift their spirits.

Be creative when brainstorming ways that you can keep your loved one occupied throughout the day, because sometimes it’s better not to force them into an activity that they may not enjoy. Prioritize their happiness and comfort, but stay open to trying new things as well.

When a senior with dementia becomes aggressive, it can be difficult for the caregiver to cope. With these tips and strategies, you should be able to deal with this difficult situation as best as possible.

Share this on
Scroll to Top