Combative behavior is typical in older adults with Alzheimer’s, especially those in the later stages of the disease. Family caregivers must remember that the effects of the condition are causing their loved ones to lash out and focus their attention on finding ways to manage the aggression. Continue reading to learn how to handle physical and verbal outbursts in an elderly loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Instead of dwelling on the problem that caused the combative behavior, look for ways to distract your parent. For instance, if your loved one is eating dinner and begins to throw food or starts yelling at you, turn on music as a distraction. You could also suggest playing a game. The objective is to redirect your loved one’s focus to something new and positive. Once your loved one focuses on the new activity, he or she may forget what led to the aggressive actions.
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Your loved one’s memories and cognitive abilities will decrease as Alzheimer’s progresses, making it difficult to complete many tasks and activities correctly. However, when he or she gets things wrong and becomes upset, don’t focus on the errors. Trying to point out mistakes could make the aggressive behavior worse. Avoid correcting your loved one and concentrate on his or her feelings instead of what he or she did wrong.
Some Alzheimer’s medications cause side effects like delirium or increased confusion and agitation that lead to aggressive behavior. Monitor your loved one’s actions after he or she takes the drugs. If the medication is causing the combative behavior, let his or her doctor know immediately. The primary care physician could prescribe different medications to treat Alzheimer’s.
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If your parent has a combative episode, calm the situation by touching his or her hand or giving him or her a hug or pat on the back. The positive and nurturing approach could provide your loved one with peace of mind and help him or her relax. Don’t startle your loved one. Let him or her know what you’re about to do. He or she may then focus on those actions instead of the issue that led to the aggressive behavior. If your loved one doesn’t like to be touched, you can still offer reassurance by using encouraging words. Tell your loved one that everything will be okay and that you’re there to help.
Sometimes there’s no way to stop a verbal outburst, so you should go to another room and give your loved one a chance to calm down. Walking away could prevent the situation from turning physical. Leaving the room also stops you from saying or doing things you’ll regret. Once your loved one is more relaxed, you could return to the room to start a new conversation or suggest a fun activity.
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