About Alzheimer's

Anger and Frustration

Living With Alzheimer's >> What They're Feeling | 04.24.15

Anger and Frustration: when emotions run high

The changes brought on by Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia can be extremely frustrating for the individual experiencing these issues. The gradual loss of control, as well as physical challenges, combine to create strong emotional reactions that sometimes erupt as fits of anger. For a caregiver, this can be both disturbing and frightening. Sometimes, by observing the conditions that lead to these emotional outbursts, you can help avoid the triggers that might cause them in the future.

Why is this happening?

Some potential causes of anger and frustration may be found in these situations:

Physical surroundings

Certain places or conditions may trigger frustration, such as an overly loud environment or a messy or cluttered living space. As a general rule, any extreme sensory conditions in a physical environment should be avoided.

Caregiver attitudes

Some caregivers may over- or under-react to the person’s condition, causing frustration and detrimental effects on the person’s self-esteem. This can happen when the caregiver has poor communication skills, places unrealistic expectations on a person’s abilities, or lets their own feelings of self-pity and gloom distract them from the needs of the person with the illness.

Internal environment

A person with dementia is locked in a body that is losing the ability to communicate in familiar ways. This inability to express how they feel about their hunger, pain or other discomforts can cause frustration and ill temper.

How should you respond?

As a caregiver, anything you can do to control the trigger environments listed above may help avoid instances of anger and frustration. A daily routine can be an effective way to make things predictable and potentially calmer. Strive to create good communication skills that include both verbal and non-verbal approaches to avoid misunderstandings.

Should you be faced with instances of anger and frustration, always react calmly. Quiet the room environment and speak in simple, direct sentences. Make sure only one person intervenes; more people reacting could make the person feel threatened and increase their agitation.

If the person persists, you might try to distract them by changing the subject. If things become too heated, don’t be afraid to walk away for a few minutes and let the situation calm down. If you feel yourself becoming angry, remove yourself from the environment; the person may sense your emotions and respond in kind.

Sometimes a person simply wants to know that those around them understand what they are feeling. For this reason, try to be as empathetic as possible when faced with frustration from a person with dementia.

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