During my family’s journey with Alzheimer’s/Dementia, I have made it a point to be as transparent as possible. Anger & fear play a big role in your day to day experiences. After feeling so many emotions, my goal in doing this was to help other families prepare for this daunting experience. We are never prepared, but If I can open the eyes of others, share my experiences and be supportive, as so many have been to me & my brother, then I can sleep at night knowing I have done my part.
Much of the time when a loved one begins to suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia they go through many different stages of emotions including confusion, fear and often feelings of extreme anger. They are angry that suddenly they’re being told what they can or cannot do and their freedoms are being taken away from them. Patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia often feel afraid, confused, anxious and unsure of themselves. As the caregiver we spend a great deal of time and energy trying to help the patient understand what’s happening and many have reported this as being one of the most stressful tasks we’re faced with.
One thing that is helpful is to pay attention to triggers and change the environment to reduce potential stress. It’s also extremely important to remain calm ourselves. Getting anxious or upset in response to an angry patient can increase their stress. Make your best effort to connect with your loved one on a regular basis as this releases hormones that boost the patient’s mood and can be a wonderful stress reliever for both you and the patient. Much of the time the patient has an easier time reading your attitude or body language than your words. Keep the atmosphere positive and remember to speak to your loved one in a pleasant tone and to always be respectful of them. As dementia progresses it’s also important to keep in mind that techniques we used for dealing with our loved one’s difficult behavior yesterday may not work tomorrow and that’s perfectly natural.
Tips for Dealing with Anger
· Ensure the patient gets plenty of exercise, this helps alleviate stress
· Talk about happy memories from the past
· Play relaxing music (purchase a headset to block out all noise for them to enjoy)
· Many studies have shown that pets provide positive companionship and non-verbal communication
· Communicate with the patient as much as possible
· Watch for patterns that help you predict and prevent problem behaviors
According to the Alzheimer’s Association the most important thing to remember about aggression and dementia is that the patient you’re caring for isn’t acting this way intentionally and it’s likely related to some sort of trigger. We should watch for triggers and remind ourselves that much of the time their anger is in response to feelings of fear or helplessness. It’s extremely important to ensure we never engage in an argument with the patient or try and forcefully restrain them. Always remember to listen to the patient with both your ears and heart. Remember to always be patient and speak slowly and clearly at all times. If your loved one becomes upset or agitated, try changing the subject. If it’s an important task that must be completed try returning to it later after they’ve calmed down.
Acting as caregiver to a loved one is probably one of the most difficult and stressful jobs many of us will ever face, and that’s especially the case when the patient is angry or acting out. I have to admit, there were many times my mother showed me sides that I had never seen before. We as caregivers need to remember to pay attention to our own mental well being and watch our stress levels as a stressed out caregiver will almost always have a stressed out patient. Our energy or attitude is easily picked up by our loved one, many times more-so than verbal communication. As I’ve said previously, we must always remember to maintain our sense of humor and use humor whenever possible. Finally, it’s important to remember that we cannot change the patient or force them to change their behavior but we can change the environment and our response to their anger or negative behavior. A positive attitude is the best technique for maintaining a positive environment. Remember, all those good times from the past. Go fishing, play golf, walk, surround yourself with lots of friends, host a radio show like I do regularly and “TALK ABOUT IT” Most importantly, Don’t get angry, be patient.
Don’t Forget, Alzheimer’s can surprise you!
“BE INFORMED, NOT SURPRISED”