Aggression in Alzheimer’s: What to Know

February 29, 2020 | BY PHS Staff

Whether physical or verbal in nature, aggressive behaviors in Alzheimer’s patients are fairly common, even if they are disturbing to those who witness them. These attacks may come on suddenly, with no warning and no trigger. This knowledge doesn’t always make it easier for you as the loved one to stand by and see it happen — or to be the bearer of their attack. But take some comfort in knowing that the person before you is not acting this way on purpose. It can also be comforting to know senior home care in Gettysburg can help with this.


Aggression may be triggered by a variety of factors, from environmental factors to poor communication to physical discomfort, points out the Alzheimer’s Association. The underlying cause of the behavioral symptoms that come with dementia points to progressive deterioration of brain cells. However, other factors such as pain or inability to communicate can exacerbate symptoms.

  • Physical discomfort: If the senior is in pain, they may have a urinary tract or other infection — quite common in patients with Alzheimer’s. They can’t always communicate what may be bothering them because even they do not know where their pain is coming from, due in big part to their loss of cognitive function. They could also be tired, hungry or thirsty. Maybe the medication they are on is causing side effects. Bring it up to their care team so they can get tested or determine possible interactions with medications.
  • Environmental factors: If your senior loved one is being over-stimulated by loud noises or clutter around their room, this can spur aggressive acts. They could feel lost or confused because there’s too much going on around them. They may fare better during certain times of the day, which is a great time to schedule visits and appointments. Sundowning is common in elderly Alzheimer’s patients — a time in the late afternoon where they are most agitated.
  • Poor communication: Aggression can be brought on by the frustration of not being able to form the words to tell you what’s wrong. They could also be picking up on your stress and irritability. Limit your questions and make your instructions easy to understand.

The National Institute on Aging says these too can cause aggression in Alzheimer’s patients:

  • Feeling pushed to do a task by another person, such as eat, take a bath, etc.
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Loneliness
  • Soiled underwear
  • Constipation
  • Lack of sleep
  • Sudden change
  • Feeling of loss, such as the inability to drive and have freedom

This can all make you feel very helpless as the caregiver or family member. There are a few things you can do to ease the stress on your loved one, helping them calm down when they display agitation. For example, if they are pacing and drumming their fingers because they seem restless, attempt to distract them with a meaningful activity, suggests Dementia Today. Put on some soothing music, or give them a gentle massage of the shoulders.

The important thing is to remain calm, don’t become upset yourself, and do everything you can to make your loved one feel safe. In addition, it’s helpful to rely on in-home care in Gettysburg that can bring experienced memory care expertise to the table.

Contact Preferred HealthStaff

To learn more about our senior care services, particularly our Alzheimer’s and Memory Care Services, please contact us  toll-free at 866-943-9791 or in Fairfield at 717-642-8500.