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There are times when people with dementia may become aggressive. This aggression may be physical, when they hurt someone by hitting, kicking, scratching, pinching or biting, or they break things. The other aggression is verbal, when they might swear at you, make threats, call you names or accuse you of doing things that you haven't done.

Whatever the type of aggression, it's frightening and upsetting. The first time it happens, you may not know how to cope and will feel helpless and scared that it might happen again.

Here are some insights into the causes and some useful links to info that may help:

  • People with dementia may become aggressive if they feel frightened, embarrassed or frustrated because they cannot understand others, or make themselves understood, or cannot manage to do something. Sometimes it happens suddenly when you don't expect it. This is called an ‘over-reaction’ or a ‘catastrophic reaction’, when the person shouts or screams or becomes very agitated for no good reason. People with dementia usually use this behaviour to communicate how they are feeling or to express themselves. Aggression may be one of the ways in which they are trying to communicate. In time, you will know the signs when the person is going to become aggressive and, even better, how to prevent it. Another possible cause is the illness itself affecting self-control.
  • It is important to know that the person is not being aggressive on purpose. Unlike you, people with dementia are not in control of their behaviour, thoughts or actions. Therefore, it's up to you to control your anger, responses and expectations of the person. You may be required to change your routine or the way you do things. The person is not taking his or her anger or frustration out on you personally - it would have happened to anyone who chanced to be there at the time. The person will probably forget about the incident quite quickly.

Useful Links: