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Why Alzheimer’s Patients Become Agitated

At Senior Oasis we know that anyone caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s knows that angry, aggressive outbursts are one of this disease’s greatest challenges. Often, caregivers think in terms of managing these episodes once they occur. How can I redirect their attention elsewhere? Is there medication mom or dad can take? These solutions can be helpful, but it is even more effective to find the cause of the outburst, in order to prevent such incidents before they even occur. There are five common reasons why someone with Alzheimer’s disease may become upset. The problem could be one specific thing, or a combination of factors.

Their Surroundings

  • Is there something about the environment that is making your loved one uncomfortable?
  • Are they too hot?
  • Is there some noise that is bothering them?
  • Are there too many people around?

All of the above might cause a tremendous frustration. Being unable to control what is happening or even to communicate what is bothering them, might cause anger or an aggressive outburst.

Physical difficulties

Your loved one’s agitation may be caused by some sort of a physical impairment. Check to see what might be wrong. Is there some kind of irritation or pain that is bothering them? Are they having digestive problems or are they tired? This kind of problems may cause your loved one to lash out with a tantrum.

Psychological Issues

It is common for Alzheimer’s patients to develop mental health problems such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • delusions

If you suspect this might be the case with your loved one, take them to the doctor. Medication can make an enormous difference in these situations.

Interpersonal Problems

Alzheimer’s patients are very sensitive to the tone you set, and thus are likely to react strongly to feeling rushed, forced, or otherwise rudely treated. Be gentle and calming in your approach and try not to talk down to them. Be alert for your own frustration and do your best to keep it in check. Ask them to do things rather than issue commands.

Disappointed Expectations

Because you know what your loved one used to be capable of, it is easy for you to ask them to take on a task that might be too difficult for them. When they realize that they are not able to carry out the assignment that you gave them, they are likely to have an outburst. Be careful and keep in mind what they are capable of, and remember that rather than learning and growing, as we normally expect from people, they are in decline. What was possible a few months ago may no longer be. If you are finding that your loved one is frequently aggressive or agitated, consider these root causes when trying to address the problem. If you can prevent such incidents from happening in the first place, you will both be better off.


Because at Senior Oasis we want to help, we have created a list with several steps that you should take to win this terrible fight:

  1. Prepare for the road ahead

The more you learn about your loved one’s disease and how it will progress over the years, the better you will be able to prepare for future challenges, reduce your frustration, and foster reasonable expectations. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, for example, you can support your loved one’s independence and self-care, but their cognitive and physical regression means they will ultimately require 24-hour care.

Though it may be hard to contemplate such a difficult outlook, the sooner you put plans in place, the more your loved one can be involved in the decision-making process. Paying for long-term care can be a major source of stress, so it is important to research all your options as early as possible. Consult with the patient’s medical team and other family members to make legal and financial arrangements and determine the long-term care options that are best suited to you and your loved one.

  1. Develop a personal support plan

If you are not getting the physical and emotional support you need, you won’t be able to provide the best level of care, and you face becoming overwhelmed. Senior Oasis is here to help 24/7.

  • Ask for help
  • Learn or update caregiving skills
  • Join a support group
  • Make use of existing resources
  • Plan for your own care
  • Practice a relaxation technique
  1. Cope with changing in communication

  • Avoid becoming frustrated
  • Keep communication short, simple, and clear
  • Tell them who you are if they appear to have any doubt
  • Call them by name
  • Speak slowly
  • Use distraction
  • Use techniques to maintain attention
  1. Deal with problem behaviors

One of the major challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia is coping with the troubling behavior and personality changes that often occur. These behaviors include aggressiveness, wandering, hallucinations, and eating or sleeping difficulties that can be distressing to witness and make your role as caregiver even more difficult.

Often, these behavioral issues are triggered or exacerbated by your loved one’s their inability to deal with stress, their frustrated attempts to communicate, or their environment.  By making some simple changes, you can help ease your loved one’s stress and improve their well-being, along with your own caregiving experience.

  1. Make time for reflections to help with acceptance

The burden of caregiving can put you at increased risk for significant health problems and many dementia caregivers experience depression, high levels of stress. And nearly all Alzheimer’s or dementia caregivers at some time experience sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and exhaustion. Seeking help and support along the way is not a luxury; it is a necessity. You can contact Senior Oasis via e-mail info@seniorcare.com or calling at (949)306 8258.




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