Changes in mood
On hearing angry shouting coming from the kitchen, I got up and went into the kitchen to find out what all the commotion was about – just in time to see my granddaughter slam the door behind her, whilst shouting, “I’m sick of it. I’m going home”. My husband shouted something at me that I did not quite catch and charged off into the living room with an angry look on his face. I saw a carton on the sideboard, with the top half ripped off and milk all over the floor. I cleaned up the mess and went back to the living room, where I was met with a lovely smile from my husband.
Sometimes, the person with dementia might become angry, perhaps slamming things around and shouting. This can be very upsetting. You might feel hurt and sad at what seems to be a change in the person’s character. In addition to this, angry outbursts can cause upset in the household. If you have young children, they may even feel responsible for it. Furthermore, angry outbursts may seem exaggerated and misdirected - an over-reaction to some rather minor incident (see chapter on over-reactions). For the person with dementia, the anger may be the only way they have of expressing something. Alternatively, they may be angry at having had to ask you to do something that they could have previously managed to do alone. However, even if the cause of the anger is unknown, it is possible to take steps to reduce the frequency of angry outbursts.
How to prevent anger
Try to consider what triggered off an angry response so you can try to avoid it in the future
It is sometimes possible to work out what might have caused the anger by thinking about what happened before the incident. For example, if the reaction seems to be caused by the person not being able to manage to do something, you could try to adapt the task, provide assistance or avoid putting them in the same situation again.
Try not to intervene unnecessarily or exaggerate the importance of things
The person with dementia might do something which seems a little strange or not do something properly. You might be inclined to try to stop them or take over and do whatever it is correctly. However, this is probably unnecessary and might merely result in the person with dementia becoming angry.
Try not to sound patronising or bossy
Without realising it, you might occasionally sound patronising or bossy. The person with dementia might misinterpret helpful instructions or prompts as demands or attempts to treat them like a child. What you say might not sound wrong to anyone else, but they might be more sensitive about their own problems and being dependent on others. If this seems to be a problem, try phrasing what you say differently. For example, instead of saying, “Now put your coat on”, you could say, “Here’s your coat. Let me help you put it on”
How to cope with anger
You will probably find it difficult to remain calm and not take the anger personally. Some people find that counting to 10 before responding helps. However, it is important to remember that the angry outburst is most probably a consequence of the disease. In fact, it is fairly common for people with dementia to become friendly and affectionate a few minutes after an angry outburst. This could be the result of a brusque change of mood (see chapter on brusque changes of mood) or because they have forgotten the incident. So, if you can distract the person with dementia, they may forget about having felt angry.
Last Updated: Thursday 06 August 2009