Handling Outbursts When Providing Dementia Care

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How to Handle Dementia Outbursts

Some seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s, especially those in the later stages, demonstrate challenging behaviors like outbursts. When this happens, it’s important for family members and caregivers to remember it isn’t the senior speaking. It’s the voice of dementia. With the deterioration of cognitive function, a senior with dementia or Alzheimer’s has difficulty recognizing his or her needs, understanding how to meet them, and communicating.

Outbursts may also be triggered by pain, physical discomfort, medication side effects, hallucinations, and boredom. Sometimes, aggressive behavior is prompted by feeling rushed, afraid, or confused. Understanding the cause of an outburst is the first step towards resolving it. Here, In-home care, San Antonio offers advice for how to handle the storms that arise.

Aggressive speech or actions

Reflect back to what happened just prior to the blow-up. Was something said that triggered the upset? Did the environment suddenly change, becoming too hot or cold? If you can determine the cause, the answer may naturally follow. If you can’t, try these suggestions:

  • Get your loved one’s attention. Address him or her by name. It also helps to eliminate distractions caused by a radio, TV, or other loud sounds.
  • Position yourself at an even level, and maintain eye contact.
  • Ask your loved one if he or she is in pain or discomfort. If so, try to resolve the source.
  • Although it’s challenging, try to speak in a calm and reassuring manner. Use a non-threatening facial expression and body language. Smile if you can.
  • If the behavior isn’t harmful, try accommodating it. If your loved one insists on hoarding things in her pockets, just let it go until day’s end. At that time, you can discreetly empty his or her booty.
  • Try shifting to another activity, one that will reduce anxiety. If your loved one finds touch soothing, stroke his or her arm. Put on favorite music they enjoy. Fragrance the room with a calming scent, such as jasmine or lavender.

Confusion regarding person, time, or place

Your loved one may not recognize other people, may be mistaken about the time, date, or year, and may not understand where they are. Sometimes, seniors with memory impairment also experience confusion related to the purpose of an object, such as a fork. Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers can try to re-orient an elderly loved one by doing the following:

  • Introduce yourself or other people who aren’t recognized.
  • Gently remind them of the time and day. Show them a clock or calendar.
  • Tell them where they are.
  • Try to rule out sensory deficits as the cause of confusion. Make sure your elderly loved one is wearing their hearing aid or eyeglasses.
  • For confusion as to use of an item, you can demonstrate or explain the purpose.
  • Endeavor to maintain a regular routine. Knowing what to expect can help prevent confusion.


Disorientation and memory loss can spark suspicion. There may be an accusation of theft or intent to harm.

  • Try to not take it personally. Remind yourself that it’s the disease talking.
  • Avoid engaging in arguing or proving innocence. Let delusions and misstatements go by unchallenged.
  • Use validation by saying, “I understand you’re upset.” If an object is misplaced, “I’ll help you find what’s missing.” If your senior feels offended, “I love you very much.”
  • If items are routinely lost, keep a supply of back-ups.

If you provide in-home care for an aging parent or loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s and could use help managing his or her complex care needs, reach out to San Antonio Home Care Assistance. We’re the leading provider of Alzheimer’s care San Antonio families trust, offering highly trained and experienced caregivers, 24/7 availability, and a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. To learn more about the wide range of services we provide, call (210) 495-6300 and request a complimentary in-home consultation.



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