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If you are taking care of an aging parent with Alzheimer’s, dealing with outbursts of agitation and aggression, is a particular problem.

Techniques for managing Alzheimer's aggression such as re-directing the person's attention or medication can certainly help. However, the key is figuring what is causing the outburst.

Agitation and aggression are typically caused by one or more of these five factors:

Cognitive Impairment

You may overestimate what your parent is capable of accomplishing i.e. performing a task they are not able to complete. Thus, they get upset and frustrated, causing an outburst. Consequently, you must adjust expectations to their abilities. Plus, Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease. Therefore, your Parent's abilities will decline over time. So, expectations must be shifted continually.

Psychological Disorders

Approximately 40% of people with Alzheimer's develop depression. Additionally, anxiety disorders and delusions occur frequently. If you can identify and diagnose, medications can be prescribed to help.

Physical Problems

Outbursts can be associated with physical problems i.e. a headache, a rash, constipation, or fatigue. Therefore, you must be vigilant about your parent's physical well-being. Your Alzheimer's parent may be unable to communicate the behavior. Thus, they respond in the form of a tantrum.


Your parent may be reacting to an uncomfortable environment i.e. a room may be too cold, too noisy, or too crowed. Their inability to clearly communicate their discomfort turns into an outburst.


Your Alzheimer's parent will react and respond to how you approach them. Therefore, try not to rush them, or force them to do something they don't want to do. Use a gentle tone of voice, but don't be condescending. Don't rush them as they try to complete a task, even if they are moving at a frustratingly slow pace. Don't demand that they do something or bark orders at them. Ask them. Use calming gestures and gentle touch.

Getting to the root cause of outbursts will help you manage behavior more effectively and may reduce the frequency of agitation and aggression.

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