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Carlton Senior Living | December 17, 2015 | By Jonita Dixon

Common Causes of Dementia Outbursts

happy-seniors-smilingAggression in seniors living with dementia is something that we see regularly, and it is not always easy to find the trigger. If you have someone with the moderate to severe stages of dementia, they may not be able to communicate or even recognize their needs to their caregivers. They may simply not be aware of what behavior is considered socially acceptable. There are three different trigger categories.

Biological Triggers

  • Medication – It could be that the person is becoming aggressive because of a side effect to a medication that they are taking.
  • Physical discomfort – Aggression may be because someone is feeling hot, cold, thirsty, or hungry.
  • Hallucinations or delusions – Sometimes seniors become aggressive because they feel scared or are confused.
  • Difficulty hearing or seeing – These may make the senior feel misunderstood or frustrated.
  • Pain or illness – The person who is acting aggressively might be feel unwell or in pain.

It is possible to rule out some biological triggers when talking to the person’s physician about the aggressive behavior. Perhaps new medication can help, or perhaps existing medication needs to be changed or adjusted.

Social Triggers

  • Feelings of loneliness, mistrust, anxiety, and paranoia.
  • Boredom can also be a large trigger.
  • Large, unfamiliar crowds, this might be very intimidating.
  • Someone or something that causes fear
  • People who remind the senior of someone from their past.
  • Confusing or unfamiliar settings, no one likes to be uncomfortable with where they are.

There are different social triggers that might cause fear, upset, or confuse the senior who in turn acts aggressively. Even though you cannot reduce or control all of these scenarios, understanding the trigger can help offer more knowledge and provide you with some better understanding. It could help you diffuse or avoid the situation as best you can.

Psychological Triggers

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of touch with reality
  • Difficulty processing information
  • Memory loss

These problems may stem from dementia that leads to difficulty communicating, misperceptions, or misunderstandings. The frustration and aggressive outbursts could be because of these psychological symptoms. It might not be possible to reduce or avoid these triggers altogether, but understanding what is happening puts you in a better position to understand what may lead to an aggressive outburst.