When most people find out that their loved one has dementia, the two most commonly asked questions are: How long until their memory is completely gone, and how long does the aggressive state of dementia last?

However, it’s important to understand that dementia is a neurodegenerative condition that does more than cause memory loss. Additionally, aggression only occurs in about half of the individuals experiencing it, as it’s considered a “behavioral challenge” brought on by the progression of the disease. 

If you are in need of some answers as to the progression of the condition or finding the proper memory care facilities, read more.

In this article, we’ll talk about what aggression in dementia is, as well as the signs and how to help your loved one manage it. 

Aggression and Dementia: The Facts

resident experiences aggressive stage of dementia

Put simply; aggression is not a stage of dementia but one of the many dementia symptoms. Dementia itself is an umbrella term used to describe a substantial cognitive decline in individuals leading to:

  • Memory loss
  • Language loss
  • Deteriorating problem-solving skills
  • A loss of the ability to perform basic personal activities, such as getting dressed
  • A loss of other thinking abilities that interfere with daily life — which is considered a very severe cognitive decline

Since there are different types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and even frontotemporal dementia, the symptoms will vary. However, aggression is often (but not always) a symptom of each type. Despite being known to occur in the later stages of dementia, aggression doesn’t necessarily follow a predictable pattern or timeline.

Which Stages of Dementia Does Aggression Present Itself?

Dementia is associated with three primary stages: Early stage, middle-stage, and late-stage dementia. It’s often broken further down into seven stages with more detail, such as:

  • Normal cognitive behavior and functioning
  • Forgetfulness, such as the inability to recall loved one’s names
  • Mild decline, which can cause a loss of direction while driving or walking somewhere
  • Moderate decline, which can interfere with everyday tasks such as cooking
  • Moderately severe decline, which can cause a person with dementia to forget important dates and events
  • Severe cognitive decline, in which the individual requires assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing and grooming
  • Very severe decline, which impairs the ability to walk or eat without help

Aggression can occur at any time as the disease progresses. It’s best to think of dementia and aggression as having a cause-and-effect type of relationship. As the stages of dementia progress and cause a more severe decline in cognitive function and abilities, your loved one may become frustrated or agitated and lash out.

The triggers for aggression in a person with dementia usually include:

  • Feeling unheard or misunderstood
  • Feeling threatened or frightened
  • Feeling confused and lost
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling embarrassed for not being able to do things independently

These triggers are often provoked by the loss of a train of thought, mixing up memories, a change in environment, and even delusions or hallucinations. The aggression can range from yelling and shouting to becoming physically combative, depending on what the individual is feeling. It can also lead to self-injury.

It should also be noted that there’s no “standard” for how long a bout of aggression can last. It all depends on the individual’s circumstance and what stage the disease has progressed to. It also depends on how the aggression is managed.

How to Manage Aggression in Dementia

nurse and family has discussion about aggressive dimentia

Dementia is an unpredictable condition, which means aggression can occur at any time and for any reason at different stages. When it comes to managing the symptoms of aggression in a loved one, it all starts with understanding what could trigger them and taking preventative measures to keep them calm — as well as knowing what to do at the moment they become aggressive.

Things that help with aggression management in individuals with dementia include:

  • Speak calmly and listen to their concerns to make them feel heard and understood
  • Allow them to maintain as much control over their lives as possible
  • Help them keep a healthy routine that involves bathing, eating, etc at the same time every day
  • Make sure they’re getting consistent exercise throughout the week
  • Keep well-loved items and photos around the house to help them feel secure
  • Make sure they’re engaging in relaxing activities such as reading, crafts, listening to music, and so on
  • Reduce as much noise and clutter as possible, which includes the number of people in the room at one time
  • If they start to become triggered, try to distract them with a favorite snack or object
  • Limit the amount of caffeine and sugar they have daily — but don’t take it away completely (they should be allowed to enjoy themselves!)

When to Seek Help For Your Loved One

Aggressive behavior in individuals with dementia is a form of communication. It’s an indication that something is wrong and that your loved one needs additional treatment and support to live a better quality of life. Eventually, as the condition progresses, it’ll take an experienced care team to support your loved one efficiently.

When it comes to memory care, Sunflower Communities can give your loved one with dementia the care and support they need to manage their condition and live happily among friends. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our assisted living communities and services.