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“People with dementia are more apt to hit, kick or bite” in response to feeling helpless or afraid.Ann Napoletan, who writes for, is all too familiar with this situation.

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“In my mom’s case, she didn’t like to be fussed over.

If she was upset, oftentimes trying to talk to her and calm her down only served to agitate her more.

Likewise, touching her—even to try and hold her hand or gently rub her arm or leg—might result in her taking a swing.

The best course of action in that case was to walk away and let her have the space she needed.” DON’T: “The worst thing you can do is engage in an argument or force the issue that’s creating the aggression,” Napoletan says. ” Explanation: Wanting to go home is one of the most common reactions for an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient living in a memory care facility.

“The better solution is to say as little as possible about the fact that they have all of their belongings packed and instead try to redirect them—find another activity, go for a walk, get a snack, etc.,” says Napoletan.

“If they ask specific questions such as ‘When are we leaving?’ you might respond with, ‘We can’t leave until later because…’ the traffic is terrible / the forecast is calling for bad weather / it’s too late to leave tonight.” “You have to figure out what’s going to make the person feel the safest,” says Mariotto, even if that ends up being “a therapeutic lie.” DON’T: Lengthy explanations or reasons are not the way to go.“You can’t reason with someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia,” says Ann. “A lot of times we’re triggering the response that we’re getting because of the questions we’re asking.” This was another familiar situation for Ann and her mother. We went through a particularly long spell where every time I came to see my mom, she would have everything packed up ready to go—EVERYTHING!Although it can be hard to understand why people with dementia act the way they do, the explanation is attributable to their disease and the changes it causes in the brain. Aggression is usually triggered by something—often physical discomfort, environmental factors such as being in an unfamiliar situation, or even poor communication.Familiarize yourself with some of the common situations that arise when someone has dementia, so that if your loved one says something shocking, you’ll know how to respond calmly and effectively: Examples: Statements such as “I don’t want to take a shower! “A lot of times aggression is coming from pure fear,” says Tresa Mariotto, Family Ambassador at Silverado Senior Living in Bellingham, WA.It was when she asked me to help with her taxes that I noticed the checking account was a mess.” DO: First you’ll want to assess the extent of the problem.