While dementia doesn’t have a specific anger stage, many people with this condition may experience anger, frustration or agitation as symptoms. There are several factors that can cause people with dementia to feel angry, such as increased stress, confusion, loss of independence and loneliness. As a person becomes more forgetful and finds it increasingly difficult to perform daily tasks, the anger and agitation may intensify, resulting in aggressive behavior. 

These symptoms may also worsen throughout the day and become more noticeable in the late afternoon or early evening. This effect is referred to as sundown syndrome. Seniors with dementia may experience shifts in their internal biological clock, causing bodily changes that impact behavior. There are several theories for the cause of sundown syndrome, including hunger or decreased blood pressure after a meal. If an individual experiences sundown syndrome, they may need extra attention and care at the end of the day to alleviate anger or aggressive behavior. 

How to Respond to Dementia-Related Anger

If your loved one becomes angry or aggressive, it’s important to be patient and empathetic. Instead of pushing them to behave a certain way, let your loved one know you understand their feelings and are there to help. In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult not to let your own frustration or agitation show. You can de-escalate the situation by leaving the room until you both calm down or distracting your relative by playing music they like or changing the activity. Showing them photographs of loved ones or reminiscing about happy memories may also put them in a better mood. 

Confusion is a common cause of anger in individuals with dementia. Establishing a daily routine for your loved one with set times for sleeping, eating and engaging in activities or exercise may prevent confusion because they’ll know what to expect. Allowing them to make choices throughout the day and maintain some independence can also help reduce anger.

Calming Activities for Seniors With Dementia

Keeping seniors with dementia engaged in calming, stimulating activities can boost their mood and give them a sense of accomplishment. There are several recreational activities that can help individuals stay occupied, including reading, playing cards and board games, arts and crafts, gardening, puzzles, music, or visiting museums and other local attractions. These activities can easily integrate into a daily schedule and be a normal part of your loved one’s routine. Memory care facilities usually offer a full activity schedule and enrichment programs to help individuals with memory loss stay engaged.