Irritability and Dementia

3 Keys to Understanding Irritability and Demanding Behavior in Someone With Dementia

Sometimes people with mild to moderate dementia seem to become more controlling and demanding, no matter how kind, gentle, or subtle your offers of help. These three insights can make irritability slightly easier to cope with:

Irritability insight: It's a sign of hanging on

When your loved one gets more controlling and more irritable, you're probably seeing the effects of his or her hard work to hold it together. Coping with evolving symptoms takes energy. Clinging tightly to what has worked before is a way of trying to hang on, even if it winds up making the person more frustrated (and hard to get along with).

Irritability insight: It isn't personal

Although the primary caregiver is often the target of these emotional oubursts, they aren't really directed at you. They're in response to the limitations of the disease. Take solace in what you know you're doing right and try not to let a stream of criticisms and anger get under your skin.

Irritability insight: This, too, shall pass

As symptoms progress, dementia sufferers will gradually lose awareness of their condition. This, paradoxically, usually makes them seem more relaxed.


over 1 year ago, said...

It's hard to deal with mom when she gets so angry. Knowing this is not personal is a big help. Thanks!


over 1 year ago, said...

In our case it seems our Uncle is getting more set in deciding that "he doesn't want it" with a meal, SAYS/I'm old enough to decide what I want...if I don't want it I should be able to have dessert if that's what I want. Try explaining to no avail that just desserts isn't protein or keeping muscle. ..don't care HE SAYS! This is my house I should have what I want...getting harder for us to cope with behavior even though we try to be patient.


almost 3 years ago, said...

So that's nice. In other words just suffer thru it? No help or hope for the caregiver? Just deal with it?


about 3 years ago, said...

Thanks for the article. It is helpful to be reminded not to take these times personally. I realize she is just trying to hang on, and most of the time, at least during the day she is great. She still, even, has her sense of humor. But, as evening comes her mood changes. She gets irritable and sometimes, just nasty. Those are the worst times, but, I'll keep trying to be quiet and not say anything. I think she is afraid of night time as she asks how long the dark will be there. I have little lights all over the house. Once in bed, which takes hours, she sleeps until about 2:00 and then, believe it or not, she manages to turn her TV on and stays up. By the time I'm up, 5:30, she's already dressed, bed made and she's hungry and the whole thing starts over. people suffering with dementia have odd behaviors, that's for sure, but, we love them. Keep the tips coming. Thanks.


over 3 years ago, said...

This is a wonderful article, just the way it is. Dr. Ethelle Lord Pioneer in Alzheimer's Coaching


over 3 years ago, said...

My husband treats me terrible and it really hurts me, I just want to cry, he's so controlling and puts me down. I understand I shouldn't take it personally but how can I not, I need more advise than that to deal with it.


over 4 years ago, said...

Yes and totally makes sense I wish my whole family could understand the process of this disease and how to handle mom. Thanks for the helpful info


over 4 years ago, said...

This article came just in time. My husband insists on changing his cardiologist because she does not do ECG, Echocardiogram, BP check etc. every time he sees her, so she is no good. This time he had an immediate appt. after a fall on his head, as suggested by the hospital. And of course, the hospital was no good, either. They did not do all the things he wanted to have done, which had nothing to do with the fall, so he checked himself out earlier, after having made a great fuss about no attention. But your explanation makes a great deal of sense. I shall try to remember this next time he gets himself all worked up about nothing.


over 4 years ago, said...

Oh my gosh same thing happens here with the phone so I got a cell phone but now it's the computer and the 19 inch tv I have in my room And there is nothing I can do about those two because I am not giving either of this up.


over 4 years ago, said...

This article helps more than anyone knows. Thank you for having this site as I use it often I do get justification from knowing it isn't me that she's mad at Thank you thank you


over 4 years ago, said...

I, too, try to take my loved one to day care. He went one day and told me never to take him there again., The next week I took him again, he went in and the workers said he really enjoyed himself, as always.. Twice again he said "never again". But, I'm just going to keep taking him because the last time he got out of the car willingly. So there is hope. I just don't like him watching TV all day. Another thing, at night , he turns on all the lights in the house, doesn't sleep and gets extremely agitated with me...very close to wanting to hit me. After numerous nights that that happened, I decided to leave the house, go to a motel, and come back the next a.m. He was fine then. The doctor gave him stronger meds, so far so good.


over 4 years ago, said...

My mom is now going through all this and I'm the target. Its nice to be reminded that its not personal even though my feelings of sadness and anger toward her are.


over 4 years ago, said...

Im thankful for any help I can get to help me understand what my mother is going thru.


almost 5 years ago, said...

you know it isn't personal but it good to be reminded because it feels very personal when they are upset and directing it toward you. It makes stop and look at how they must be feeling.


almost 5 years ago, said...

As I am trying to identify with my husband's moods and your advise helps me to pinpoint where he might be in his state of dementia. Although, my husband did not turn onto me he does not want to help himself or me. That is, he does not want to go to day care. I wanted him to benefit from physical therapy and speech therapy in one of the day-care... he went ones but could not make him go again. Even our family physician and neurologist tried to talk with him, both were ineffective to convince him otherwise. .


almost 5 years ago, said...

Hello mom mom, Thank you very much for your comment. I'm sorry to hear about your situation. If you'd like, you can post your question in our Ask & Answer section, here: ( http://www.caring.com/ask ). I hope that helps. Take care -- Emily | Community Manager


almost 5 years ago, said...

my son is 58 yrs old, he is on the Exelon patch. has had dementia for over a year is there a special doctor he can see? He has no health ins. he is on SSD I feel that he should have some kind of test. All he does is sit around & does not talk much at all & is always tired. I am a 79 yr old retired widow woman. I need help. PLEASE


about 5 years ago, said...

It helps me to know that I am not alone in this daily challenge. It is dificult to handle it, but a tremendous relief to accept that uncomfortable expressions of anger are not directed to me, personally, but are a channel to release my husband's frustration. It is a true paradox!! Because his recent memory is quite limited, he forgets his outbursts of anger very quickly. I need to learn from him to forget them at the same speed. Just let go, and let God!!


about 5 years ago, said...

Hello Open Mind, Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, Alzheimer's can only be diagnosed by a professional. To learn more about diagnosing Alzheimer's, visit this article: ( http://www.caring.com/articles/alzheimers-diagnosis ). In addition, Alzheimer's is a disease while dementia is a set of symptoms. Dementia can be caused by a number of different diseases. I hope that helps. Take care -- Emily | Community Manager