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.


Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio