How can I deal with my mother's aggressive behavior?

7 answers | Last updated: Nov 18, 2016
Carolaniles asked...

I moved to Florida from New York to help my eighty-eight year old mother since she can no longer live alone and she lives in a very isolated area. The last time I saw her was seven years ago when she was at my home in New York and now she does not seem to know who I am most of the time. I previously spoke to her every day on the phone and up until about three months before I got here in August, she just seemed to be a little forgetful. Even though her doctor felt that she had Alzheimer's, I didn't think it could be so until she started asking me questions like, "Where do you live?" She also stopped calling me and sending cards and notes. Now that I am here, I can see the symptoms very clearly. She constantly moves and hides items, and loses things. The most distressful symptom is aggressive behavior toward me. She constantly berates, ridicules, mocks, and physically abuses me. She says that I am not her daughter and that if she finds out that I am she will kill me. She also insists that I have stolen all of her money and that I am here to get everything that I can get. I am her closest living relative, and she is mine. This is a very distressing and dangerous situation, and I have been advised to put her into a facility. I personalize the whole situation even though I know that she is not acting as my mother would act if she were her old self. Is this a common occurrence for Alzheimer's patients to not recognize someone close?


Expert Answers

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

Yes, it's common for a person with memory loss not to recognize a family member. Your mother is now living in the past when you were a young child; she doesn't remember you as an adult. Please seek help immediately. You must not allow your mother to abuse you in any way. Call her physician to report what's happening as medication may help get her through this difficult time. You also need to visit Dementia Units at longterm care facilities so that if she needs to be admitted to one, you are prepared. It's difficult to make this type of decision during a crisis.


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

My father has acted aggressively towards my mother at times. She refuses to admit he has Alzheimer so she gets upset with him. They seem to push each other's buttons. I have tried to convince her to go along with some of the things he does but it is useless. Her health has also deteriorated because of her nerves being shot. My sister and I have resorted to separating them and she will take my father and I will take my mother; that way, they both are more calm.


Lcochrane answered...

What a difficult situation. My mother (83) has had Alzheimer's for about 6 years, but fortunately she is not that aggressive. When she does get aggressive, I react with calmness (when I can!) and I redirect her to an activity that I know she enjoys or I give her a soothing cup of tea. Soft, quieting music sometimes helps as well, at least for my mom who always loved music. And if all else fails, we give her 1/2 a Xanax, with her doctor's approval, of course. I have also read recently that chocolate can help, as strange as that sounds. We were told to keep her away from coffee and chocolate, but it does seem to calm her and is better for her than Xanax.
She keeps changing so we try to change our methods as she changes. It is not easy.


Jscoggins answered...

My mom is 85 & has Alzheimer's. I have caregivers that come to her home & help. She has gotten aggressive & has what we call "outbursts" that sometimes include hitting. I want her to be able to stay in her home as long as possible but feel that if it becomes miserable for her caregivers, they will eventually quit. She would then have to move to a facility with a group setting & would probably be medicated. I asked her doctor for help with her agitation & we have tried several different medications. Things have improved, for now, but the disease is progressing. We will probably have to make more adjustments. As far as medicines not being good for her, she's 85. I just want her safe & happy.


Christina d answered...

oh, yes! this is very common! This happened with my mother who had dementia! She was very aggressive and beligerant towards me, accusing me all the time of stealing from her, calling the police to report me (they knew she had dementia!), threatening to kill me, etc. This went on for over 3 years until she got weaker and weaker, fell, couldn't get up and had to go to the ER, where I could finally get some help for her and for me. She went into a nursing home, where they fully understood her problem. they did have to medicate her to control her as she was very aggressive and beligerant there as well. She went home to be with the Lord a month ago.

It was her disease that made her act this way, it was not her, something that was hard to accept esp. when she was so against me.

Hang in there, it is truly just the disease!!!


Lorees answered...

I've recently been dealing with my 90yo mothers aggressive, sometimes violent behavior. I've used every suggestion I could find, which only worked when she was calm. Ultimately, medication made the most difference by decreasing the frequency and severity of the episodes. The first med made it worse, but now she's on a low dose of timed released Depakote which has made a difference. The doctor also prescribed some low dose anti-psychotic meds to use in a crisis. The social worker I spoke with a while ago stressed keeping safe and calling 911 if I needed to. The Alz Hotline has also been a good resource. I pray every night that God will give me the patience to get through this. I am single, work full time from home and she lives with me. It's a tough road! almost forgot, I keep a log in the iPad app "My Medical" of her behavior and what was happening prior to the outburst. It helped me identify that going to church or certain restaurants (both of which she still enjoys) always preceded an episode - the overstimulation and change in daily routine.


Gaylelynne answered...

My mom is almost 80 and has been declining rapidly. We just moved her into a fantastic Assisted Living situation and the caregivers are all really great with her and her moods. She is not physically abusive but can be very emotionally abusive. She also get very teary and feels abandoned when we say goodbye. I will agree with LoreeS that overstimulation is a huge contributor to these mood swings. I have suggested to the caregivers that she rest (nap) for about an hour after the noon meal. That seems to help her get through the evening doldrums.