Why Do People Become Aggressive When They Have Dementia?

Feb 27, 2024 | Caregivers

Why Do People With Dementia Get Aggressive?

It can be really upsetting to be on the receiving end of aggressive behavior from someone you care about, but it’s important to remember that it’s most likely not about you.


Dementia symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, confusion or communication limitations can lead to aggressive behavior.

And sometimes it’s something else altogether – your loved one might be sick or in pain. They may be overwhelmed by bright lights, large crowds or other overstimulating environments or confused by a change in routine.

Sometimes, a person has always been forceful or aggressive and they’re simply continuing this behavior, but that’s often not the case. So when someone you’ve known for years to be a kind and gentle person suddenly becomes mean or violent, it can be a huge emotional shock.

Two Types of Aggressive Behavior in Individuals With Dementia

Aggression is forceful behavior that is intended to dominate or harm another person. There are two types of aggressive behavior:

Verbal – such as yelling, using profanity or making threats

Physical – such as pushing or shoving, hitting, pinching, hair-pulling or biting

Handling Aggressive Behavior in Someone With Dementia

Evaluate the Situation

What could be causing the behavior? Getting to the root will help you to resolve the problem and potentially stop the aggression.

Do Not React

This can be challenging, especially when you feel angry or afraid, but it’s important to not react to the aggressive behavior. Instead, be positive and reassuring. Use a calm voice and try to see things from their perspective.

Try Redirection

Try to steer the person away from what they were focused on when they displayed aggression. This can shift them to a sense of calm or make them forget what triggered the aggression.

Take a Break

If the environment is safe for your loved one, try walking away and taking some time for yourself.

Change is Hard. It’s OK To Ask for Help

If you’re a caregiver for someone with dementia, give us a call at 512-399-5089 if you’d like to talk about the best options for your loved one’s future or schedule a visit to see our community and meet an owner.

Change is hard, but we can help you through every step of the way.