Remedying Aggressive Behavior in Elderly Dementia Patients

Those suffering from dementia are generally members of the elderly population, and as life expectancy continues to increase, the need to address dementia and its complications also increases. Dementia is comprised of a variety of symptoms, some of which include memory loss, impaired judgment, and difficulties with language and motor function. However, other issues also plague dementia patients and their families. For example, those suffering from dementia have been found to exhibit aggressive behavior, such as biting, hitting, or shoving when angry, scared, or confused.

A recent New York Times article explored the aggressive behaviors associated with dementia, stating that physically aggressive behavior generally occurs in a considerable minority of those suffering from dementia. Therefore, caretakers of dementia patients in hospitals and nursing homes may feel the need to use physical and chemical restraints or anti-psychotic drugs in order to control aggressive behaviors. However, this may be highly inappropriate. While the justifications for their actions may arise from fears that dementia patients may hurt themselves or those around them, it has been found that behavioral approaches are more effective in soothing aggressive behavior compared to inappropriate use of drugs and restraints in order to remedy the issue.


Unfortunately, anti-psychotic medications, including risperidone and olanzapine, have commonly been used to control aggression, but the administration of such drugs must be carefully considered. This is because such anti-psychotic drugs may result in a variety of serious side effects, even resulting in death. Additionally, administration of such drugs should be carefully evaluated to ensure that they are appropriate for the patient in a given circumstance. Even if it may be appropriate in one situation, it may no longer be needed soon after as dementia symptoms tend to change over time. Rather, other behavioral strategies should be implemented first when addressing aggressive behavior.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides several recommendations as to how to deal with dementia patients exhibiting behavioral problems. First, caretakers should be attentive as to what dementia patients are communicating, whether it be through verbal or non-verbal communication. For example, caretakers should look to see if there are underlying medical conditions that may be prompting such aggressive behavior. Pain, depression, or infections may cause dementia patients to exhibit aggressive behavior if they are unable to explain or convey what is bothering them. Additionally, dementia patients may act out if they are upset due to environmental circumstances such as excessive noise, crowds, or disturbances in their daily routines. Thus, aggressive behaviors may decrease if caretakers ensure that dementia patients maintain the same routine. Additionally, caretakers should use positive reinforcements and maintain a calm demeanor when interacting with dementia patients in order to promote an environment of security and comfort.

Those caring for dementia patients must be particularly mindful as to the difficulties they face, and should not implement unnecessary physical and chemical restraints, or administer anti-psychotic medication inappropriately in order to temporarily assuage the problem. If you believe your loved one is being harmed through such inappropriate practices, we encourage you to contact us at (888) 606-3453 today for a free consultation. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi are dedicated to protecting the rights of victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. We have locations in both Southern California and Northern California and serve communities across the state. With years of experience in elder abuse litigation, we specialize in neglect cases and can help you with yours.