Why Do People with Dementia Become Aggressive?

Posted: 19th May 2017

One question many people have about dementia is about the changes in personality and in particular why someone who is usually mild mannered becomes aggressive and/or starts to swear; almost as if their whole personality has changed.

As discussed in previous blogs dementia is the umbrella term for the symptoms of diseases of the brain. The most common disease of the brain is Alzheimer’s but other common forms are vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy Bodies.

When thinking about how dementia affects a person it is important to remember that dementia is not a normal part of ageing. The reason personality can be affected is a result of the damage caused by the diseases of the brain. The dementia can result not only in memory loss but also confusion and inability to recognise familiar faces. These symptoms when combined would inevitably cause distress and is often why people living with dementia become suspicious of others, paranoid and vulnerable.

A diagnosis of dementia is life changing and therefore aggression with dementia could also be a result of frustration, inability to express thoughts, a fear of humiliation as well as depression.

It is important to remember that any changes to personality are because of the illness.

One symptom of dementia is a misunderstanding of the world around them, in particular time and place. If you have ever had an interaction with someone living with dementia they may have been talking as if they were a lot younger, or refer to the need to pick their children up from school despite their children being adults themselves. A person living with dementia experiences a different reality as a result of their illness and arguing with or disputing their reality would lead to frustration and possibly aggression; as it would to you and me if someone prevented us from picking up a child from school for example.

Understanding dementia, and therefore dementia awareness, is key in supporting people with dementia which is the importance of dementia awareness week.

If you have concerns about someone’s behaviour, particularly if you think they are a danger to themselves and/or others it is important to notify social services and also their GP. If you have any immediate concerns call 999.

If someone has recently received a diagnosis of dementia it is important to seek legal advise to ensure all of the relevant steps have been taken to protect assets and also ensure someone has been given the authority to deal with matters if there is a time the person living with dementia can no longer deal with their own property and financial affairs as well as making their own decision regarding health and welfare.