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How to respond to Alzheimer’s behavior: Anger, wandering, and more

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million Americans. The number of those affected indirectly, like family and caregivers, is even greater, and it can be hard for this latter group when responding to how the disease manifests in loved ones. Alzheimer’s is a particularly degenerative form of dementia, and can cause memory loss to a great extent.

That alone can be make it difficult when interacting with a parent or someone else. Other symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, like wandering and anger, can further complicate the situation. It may leave caregivers and family feeling stressed, frustrated and unsure about how to best respond to these behaviors.

There’s no simple trick to adapting to such realities; it takes work to develop an understanding of Alzheimer’s and how it presents. But such an effort is needed to be able to effectively care for or communicate with a loved one suffering from dementia. Here are some common behaviors and how to best respond to them.


Loss of memory is most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s. It’s something caregivers and family often prepare for, but ultimately find it challenging to face. It may become harder for a loved one to remember places, people, faces, names, dates and other routine knowledge. As the disease progresses, it may become more of a struggle to communicate with the affected individual if they forget where home is or how a fork is used.

In such instances, it’s crucial to keep calm and convey that by speaking carefully and clearly. It’s important not to appear annoyed or exasperated even if you are. This can only lead to further frustration. Try to offer help, explanations or other assistance instead of reverting to questioning why an individual can’t remember something simple.

One way to help combat forgetfulness is using creative attempts to jog memory. It may help to create a book with pictures of family and other important memories, which can be used as a reference. Also, creating a routine can provide comfort and structure.


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 in 10 people suffering from the disease will wander at some point. Wandering is a problem for clear reasons, but addressing it isn’t always straightforward. There are a number of causes for why adults with dementia wander, including:

Wandering presents a particular risk because vulnerable seniors can get into dangerous situations. Without supervision, they may do harm to themselves or others. It’s important to eliminate such risks as much as possible. This often means taking away car keys once a loved one starts to wander or keeping doors locked so exiting the residence isn’t an option. If at home, informing neighbors about the wandering risk can help protect your loved one. Bracelets and other wearables that are outfitted with radio frequency technology may also be of use to ensure you can always account for a senior’s whereabouts.

Try to make a living space safer if wandering occurs. Removing trip or fall hazards, labeling bathrooms and bedrooms, and putting guards on sharp edges are all actions to take to improve the livability of a residence.

Anger and aggression

Perhaps the hardest side effect for caregivers and family to deal with is aggressive behavior. Anger can be so hard to quell because it’s expressed randomly, or in relation to difficulty completing a task or forgetting something. For instance, finding a parent who’s wandered off and trying to get them back to safety may lead them to react negatively. They might lash out with uncharacteristic foul language or name calling, or even physical violence, like hitting or shoving.

Such are the jarring situations that can be created by anger due to Alzheimer’s. As a caregiver or family member in such positions, it can be incredibly hard to resolve the conflict. The best piece of advice offered by most is to separate the aggression from the person. Hearing a parent say things you know they don’t mean can be painful nonetheless. But a clear head is needed to diffuse the anger.

Potential remedies recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association include diverting the attention to a different topic or task, speaking in an even and soothing tone, introducing a relaxing activity, calling for help and trying to limit distractions.

Responding to troublesome behaviors in adults with Alzheimer’s is not an easy task for caregivers and family. However, the basic strategy to keep in mind when doing so is to project calm and reassurance.

Speak with us today if you are considering memory care options and want to learn more.