Verbal Aggression: Understanding What Triggers Elderly People With Dementia

November 26, 2018 at 8:21 pm · · Comments Off on Verbal Aggression: Understanding What Triggers Elderly People With Dementia

Verbal Aggression: Understanding What Triggers Elderly People With Dementia

Verbal aggression in people with dementia can happen anytime and anywhere. If you don’t know the person well, it can seem like they appear out of the blue. However, if you pay close attention, there are usually triggers or patterns to these outbursts.

Triggers for verbal outbursts can be social, psychological, or physical depending on the person and situation. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, you must learn to recognize these triggers in order to reduce the likelihood of outbursts.

Below are some of the most common causes of verbal aggression in people with dementia:


One of the most common causes of verbal aggression in people with dementia is the misunderstanding of conversations and situations.

If they’re hurt because they misheard something, this can lead to verbal outbursts. If they forgot where they placed something and think you took it and they’ll yell at you.

Sometimes, if you try to explain the situation, it can make it worse because they’ll think you’re attacking or belittling in them.

Feeling Threatened

When a person with dementia feels like their caretaker is helping them too much, they’ll perceive it as a threat to their privacy or independence.

Even if they truly need help, people with dementia often have a hard time accepting help because it makes them feel helpless. When this happens, they might yell at you to get you to leave them alone.

Loneliness and Boredom

Loneliness in seniors is common but for people with dementia, it can be extra difficult.

Long periods without social interaction can agitate their symptoms because they don’t have anyone to talk to and express how they feel. Then when someone finally shows up, they’ll take out all their frustrations by verbally attacking this person.


For some people, dementia can bring about feelings of shame, embarrassment, or guilt.

They might be embarrassed that they can’t remember people’s names or that they need help with simple things like going to the bathroom. If they don’t know how or don’t want to express these feelings, they might yell at you to try to create some distance between you and them. Distance is one of the ways people with dementia try to protect themselves.

Physical Discomfort

Let’s face it. Aging is uncomfortable and for people with dementia, this can be worse. Verbal attacks may be their way of asking for help.

They might be experiencing hallucinations from other drugs. They might be constipated. If they have other mental illnesses such as depression, it can make the symptoms of dementia even worse.

Pay Close Attention to Verbal Aggression

Verbal aggression is damaging to both the person expressing it and the person receiving it. If you are the person receiving it, know that there is help for you. The first step is to try to understand why they happen and what triggers them.

Once you are able to recognize these triggers, you’ll be able to anticipate outbursts better, reduce episodes, and see the person you’re caring for with more compassion.

Don’t forget, your mental health is just as important and sometimes what both parties need is space.  If you would like more professional advice on how to care for people with dementia, check out our blog for more resources today.

Categories: Senior Living Tips