What to do when a dementia patient gets agitated

The public generally thinks of dementia in terms of memory loss; sometimes, that’s the least of the problems. Agitated behavior presents a particularly difficult situation for families and caregivers of those with dementia. Surely, they know their loved ones don’t intend to cause harm. Yet when especially confused, fearful, or angry, a person with dementia may kick, hit, bite, or throw things. If you have had experience with a dementia patient getting agitated, you know just how complicated it is. Aggressive behavior, plus fears that a person will harm himself or others are among the most common reasons caregivers consider placing a family member in an institution.

What can you do when a dementia patient gets agitated?

Although agitated behavior is not common in persons with dementia, it can present during a phase of the disease. Often it occurs in the middle of the disease when the person is still physically strong, but judgement has begun to fail. When a dementia patient experiences frustration, it may turn to anger. We hope that some of the techniques and protocol listed below will help the family and caregiver cope when a person with dementia becomes agitated.

Determine if there’s an underlying cause for the dementia patient to be agitated.

By documenting the details surrounding the agitation, a physician may be able to pinpoint and treat any underlying cause. Infections, discomfort, and environmental change can be triggers for dementia-related agitation. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you notice any pattern to the agitated behavior? (Note: time of day, before or after meals, before or after medications)
  • Were any big changes occurring in the home at that time? (Did you move, rearrange furniture, lose a pet, etc.?)
  • Has there been a change in medications or drug dosage?
  • Has your loved one had a change in health? (Is there any congestion, pain with urination, or other body aches?)
  • Has your loved one suffered a recent injury?


Learn techniques to cope and things to avoid when dealing with dementia-related agitation in the home.

If you are unable to pinpoint a root cause, measures must be taken in order to protect yourself and your loved one. Consider the following ways to decrease the severity of agitation in the dementia patient:

  • Limit caffeine, sugar and junk food.‬
  • Reduce noise and clutter.‬
  • Maintain routines.
  • Keep dangerous objects out of reach.‬
  • Acknowledge frustration.‬
  • Distract the person with a snack or an activity.


Seek alternative care options when a dementia patient becomes agitated.

Once the person with dementia becomes agitated, your caregiving role is magnified. As the caregiver, your needs and well-being are equally important. Can you continue living with and caring for a loved one who has dementia within your home?

The decision about when is the right time to move a loved one with dementia to a care facility is always challenging. As someone’s dementia progresses, it is important they are in a safe place with care 24 hours a day. At some point it is simply not possible to provide all the care yourself. Sometimes just a couple of hours a week of hired in-home care can help relieve the pressure of a family caregiver. We are here to help you find the right in-home caregiver, providing you with the respite that you need. Find the right caregiver at the right time with Home Care Assist.