The root cause of behavioral outbursts in someone with Alzheimer’s disease is mostly due to the decline in the person’s language and communication skills. Outbursts also can be caused by an unmet need or needs. The affected person can no longer communicate with others in a sensible way and struggles to get his or her needs met. That frustration leads to behavioral outbursts.

Redirection helps but, even though it's difficult, you must try to detect what the individual is trying to communicate. Finding that meaning could ease their stress and also help make care more manageable for you.

More often than not, behaviors are emotionally connected. He or she could be afraid, lonely, angry, excited or just bored. These emotions are very common and should always be validated by the caregiver to give that person comfort and security.

Additionally, the underlying cause of most aggressive behaviors is depression, which should be treated by a physician.

Behavioral outbursts also can be brought on by the expectations of the caregiver, who may assume the affected person can perform a  task or function, and when they are unsuccessful, both parties grow anxious and irritated, which can cause behavioral expressions.

Outbursts can also be caused by physical distress. For instance, they might be suffering joint pain, have a headache, be constipated or simply suffering from fatigue, so you have to be vigilant about monitoring the individual's well-being and observing even the most subtle changes in that person.

Also look at the environment. Is the room too cluttered? Are there too many visitors during the day? Is lighting casting shadows that can cause fear?

Whether the behavioral expressions are physically or emotionally connected, try to watch movements and actions, facial expressions and/or changes in the tone or volume of the person's language to determine the unmet need. Use visual cues to assist in understanding particular needs. It might take trial-and-error to identify a need, however, finding that meaning is the key to not only easing the discomfort of the individual but also the stress on the caregiver.

The caregiver should be aware of his or her approach and use gentle, even tones in speaking and reassuring the affected person.


Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at advice@alzbr.org or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.