Managing aggressive emotions in the older adults

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*It has been a month since my last post. I went for a vacation in Europe, and changed a new job recently. Now, I am finally back to the eldercare sector, taking charge of a facility, and serving the elderly people.*

As individuals age, they may experience a range of emotions and challenges that can sometimes lead to aggressive behaviour. It’s important to recognise that aggression in the elderly is often a result of many underlying issues, such as physical discomfort, cognitive decline, or emotional distress.


In this blog post, we will explore the causes of aggressive emotions in the elderly and provide practical tips on how to handle and manage these situations with care and compassion.


Causes of aggressive emotions in the elderly

  • Physical discomfort
    Pain, discomfort, or illness can trigger aggression in the elderly. Chronic conditions, arthritis, injuries, or discomfort from medication side effects can make them irritable and prone to outbursts.

  • Cognitive decline
    Many elderly individuals face cognitive decline, including conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This decline can lead to confusion, frustration, and fear, which may manifest as aggression.

  • Medication side effects
    Some medications can have side effects that affect mood and behaviour. It’s essential to monitor the side effects of prescribed drugs and consult with a healthcare professional if any concerning changes occur.
Polypharmacy, UTI
  • Communication difficulties
    Hearing loss, vision impairment, or difficulty expressing themselves due to cognitive issues can lead to frustration, which may manifest as aggression.
  • Loss and grief
    The elderly often experience significant losses, such as the death of loved ones or the loss of independence (for example, incontinence, or unable to perform activities of daily living). Grief and feelings of helplessness can also trigger aggressive emotions.
End-of-life care

Handling aggressive emotions in the elderly

  1. Stay calm
    When dealing with an aggressive elderly person, it’s crucial to remain calm and composed. This can help de-escalate the situation and prevent it from escalating further.

  2. Identify triggers
    Try to identify the specific triggers that lead to aggressive behavior. Understanding the root cause can help you address the issue more effectively.

  3. Ensure safety
    Prioritise safety for both the elderly individual and caregiver. If necessary, remove any potential hazards from the environment to prevent accidents during outbursts.

  4. Communicate clearly
    Use simple and direct language when communicating with the elderly person. Be patient and give them time to express their feelings, even if it’s challenging to understand them.

  5. Validate their feelings
    Show empathy and understanding. Let them know that you acknowledge their emotions, even if you can’t entirely resolve the issue.

  6. Provide distraction
    Sometimes, redirecting their attention to a different topic or activity can help diffuse the situation. Engaging in a favourite hobby or reminiscing about positive memories can be helpful.

  7. Seek professional help
    If aggressive behaviour becomes a recurring issue or is related to a medical condition, consult a healthcare professional, such as a geriatric specialist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, for expert guidance and treatment options.

  8. Medication management
    If aggression is linked to medication side effects, consult the prescribing doctor to discuss potential alternatives or dosage adjustments.

  9. Ensure a supportive environment
    Create a supportive and comfortable living environment for the elderly person. This includes adequate lighting, assistive devices for mobility, and making their living space as accessible and familiar as possible.

Supporting care staff in managing aggressive emotions of the elderly

When it comes to managing abusive behaviors, it’s vital to offer comprehensive support to the care staff and caregivers. These professionals are on the front lines of elderly care and often face challenging situations. Here are some ways eldercare facilities can assist care staff in handling aggressive emotions:


  1. Training and education
    Ensure that caregivers receive proper training and education on the complexities of ageing, dementia, and behavioral issues in the elderly. This training should equip them with the knowledge and skills to understand, prevent, and de-escalate aggressive emotions.
  2. Ongoing support and supervision
    Care staff need regular supervision and support from experienced supervisors or social workers who can offer guidance and mentorship. Regular debriefing sessions can help caregivers cope with the emotional toll of managing aggressive emotions.

  3. Access to resources
    Elderly care facilities should provide access to resources, such as educational materials, workshops, and support groups, where care staff can learn about the latest techniques and best practices in handling aggressive emotions.

  4. Multidisciplinary approach
    Encourage collaboration between different professionals, including doctors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers, to develop a comprehensive care plan for individuals displaying aggressive emotions. This interdisciplinary approach can provide a more holistic view of the situation and better support for both the elderly and the caregivers.

  5. Self-care programs
    Promote self-care and stress management programs for care staff. Caring for the elderly can be emotionally demanding, and caregivers need to prioritize their own well-being to provide the best care possible.

  6. Communication channels
    Create open and supportive communication channels where caregivers can report incidents, seek guidance, and express their concerns without fear of repercussions. Encourage a culture of transparency and problem-solving.

  7. Positive reinforcement
    Recognize and appreciate the dedication and hard work of care staff in managing aggressive emotions. Positive reinforcement and acknowledgment can boost their morale and motivation.


Aggressive emotions in the elderly can be challenging to handle, but with patience, empathy, and understanding, it is possible to manage these situations effectively. Remember that elderly individuals are experiencing various physical, emotional, and cognitive changes, and their aggression is often a reflection of their underlying needs and discomfort. By addressing the root causes and responding with care, you can help improve their quality of life and well-being.


Eldercare facilities can also create a more conducive environment for both the elderly residents and their caregivers. When caregivers are well-equipped and feel supported, they can provide higher-quality care, leading to improved overall well-being for the elderly people in these facilities.

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