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  • Andrea Holzner

Aggression & Alzheimer's ~ Holistic Approach

Apparent in the latter stages of Alzheimer's many patients become severely agitated and aggressive in their behavior.  This is typical and often can be harmful to the patient or to those around them.  Caregivers often report being frustrated because they do not understand and have no idea how to manage.  My heart aches for everyone experiencing this as it is not easy to watch a loved one's personality change. Medications seem to be the first "go-to" for many, Xanax or Donepezil for example, simply because there are no alternatives offered.  During a stressful situation or episode of aggression, the loved ones often defer to the guidance of the care facility and physician. These medications do not always calm the aggression and in fact, create other issues.  As a former caregiver to my Mother, I was often left feeling helpless as I gave up her care into the hands of the medical community, and making rash decisions to ease her pain. I knew there had to be other options, less invasive options that treated the symptoms holistically; to calm her aggression.

A little information about Aggression!

Aggression in Alzheimer's is common and can be exhibited in hitting, throwing, screaming, biting, etc. According to, aggression is one of the main reasons loved ones seek out care facilities.  The behavior can often become unmanageable and simply stated there is not adequate preparation for family and friends to acquire training or coping methods.  No one knows fully what goes on inside the mind suffering from Alzheimer's.  I watched my Mother at times go from blank stares and calm to suddenly clenching her fists and fits of aggression.  Given that Alzheimer’s takes over the brain smothering and killing it slowly (sometimes quickly) one can only imagine the disconnection and the confusion that the person must be experiencing. The parts of the brain that affect cognition also attack motor skill functioning. While we cannot empathize, we can learn and share approaches that can calm aggression.

Alzheimer’s Association offers insights and options during these traumatic situations.  If your loved one is experiencing an agitated state or aggression, these are insights to consider:

~Check for immediate pain or perhaps injury to person

~Are they experiencing any physical discomfort

(Tight clothing, incontinence, hunger, fatigue)

~New medications often have side effects (see a physician)

~Often there is overstimulation (TV, radio, surrounding noise)

~Lighting can also be overstimulating (turning off lights, closing blinds help)

What to do?

~Firstly, if you think there is immediate danger or harm, call 911 or physician

~Remove any item in the vicinity that may cause danger to person or others

~If you are able to, change locations or distract person

~Change lighting or sound

~Care for person’s immediate needs as sleep, eating, incontinence…

~Use calm, soothing voice, and gentle touch

This can be a scary time and often overwhelming.  Know that you are not alone! If you are new to caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s, please check local State Aging and Health departments, hospitals, and resources for information and training.  In Oregon, we have a great resource free to those locally, as well as online,

While there is not yet a solution found for the transitioning behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s, other than medication, many modalities are looking into alternatives.  Naturopathic, that is holistic approaches offer some relief.  A few options:

~Japanese medicines have been used in association with Alzheimer’s for centuries.

~Yokukansan (TJ-54) has been linked to calming aggression. Dr Hitomi Kanno has studied Yokukansan and found positive results. ~Another option being explored is EMDR in relation to Alzheimer’s. TAMAKI AMANO has been studying EMDR during latter stages of AD.  It has been shown to calm patients during moments of aggression.  This is a new direction that is being explored but has potential for caregivers.

There are many studies being conducted globally and I am hopeful that natural alternatives will be explored and implemented.  Creating options for caregivers allows treatment that can be unique and tailored to the individual.  After all, we want the best care for our loved ones’ suffering.

Thank you for following! Together we will find holistic approaches for mind, body and spirit.



"Never to be squandered, the beauty of another human being"

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