My mother has recently been moved to an assisted living facility. Now she is showing intense anger, how do I handle this?

Asked by

She was on her own until this winter when a broken hip caused her to be in the hospital, nursing home and now assisted living. She has become increasingly socially withdrawn over the last 6-7 years and is refusing to be involved in any of the activities at the care center. Her emotions are very erratic. Usually she is alert and friendly, but can quickly and unexpectedly become enraged. She is very frustrated about her diminishing independence and increasing frailty. I am usually the one who gets to witness the rage though she at times will direct it toward the care staff. Once the rage starts both trying to get her to relax or trying to comfort her result in even greater loss of emotional control. Last week when this happened I told her I loved her but would need to leave when she acted that way, then left. I could hear her screams all the way to the front door. She has not wanted to discuss this situation, but also has not lost control since then. Any advice about how best to handle this?

Answers 1 to 8 of 8
Expert Answer
3930 helpful answers
You did the right thing by not letting her control you with her rage. Keep that up.

She will likely adjust as she understands there's no alternative to her situation, but it could take time. The intensity of her anger is worrisome, however, so a doctor should look at anxiety medication, the chance of depression or dementia issues. I'm not suggesting they "drug her" to control her. But I am suggesting that she may have issues that are not being addressed. A good talk with her doctor should be forthcoming.
Take care of yourself, too,
Chrise, I went through this with my Mother too. Definitely consult with a doctor that specializes in geriatric medicine, in out case it is the family doctor. There are medications for this and it will make a difference for you as well as her. You did the right thing by leaving, my sister and I did the same thing. It is a year and a half later and the disease has progressed, she is much more calm, but I will tell you there were some rough times. Medication does not solve all, but I am a firm believer in adjusting and having the right meds. Good Luck.
Make sure you tell her that you love her and how she has improved so much as to be moved to assisted living, bring photos and items from her home to make her feel more at home. If she able to use a phone provide her with #'s and a cell to call friends or church members and just to hear your voice. Like most of us we are scared when something is new or unfamiliar. If you woke up and felt confused you would understand what she is going thru give her time to explain ask her to tell you what is happening, ask other friends and family to stop in and visit her. Go to some of the assisted living events with her as bingo, exercise class, arts crafts, knitting what ever they have even a outing they usually have shuttle going to local places meet her at one and then when she fills comfortable she'll go on her own. Ask one of the other residents who is active to ask your mom to join in. But most important reminder her she is loved and you care for her and your so glad she is in a safe inviroment. Good luck God Bless
You were spot-on for leaving when you did.

All the previous answers are just great. I would like to add that there are other types of dementia. Narrowing down which type she has is best left to a gerontologist rather than a GP or internal medicine MD. Correctly figuring out which dementia she has can make a big difference in helping her. None of the medications reverse dementia but they seems to improve mental function and
awareness once in their system for a couple of months.

ALZ seems to be more responsive (they have better "awareness") to Aricept, Reminyl and Namenda.

My mom has Lewy Body Dementia & is on the Exelon patch. LBD is somewhat different in that they seem to have episodes rather than an overall constant decline like in ALZ. For her Exelon works.

Ones with vascular dementia or those with Frontotemporal dementia (Pick's)
seem to do better with medications usually associated with high blood pressure, plus it lowers the risk of a stroke which would lead to further brain damage.

The rage issue is especially hard - try not to take it personally - IMO what's she's really mad at is herself as she has lost control of her mental state, but they can't accept it and need to find someone(you) or something (medications) at fault. Alot of stuff they have been hiding or things they haven't resolved in the past come out. It's not the pretty stuff either. As the dementia progresses, the rage get's less. My mom has big amounts of bitterness and regret. I change the subject when it happens and if she persists, then I leave. Good luck.
Let the staff handle this issue, they are the professionals and they deal with this issue all the time. We did not go to see dad for two weeks when he first went in because of these same types of issues. I would call ever day and ask how he was and they informed the family that he was doing better. He is now eating with the others and has stopped the belligerence and anger. It does take time for them to settle in and let the staff do the work. Just continue to be there for her and she will come around. Vickie
Chrise, your mother went thru exactly the same thing as far as the living alone, broken hip, nursing home then asst living as my mother-in-law. All in that order too, funny. What is different is, even though my mother-in-law didn't like being sent there, she did get used to it. Having said that, she still talks about how she wants to go home, but knows she can't so she's pretty resolute in staying. Although she has the beginning of Alz. her mental state differs greatly from your mother though in that she's never angry or hateful. Now I'm not saying she's a saint, cause that would be an outright lie, but she's not screaming irate.
Get your mom evaluated by a doctor and see what's going on. Although my mother-in-law has Alzheimer's officially now, not all Alz patients are created equal in their mental states. Could be your mom's anger is related to dementia/alz or something like that. If this is new behavior, then it's a problem.
As an owner of an assisted living facility, I can not tell you how often this is the case. Many times the elderly will feel betrayed by their loved ones when there are placed in a facility. The truth of the matter is that no one is ready to take care of someone with Alzheimer's or dementia at home. Homes are not designed for the patient who has this degerative disease and it takes professionals to handle the situation so that you can still have loving moments with your parents instead of having to deal with fits of rage or depression. Being in the business, I believe in medication to help those persons that have these feelings. I don't know why some people do not believe in medicating the Alzheimer's patient but turn around and take medications themselves. Lots of people are on prozac and other such medications but would deny a loved one the same right.

Your mother needs medication to help curve these feelings of anger and depression. With dementia and Alzheimer's, the brain no longer produces chemical in the right balances and thus, the patient goes thru these bouts because there is one chemical or another out of balance in the brain. She would need to be seen by a psychiatrist or a neurogist to help with this situation. Good luck, I know it is very difficult.
No one likes to be put in a situation that makes them feel lost and uncomfortable. It is so sad that all the bad things so close together is causing your mom such anguish. Having you come and sooth her, hold her hand, go to activities with her will ease her into the new routine. Also having the doc. give her something to lift her spirits out of this depressed time will probably help too. It is not easy getting old and feeble. Trying to be compassionate will go a very long way to soothe your mom.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support