My husband is 85 and I am 84 and has some dementia and health issues. We live on our own and I am the caregiver because his health issues are more debilitating than mine. We have 2 daughters who live near and they help us out when they can. Most of the time my husband is sweet, but his dementia causes him to have sudden angry outburst over nothing. It seems directed at me and is hurtful. How can I handle this when I am already trying so hard?
Though medication can often calm someone down, I feel like its use is often like putting in a thumbtack with a hammer - over-kill with longer lasting major effects. My training is in substance abuse, so I have had a specific focus on using medication to alleviate anxiety or improve moods. I tend to worry with a growing number of people that medication adds new side effects, often more sleepiness or sometimes balance issues - and what is not as well recognized, when a person is coming down from various doses, their anxiety can be increased, just by the process of medicine changes inside them, so their behaviors can be more aggressive and demanding, more repetitive and less susceptible to learning.
I usually have managed to work with elders who are not taking mood medications, finding them easier, and issues solved over time. It's not so easy when working with someone already taking such meds, who then repeat issues more insistently.
I agree about getting out of his way when he has an outburst. If you can leave him alone for a few minutes walk into another room and just remove yourself from the situation until he calms down. Check back and if he's still agitated walk back out again.
Have you thought of talking to his Dr. about medication to calm him down?
Stay within earshot, in case there is something they need, but not in sight and don't respond to shouts or mumbles. Take the 5 minutes and return, with good cheer. Repeat as needed! If they start right up again, affirm again, I love you and I'm glad I'm here, but if you want something, I will try to help, but I won't listen to critical descriptions more than once. If I forgot something, I'll try to see what it is, but otherwise, I'll see you in 10 minutes..."
I found this break in the engagement, if done with reassurance yet stopping the conversation and saying you will return, helps to allow the person to get a grip, on what has been allowed to be a pattern.