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Violent Alzheimers Patient
September 2000

Q. My step-father is 83-years-old. He has always been a violent person. Now he has been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. He is in a nursing home but we have been ask to move him because he is hitting staff and patients. Does the fact that he has always been violent have anything to do with his violent behavior now? My Mother believes he does not remember doing anything. What kind of care would be best for him?

A. This is not a rare problem. Unfortunately, Dementia of any type (Alzheimer's being the most common cause of Dementia), can cause significant behavioral/personality changes. When one is severely demented, they may not remember who their caregiver is, and at the nursing home, the Nurse may seem like a complete stranger to your Step Dad and he may even think that she is attacking him, or trying to steal something, and as a result, he fights back.

Another possibility is that the Dementia process is affecting the area of the brain that controls temper, which may lead to more frequent violent behavior. The fact that he tended to be violent in the past obviously doesn't help things. It sounds like what he needs is some good antipsychotic medication such as Haldol which can be very effective for this problem. Soft wrist restraints and other such restraints may be needed. A psychiatrist may also be very helpful. Of course, family visits can also alleviate some of the Agitation (depending of course on whether he liked them or not to begin with!).

Hope this helps some.


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