All forms of dementia are brain damage and a trait of some brain-damaged individuals is violent behavior. There are certain triggers that can precede a catastrophic emergency in some people.

If you get impatient and try to hurry them, it can cause agitation, which in turn could lead to violence.

They can become frustrated from not being able to make themselves understood.

When asked questions they can’t answer or if you ask too many in a row without giving ample time for them to answer could make them want to lash out at you.

Large crowds, noise and unfamiliar faces and places could result in a physical confrontation.

Demented people are constantly trying to make sense of their ever-changing environment. They cannot remember what happened ten minutes ago, so telling them that you have told them something all day long and will they pleeeese stop asking the same question will only make some people want to smack you in the chops.

I’m not suggesting that you walk on eggshells all the time. Just that you exercise a little compassion and common sense in dealing with them. If they have a history of past violent episodes, then you need to remember how you have provoked them in the past. No, you don’t have the right to get anything off of your chest by venting back at them no matter how they treated you when you were young. No matter how they are treating you now. If they bite, hit, kick or pinch you or throw things at you now. This is not the time to get back at them for all the misery they have put you through all your life. They are mentally ill now and need you to stay calm. If you cannot, then find them a place where love can be demonstrated to them, as soon as possible.

Now, having said that, here is my advice.


1) If the dementia victim is jeopardizing their own safety or that of someone else’s due to violent behavior, remain very calm, get rid of all noise, lower your voice a couple of decibels, speak in a soothing voice and move others in the area to a safer location.

2) Use short, simple sentences when talking to him.

3) Find a way for him to have an element of control in the situation. Try to maintain eye contact with him and keep smiling sweetly.

4) Break out into song (quietly) or dance.

5) Give him a bowl of his favorite ice cream, but in a paper bowl.

6) Don’t try to restrain him or it could result in injury to both of you.

7) If he manages to grab you, just go limp and offer no resistance and don’t fight back.

8) If they start throwing things at you, use anything that is handy as a shield and leave him alone a couple of minutes. Most dementia victims calm down and forget the episode very quickly when allowed to.

9) After everyone else is out of harm’s way, drop eye contact (except peripherally) and get busy cleaning the room as if nothing ever happened. You might try humming a gentle melody quietly as you work. This will serve to distract the individual and cause him to forget anything out of the ordinary ever happened.

10) Make sure you contact his doctor and request some meds to prevent this from happening again.

You set the pace of your home and have the power to maintain peace with your decisions.

Starr Calo-oy


  • Along with her husband, Bob, Starr Calo-oy has cared for the elderly in their home as an alternative to nursing home care, for the past 15 years. They specialize in Alzheimer's disease and the other related dementias, the terminally ill and the general elderly public.

    This couple discovered that the primary obstacle preventing families from turning over the care of their loved ones to a stranger for care, was guilt. After 15 years of personal family interviews, they have written "The Caring Caregivers Guide to Dealing with Guilt" to help families make this heart-wrenching decision.