Caregivers need to learn about keeping themselves and the older adult safe while in their care. In today’s blog,  we will discuss personal safety  and what to do when managing aggressive behavior from an upset adult.  

Managing Aggressive Behavior

  You may be involved in situations where the older adult, particularly if they have cognitive impairment, becomes verbally abusive or combative.  These can be very difficult and stressful situations for you and the older adult. Here are three key tips on how you can manage these situations:

1 – Don’t use force.

It can often backfire. Physical restraints should not be used indiscriminately.

2 – Stay calm, quiet, and rational.

If you allow the person to verbally express their anger, the possibility of physical violence can be avoided many times. Try and remember that the person who is acting aggressively is not doing so to harm you. They are trying to protect themselves. Don’t give them another reason to feel threatened. Act calmly and composed, even if you don’t feel that way. Never shout or yell or try to grab or hold the older adult. This will only escalate the situation.

3 – Take personal safety precautions.

When an older adult is out of control, your primary concern when managing aggressive behavior is safety. Remember, violent behavior is usually not planned and may not be under their control. To help make sure that everyone is safe, you should:
    • Get something such as a table between you and the aggressive older adult.
    • Try to get any potential weapons out of reach.
    • Call for extra help if you need it.

Specific tips on how to alert someone about what has happened.  

If you are a family caregiver, be sure to tell the older adult’s health care provider once the situation has been handled. If you are a professional caregiver, tell your supervisor. If you feel threatened in the moment, call 911.  

Personal safety and managing aggressive behavior can be vital as an eldercare professional. Learn how to be prepared for any emergency. Register for an online course.


Madhuri Reddy

Dr. Reddy is a specialist in Internal Medicine & Geriatric Medicine. She holds appointments at Harvard Medical School & Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, MA. She has seen the struggles that families and caregivers go through when caring for adults. Through CareAcademy, she intends to improve people's lives. Dr. Reddy's research is published as journal articles and book chapters. She has also authored a book for family caregivers.

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