5. Looking after yourself

Aggression in the person with dementia can be challenging, frustrating and often very upsetting. Some carers try to hide the person’s aggressive behaviour from their family and friends and become reluctant to seek help. This can lead them to feel isolated and lose their social life, and some carers may become depressed. It is very important to seek support if the person you are caring for is acting aggressively, and to keep yourself safe. Never tolerate violence against you. If the person behaves aggressively less often it will lead to a better relationship between you and them and a better quality of life for you both.

Remember that most people with dementia are not being aggressive deliberately. The behaviour is likely to be due to being in pain or discomfort, or because of a need or desire that they cannot communicate. The behaviour may appear to be aimed at you, but that is probably just because you are there. The fact that the person is aggressive towards you doesn’t mean that their feelings for you have changed.

Even if you manage not to take it personally, any aggressive behaviour may well leave you feeling shocked or upset. Over time, this kind of behaviour might play a part in making you feel more exhausted. Find ways to help yourself recover, both immediately after any aggressive behaviour and over a longer period. Talk through your feelings and don’t let yourself build up resentment towards the person. If you do lose your temper, try not to feel guilty – it is a highly stressful situation that you are dealing with – but do discuss things with a friend, professional or another carer who may be able to suggest ways of responding to these situations.

Everyone is different and you will find your own ways to cope. These suggestions may help:

  • Chat things through, sit down and have a cup of tea or go for a coffee with a friend, family member or neighbour.
  • Take some time to relax on your own. Ask a friend or relative to look after the person with dementia or use a day care centre or respite care so that you can have a break.
  • Talk to a professional, such as a counsellor, GP, or community psychiatric nurse. You could also speak to a professional at the memory clinic or to an occupational therapist.
  • If you are caring for the person, join a carers’ support group to share experiences and offer mutual support. Many carers find that support groups can make a big difference.

For information, advice and support call our National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 or visit the online discussion forum at

For more information about how you can look after your wellbeing and get support see Carers: Looking after yourself.