Staff and relatives' perspectives on the aggressive behaviour of older people with dementia in residential care: a qualitative study

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2013 Nov;20(9):792-800. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12018. Epub 2012 Nov 20.


Staff and relative perspectives on patient aggression in dementia care units are seriously under researched in the U.K. Any work that has been conducted has relied upon quantitative studies. Qualitative research on aggression management in older peoples services are rare. In-depth views that can offer insights into causation and management strategies are therefore under represented in the literature. In order to investigate this issue further we interviewed a number of nursing staff and relatives in four U.K. care homes in the North West of England. Using a combined approach of one-to-one interviews (for staff) and focus groups (for relatives) we explored their views as to the reasons for and ways of responding to aggressive behaviour. This was part of a larger study reported upon elsewhere. Using thematic analysis we found similar results from both staff and relatives and as such their views were categorized into two broad areas: causation and management. In regards to causation we noted three sub-themes; internal, external and interpersonal factors which are further subdivided in the paper and for management two broad categories: the compassionate approach and 'don't go in strong'. The results indicated that staff in the participating units embraced a person-centred approach to aggression management. They predominantly respond to aggressive incidents with interpersonal strategies, such as distraction as opposed to medication or restraint. Overall they adopt a person centre approach to patient care. Relatives were clear in their perceptions of aggression as an interpersonal challenge, which is compounded or mediated by the illness of dementia. Consequently they were positive in their views of staff using non-coercive interventions. While the results of this and our earlier study are promising suggesting a less invasive approach to this aspect of dementia care, given the limitations of a small sample, more research of a similar nature is warranted. Findings from multidimensional studies can then provide a sounder basis for health and social care education, and person centred informed practice to reduce the incidence of aggression through preventative strategies.

Keywords: aggression; attitudes; care homes; dementia; person-centred care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • England
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Nursing Staff / standards
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult