Impulsive–aggressive behavior is a significant challenge in geriatric psychiatry and requires professional evaluation and management.

SOAS-R scales (Staff Observation Aggression Scale-Revision) completed by medical staff on three secure psychiatric wards were analyzed during a period of 12 months. Patients were subdivided into the following two diagnostic subgroups: dementia and other diagnoses.

A total of 146 aggressive incidents involving 66 patients were reported (8.8% of patients treated during this period, n = 752). Fifty-seven percent of the incidents involved patients with dementia. In 20% of the incidents, no precipitating event could be identified; this was more common in patients without dementia (p = 0.005). The medical condition of the patient was considered the trigger in 55% of the cases. Aggression was directed at nurses in 82% of the cases. Visible injury was reported in 12 cases, 3 of which required medical treatment. Male gender, the presence of previous aggressive incidents, and the evening shift (in the case of dementia patients) were identified as risk factors.

Aggression in dementia is often reactive and seems to be more predictable than if occurring with other diagnoses. Prevention measures such as de-escalations techniques, warning notes in the patient’s file with previous aggressive behavior and stepping up for evening shifts are of crucial importance. As nurses were primarily affected, employer support programs, and mental health interventions are proposed to avoid long-term consequences.

Myrella Paschali, Daniel Kamp, Claudia Reichmann, Michaela Jaenner, Christian Lange-Asschenfeldt and Tillmann Supprian
International Psychogeriatrics