How to Handle Seniors Behaving Badly in Assisted Living Facilities

Concerned elderly couple sitting in livingroom scowling

Thoughts of a senior care facility invoke images of calm hallways, quiet cafeterias, and elderly individuals enjoying classic tabletop games. However, that isn’t always the case. You might be surprised to learn that these residents can be more than a handful. 

If you already work in one of these assisted living facilities, then you know just how rowdy seniors can be. From the most vulgar language to cases of harassment, it can seem as though seniors are worse than toddlers at time. It’s a difficult challenge to handle, but there are right and wrong ways to deal with this problem. 

Understanding the Problem

Before attempting to solve anything, you need to understand the reason behind the problem. Seniors can act out for a wide variety of reasons ranging from mental health issues to fighting for their independence. Other reasons include personality differences with staff, a desire for control, or that patients simple never outgrew bullying actions. 

Each case is different, making it vital that you take the time to understand each individual’s issues. The more you know why a resident acts out, the easier you can handle or even remedy the situation. Step one is to remain calm and see through their behavior to the root of the issue. 

Identifying Triggers

In most cases, there are one or several triggers that bring on an episode. Some residents may have flashbacks to time served in the military, fights with family, or unresolved regrets in their lives. Others may relive past trauma after seeing an item or person that reminds them of an incident. 

Identifying a trigger isn’t always easy, but you can usually identify these items by talking with the resident after an outburst. If that isn’t an option, pay close attention to the objects and people in the room. An assisted living facility in Littleton CO also works to create environments free of triggers, which can include changing recreational activities as well as neutral color schemes. 


The number one way to handle a disruptive resident is support. Most cases are derived from behavioral issues or previous incidents. You can help calm your patients down by offering them support, addressing their fears and concerns or even helping them through therapy. 

Building a relationship with residents is essential to nearly every aspect of your job, including this one. The closer you become to your patients, the easier it is to handle outbursts and bad behavior. While it might be frustrating at times, remain professional and maintain that bond. 


Sometimes, there’s simply no getting through to a resident. If you and your facility have tried everything possible to no avail, it might be time to ask them to leave. Several assisted living facilities feature clauses in their contracts that highlight what can lead to eviction, such as the resident posing a danger to themselves or others. 

Above all, you should remain calm. Acting out in anger or frustration will only exacerbate the situation and encourage the behavior to continue. Choosing to remain professional helps keep you and your facility out of legal trouble, as well. 

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