Changes in Behaviour

Dementia can sometimes make life a very frightening and confusing time, people may be in pain, be feeling threatened or simply just bored, all of which will influence their behaviour.

Sometimes frustration and a sense of being out of control can make them act in a different way.

Reducing the likelihood of developing out of character behaviours

A sudden increase in someone’s agitation, confusion or level of distress may be the result of a physical health problem. This is why you may be advised to arrange a GP check-up in case there is anything which needs treatment. Common causes are some form of infection (urinary/chest), constipation or pain.

  • Continue with social activities and relationships, and meaningful interests.
  • Reduce excess noise, clutter of over stimulating environments.
  • Ensure people still have access to familiar items or personal belongings.

Types of behaviour, some of the most common behaviours

  • Repetitive behaviour (saying the same thing, doing the same tasks, asking the same questions).

  • Shouting, screaming, using abusive language.

  • Hiding or hoarding (moving things around, not remembering to put things in their usual place).

  • Accusing (most common accusation is people are trying to steal from them or harm them).

  • Trailing or checking (following you around, needing to know where you are).

  • Losing inhibitions (being rude, undressing in public, inappropriate comments or behaviours).

  • Saying “I want to go home” very common phrase used which may indicate a feeling of insecurity, memories of another home, confusion with surroundings. Some helpful guidance here –

Things which may help

  • Offer general reassurance – for example, they don’t need to worry about things as all the arrangements are in hand.

  • Encouraging talk about something they like talking about – for example, a period of time or an event they enjoyed.

  • Try not to change their surroundings too drastically.  Keep things familiar. Be prepared for some upset or changes when visiting an unfamiliar place. 
  • Is there a favourite TV programme you can have easy access too, the familiarity of the theme tune can calm. 
  • Create a memory box – perhaps ask another family member to do this with you.   
  • Create a playlist and encourage movement/dancing together. 
  • Move into another room/outside – just a change in environment can change a mood. 
  • Try not to question/disagree/become defensive – this may escalate the upset. 
  • Check they are not in pain, hungry, thirsty, needing the toilet or uncomfortable for some other reason
  • Provide reassurance and a quiet, calming environment
  • Activities that give pleasure and confidence – such as music or dancing
  • Be tactful and patient
  • Help the person find the answer themselves – for example, if they keep asking the time, buy an easy-to-read clock and keep it in a visible place
  • Look for any underlying theme, such as the person believing they’re lost, and offer reassurance
  • Offer general reassurance – for example, that they don’t need to worry about that things as all the arrangements are in hand
  • Encourage someone to talk about something they like talking about – for example, a period of time or an event they enjoyed
  • Provide plenty of activity and exposure to daylight during the day
  • Make sure the bedroom is comfortable and provide a nightlight or blackout blinds according to the person’s needs
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol in the evening
  • Have the person with you if you’re doing chores such as ironing or cooking
  • Reassure them that they’re safe and secure if they’re asking to go home
  • Avoid telling them you’re not who they think you are or that someone died years ago – instead, talk to them about that period in their life.