Behavioral Issues

  • Difficult behavior is often an attempt to communicate needs or frustrations. Try to accommodate it, rather than controlling it.
  • You may be able to prevent an annoying or disturbing behavior if you can identify its verbal or environmental triggers.
  • Directly acknowledging your loved one’s feelings over loss of control may mitigate outbursts and other difficult behavior.

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Simple household tips can help keep your loved one safe.

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People with dementia often can’t communicate what they want or need, but their behavior provides clues. Consider what need the person might be trying to express with the behavior and then try to address, or at least acknowledge, that need. Common behavioral problems include:


Some people with dementia may wander off, but you can do many things to keep them safe. Install locks throughout the home, positioning them high or low since your loved one may not think to look beyond eye level. Have your loved one wear an ID bracelet or necklace, and consider sewing labels into clothing. Let neighbors know about your loved one’s condition.

Sundowning or Sleeplessness

People with dementia frequently become restless, agitated, or irritable at the end of the day and have trouble getting to sleep. Increasing daytime activities, especially exercise, and limiting inactivity or napping can generally help. Eliminate foods high in sugar and caffeine. Plan structured but quiet activities in the afternoon and evenings to calm your loved one.

Agitation, Anger, and Aggression

By calmly reassuring your loved one that you understand his or her frustration, you may be able to avoid outbursts. Another idea is to distract your loved one with a snack or activity. Keeping familiar objects and photographs around may provide a sense of security and trigger happy memories.

Paranoia, Hallucinations, and Delusions

Discuss these problems with a physician; medication may need to be adjusted. Distraction may help minimize their effects. For example, try moving your loved one to another room or outside. Small concessions can sometimes help accommodate paranoia. If your loved one suspects theft, for example, you might allow him or her to keep small amounts of money close at hand for easy inspection.

Next Step: Learn more about how you can keep your loved one safe.

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Experts at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America have the answers to your toughest Alzheimer’s and dementia questions.

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