Friday 23 July 2021
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3 Tips for Addressing Behavior Issues in Seniors with Dementia

Mid-to-late stage Dementia often presents with a variety of  behavioral issues including fear, anger, paranoia and sadness which they cannot control. These changes in behavior are directly linked to physical changes in the brain. It can be frustrating for families and caretakers to come face to face with these behavioral problems, and even more so for the affected.

People with dementia cannot control these behavioral changes when they occur, and they are not deliberately being difficult. It is important to approach the care of seniors who have dementia with a patient and understanding attitude, as well as a calm tone of voice, and a caring demeanor.

Our loved one’s sense of reality may be distorted, and quite different from ours, but it is still very real to the affected person. While it is not possible to change the person with dementia, we can take steps and use approaches that allow us to better accommodate problem behaviors. Both the environment you create at home and the way you communicate with your loved one can make a significant difference.

In this article we have assemble a list of tips that can help you provide care for elderly adults with dementia. Whether it is your own aging family member, or simply a client, all seniors deserve to be treated with proper care, respect, and dignity.

1. Identify the Cause of Behavior Problems

When confronted with behavioral issues, it is important to examine the behavior and determine whether it is actually a problem, or if it just seems unusual. Generally, if a behavior could result in an adverse outcome, such as the affected injuring themselves, or someone else, the behavior should be addressed accordingly.

Some behaviors may be embarrassing, disruptive or uncomfortable to be around, but may not actually be harmful. It is important not to try and correct these behaviors, as it could exacerbate or escalate the situation and create undue stress. Some behaviors exhibited by dementia patients can be quite strange, to say the least. However, behaviors that cannot result in harm to any person or thing should be excused.

If grandma Helen wants to wear silly outfits, or rummage through her closet trying on old clothes, let her. No harm done.

2. Look for Patterns to Predict and Prevent Problem Behaviors

Over time, and through observation, you can learn how to avoid situations or circumstances that act to trigger problem behaviors. Some seniors with dementia get frustrated and confused after sundown. Some get angry when it is time to bathe or eat. Some may be more prone to outbursts during winter, when the days are colder and shorter. Recognizing specific times when the affected is more prone to behavioral issues, and expecting them, will allow you to better respond to them when the issues arise.

Environmental changes, as well as introduction to new stimuli can both be triggering factors for behavioral issues. Understanding the “when and where” of these behaviors will help you understand the “why”.

3. Understanding Why Behaviors Occur

Begin by trying to understand why your loved one may be behaving this way, rather than what it is they are actually doing. For example, a person who disrobes may be feeling that their clothing is too tight, too hot or too itchy, or may need to use the bathroom.

It can be impossible for those with advanced dementia to verbally communicate their wants, needs, and desires. This can be incredibly frustrating for them, and may itself be a contributing factor to problem behaviors.

Are all of their basic needs being met? Could they be tired or need to use the bathroom? Be hungry, thirsty, or in pain? Meeting an unmet need can quickly resolve the reason for the behavior in the first place.

Examine body language and imagine what he or she might be thinking and what they might be feeling or trying to express.


People with dementia related conditions may often display behaviors that are unpredictable or outside the bounds of what others consider “normal” or socially acceptable. It may be tough to know when to worry and when to be flexible. If you require assistance caring for a loved one with dementia, it may be time to contact into senior placement services, and ask them about dementia care for your aging relative.