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Dementia Dot Point

Understanding changed behaviour

Behaviour can be influenced by internal factors such as joy, anxiety, past habits and experiences and external factors as diverse as overcrowding and loud noises through to beautiful scenery and pleasant music. Cognitive impairment can also influence behaviour.

Changed behaviours can be active behaviours such as aggression, repeated calling out and wanting to leave, or passive behaviours such as apathy or withdrawal.

A common emotional experience for the person with dementia is distress – this can emerge from frustration with being unable to communicate, confusion as to what is going on around them or feelings of being dependent on other people.

It is important not to see the person as one and the same as the behaviour. Instead, when there is changed behaviour, try to discover:

  • The underlying cause;
  • What the person may be communicating;
  • How they want us to respond, or how we should respond;
  • What support they need.

Some further carer ideas for supporting a person with distressed behaviour, particularly aggression or agitation:

  • Leaving the room – give both of you some space.
  • Pain – is a common cause of distress. Ask about pain or non-verbal signs of pain.
  • Using touch – to show appropriate levels of affection. Avoid if unwelcome.
  • Staying calm – and use calming words. This is not the time to insist on being right.
  • Regular exercise – such as going for a walk, swimming or gardening.
  • Music engagement – using personalised music provides calm and prompt reminiscence.
  • Life story activities – can be a box, book or anything that contains familiar and important items.
  • Keep a journal – to identify triggers and identify what is calming.
  • Massages or aromatherapy.
  • Pets – support relaxation.

Factual Advice Warning: Any information provided in this website is purely factual in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, situation or needs. The information is objectively ascertainable and is not intended to imply any recommendation or opinion. This does not constitute financial product advice under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).