How to handle dementia-related behavioural changes with care

Find out how best to help locate the cause of and accommodate your loved one’s dementia-related behavioural changes with help from The Good Care Group.

Dementia-related behavioural changes can be challenging, both for you and for your loved one.

But, by finding out more about the causes and recommended responses, you can take steps to improve your loved one's mood and overall quality of life.

Let's take a look at why people with dementia are more likely to have significant behavioural changes and what you can do to alleviate distress.

Why do people with dementia have pronounced behavioural changes?

People with dementia are more likely to have rapid behavioural changes for a number of reasons.

The additional cognitive, emotional and physical challenges they face as a result of their condition can be a source of frustration, which can manifest as anger, depression, fear or other emotive states.

It may be that they're having difficulty communicating their needs, or carrying out a task that was once second nature. However, sometimes the cause of the behavioural change simply cannot be determined.

How can I accommodate these behavioural changes with care?

Dementia care is complicated, and all people with the condition react differently. Individuals can even present different symptoms on a day-to-day basis.

But, despite the unpredictable nature of dementia, there are some techniques you can use to try to balance out your loved one's emotions.


Dementia can make it harder for people to communicate verbally and this can lead to frustration. Try using a dementia communication technique such as the SPECAL method, avoiding asking too many direct questions and never contradict the sense of reality the person is making. Also, look for non-verbal and body language-related cues as to what they're feeling.


Be positive in your own speech and body language, and try using affectionate gestures (like holding hands or hugging) to help calm them.

Your aim is to accommodate, rather than control their behaviour. Don't highlight mistakes or inaccurate statements. Try changing the subject if they become fixated on a particular source of agitation.


Changes in behaviour usually signify something important your loved one wants to convey, or an unmet need they have. Keep a diary of behaviours and look for patterns in what was happening, where you were, the time of day and other relevant details. Make notes on the behaviour and how it was resolved. This may help you reflect on what's driving the behaviour.


Boredom or fatigue can often be behind a behavioural change.

Try to keep your loved one stimulated by putting on their favourite album or film. Alternatively, start a conversation about something they're passionate about.

Why not reminisce about old family memories, or sit with them and go through an old photo album?


Hunger and dehydration can increase the risk of confusion and create a need they might find difficult to communicate.

Think about the last time they ate or drank and offer them some nourishment. Also, don't forget to factor in the side effects of their medication and conditions such UTIs on their food and drink intake.


Agitation might be a sign that they're trying to burn off excess energy.

If they've been sedentary most of the day, ask them to help with a simple task to keep them active and give them a sense of purpose.

A walk might also help balance their emotions by providing both exercise and a welcome change of scenery.

If your loved one remains in distress for a lengthy period of time, you may want to check with a doctor to see whether there are any underlying causes.

Dementia care is complex, and often both emotionally and physically draining without the necessary knowledge and skills. But, by using this advice, you can help make life easier and more enjoyable for your loved one.

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