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dementia behaviors

With at least 50 million sufferers worldwide, dementia is a tragically common disease. And, because the disease is so debilitating, all those sufferers will need someone to take care of them.

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a monumental challenge. You need a variety of tools and knowledge in order to do the job right, and that’s why we’re here.

One of the most important aspects of dementia care is recognizing and responding to dementia behaviors. So in this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common dementia behaviors and how you should best respond to them.

Things to Remember

Before we begin, we want to remind you of a few key things.

First and foremost, don’t take any of your loved one’s actions personally. They suffer from a debilitating and transformative brain disease and their personality will change dramatically because of it.

We know it can be hard to see your loved one behave in the ways we talk about below, but it’s imperative that you show them love and understanding. If you show them anger or sadness, that will only make things worse.

Second, never try to change your loved one. You can make certain adjustments to influence their behavior, but never try to force them to behave in a certain way. Caring for a loved one with dementia is all about patience, accommodation, and understanding.

Third, it’s important to remember that every behavior has a cause. Finding out what causes the behavior and dealing with the problem at its root is the key to proper dementia care. That’s why we’ll focus on keeping your loved one happy and satisfied throughout this list.

Common Dementia Behaviors and How to Respond to Them

There are many behaviors associated with dementia, but below, we discuss some of the most common symptoms.

These include wandering, refusing to eat, incontinence, frustrated outbursts, and ‘sundowning’ – read on to find out more.


Wandering is one of the most common and also one of the most dangerous dementia behaviors. It’s common because it’s a response to a variety of needs such as hunger, thirst, and restlessness. It’s dangerous because, if you’re not careful, a wandering loved one can easily get lost.

One of the easiest ways to reduce wandering is to schedule regular exercise. All humans have a desire to be physically active, and that includes people suffering from dementia.

A wandering loved one may also be looking for food or water. We’ll talk more about food and drink below.

Even if you do everything right, your loved one may wander from time to time, and you need to be prepared.

Consider placing locks on all your doors so you need a key to get both in and out. Place barriers such as curtains or signs in front of doors leading outside. And make sure your neighbors have your contact information in case they see your loved one outside of the house.

Refusing to Eat

Sometimes, dementia sufferers will forget to eat or refuse food that’s given to them. To combat this, develop a routine around eating. Eat at the same times every day and make sure the food is something nutritious that your loved one likes to eat (remember what they used to eat?).

They might not want you to feed them, so give them foods that are easy to eat. Make eating a pleasant experience by including music or a bouquet of flowers. And space meals out throughout the day so your loved one is never too hungry or too full.


Dementia sufferers often have trouble using the bathroom on their own. Of course, the easiest way to deal with this is by having them wear diapers, but you should also try to prevent them from using them.

Take them to the bathroom at regular intervals whether or not they say anything. Don’t let them drink too many liquids before going to bed at night. And set up signs around the house that will help them find the bathroom on their own.

Diapers are still probably a good idea but you don’t want to rely on them.

Frustrated Outburts

Without a doubt, suffering from dementia is an incredibly frustrating experience. Things that were once easy become confusing, and after a certain point, confusion becomes a natural part of your mental state.

When your loved one becomes angry, don’t argue or raise your voice; give them love and understanding. If something in specific is upsetting them, try to take their mind off of it by suggesting an activity. And always make sure they get enough sleep (more on that below).

It often helps to leave signs around the house with simple reminders to put their mind at ease. For example, if they’re upset a family member isn’t there, leave a sign out reminding them what time they’ll be home.

And, as always, try to determine if there’s an underlying cause and deal with it in a loving way.


Oftentimes, dementia sufferers will behave more erratically late in the day. And sometimes, they’ll continue their behavior throughout the night.

This is a phenomenon known as ‘sundowning’, and though we don’t know with certainty, its probably caused by a disruption in the sufferer’s circadian rhythm.

To avoid this behavior, make sure your loved one is exercising regularly and don’t let them rest or nap during the day. Nighttime should be a calm quiet time so that your loved one can relax and ease into sleep. If their sundowning becomes a major issue, you can use sleeping medication but we don’t encourage this.

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

We know how hard it is to take care of a loved one with dementia. It can be a completely draining experience, both physically and mentally. And dealing with dementia behaviors is just one of many obstacles you’ll face.

While we encourage you to be involved in your loved one’s care, we understand you can’t be with them at all times and you need to continue living your own life.

We want to help you. We offer state-of-the-art care facilities and a loving atmosphere. Contact us to arrange a tour of our facilities today.