Managing Difficult Dementia Behaviors

Managing Difficult Dementia Behaviors

Dementia often causes difficult behaviors in those we love due to confusion or memory issues. Your loved one may also become more easily agitated, have mood swings, wander, try to manipulate the situation, or show poor judgment. These dementia behaviors—and several others—are normal. But, for caregivers, they create unique challenges. While you can’t take these behaviors away, you can use tools to manage them. 

Agitation is the most common reason Americans place loved ones with dementia in nursing homes. There are more than 5 million Americans with dementia,1 and 80% of them may develop behavioral symptoms such as aggression, hallucinations, or delusions at some point..

As the geriatric population grows, health care practitioners will increasingly encounter distressed caregivers of dementia patients asking for help in handling difficult behaviors. Though most agitation is probably a result of deteriorative changes, health care professionals can influence behaviors.

Here are ways to manage difficult dementia behaviors:

REASSURE the person. Put the person with dementia’s feelings first. He or she cannot change; YOU have to change, or you have to change the immediate environment.

Collect yourself (no matter how irritated you are). People with dementia are sensitive to others’ moods and will pick yours up and mirror it. So take a deep breath. Count to 3. Or do a silent scream in the bathroom. Remind yourself, “It’s not him/her. It’s the dementia!” 

Avoid making the mistake of assuming they’ll forget your angry moment. Although it’s true that people with dementia tend to quickly forget what was said, the emotional impact of an encounter (negative OR positive) lasts much longer! 


Approach slowly and from the front. You’re less apt to startle, confuse, or provoke. 

Play back the person’s emotions and ask questions: “You sound upset.” “You look sad. Can I help?” “I know this bothers you. Let’s see what I can do.” 

Try developing a go-to mantra for soothing: “I’m here.” “Everything’s OK.” “Not to worry, love.” 

Make your body language match your words. Avoid sighing or rolling your eyes. Smile, nod, use a friendly tone, relax your posture. Unspoken factors convey more than half of any message. Try touching an arm or shoulder. 


Say things like “Calm down!” This has the opposite effect — it raises anxiety. 

Ask, “What’s wrong?” When someone doesn’t know or can’t answer, it’s irritating. 

Try to reason with the person (no matter how tempting). Logic and argument will not work. Period.

Things to Keep in Mind When Dealing With Difficult Behaviors

What’s not okay? People with Alzheimer’s or dementia often exhibit behaviors that are unpredictable and may be 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.

In general, try to remember that these behaviors do not define the person, they are just a product of the disease. If your loved one had the ability, they would probably choose to act differently.

Also, remember to practice patience and forgiveness. The disease, not the person, is likely causing these things to occur. Try to let things go and avoid holding a grudge over something they may not have meant to do or say, or even remember doing. The exception is if your loved one becomes a physical danger to themselves or others. Physically abusive behavior is not okay. Even a one-time occurrence should be communicated to your physician or other healthcare or mental health provider immediately to ensure your loved one’s safety as well as your own.

Finally, there are so many more behavior interventions, treatments and specialty care providers now than ever before. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

Wandering – How to Manage Wandering & Roaming

A stressful or over-stimulating environment can cause an individual with dementia to leave home or place of care without anyone noticing.

Stress can trigger disorientation and fear which may prompt a wandering episode.

Below are our strategies for management of dementia-induced wandering behavior:

  • Reduce noise in the home, including loud TVs, computers, or exhaust fans can prevent increased levels of stress and anxiety.
  • If they are able, encourage your loved one to engage in physical activity – exercise, dancing, or movement games – to reduce restlessness and promote restful sleep.
  • If your loved one begins pacing or appears distressed, offer reassurance he or she is secure and in a safe place.
  • Remove items commonly taken when leaving the home, such as keys, wallets, jewelry, and purses.
  • Talk to the doctor about pain treatment options. A dementia patient may be wandering in an attempt to escape pain and discomfort.

About Dementia & Wandering Behavior

As dementia progresses, it can be difficult for your loved one to remember major environmental and life changes.

They may mistakenly engage in old routines, such as leaving the house to go to work at a job they have long since retired from or to visit a store no longer in business.

In addition, wandering can be caused by pain and discomfort, a lack of physical activity or simply by searching for locations related to normal, daily activities, such as the bathroom or kitchen.

Considering the rapid rise in the rate of dementia and the toll it takes on individuals, families, caregivers and healthcare systems, it’s not surprising that experts are intent on exploring and testing new treatments and therapies. Non-drug approaches not only avoid the side effects of medication, there is increasing evidence that they help reduce challenging behaviours associated with dementia, making life a bit easier for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Change with Your Loved One

Every person’s progression with dementia is different. You may have to try several tactics or change your approach as your loved one changes. Keep a journal of behaviors to help you track triggers and resolutions. This may help you see the bigger picture and know when it’s time to adjust.


Contact Us


Braley Care Homes

6192 US 60

Hurricane, WV 25526


Phone Numbers:

Referrals and Inquiries: (304) 767-4033

Facility Phone: (304) 201-3677

Facility Fax: (304) 201-3678


Daily Activities For A Loved One With Alzheimer’s​

Daily Activities For A Loved One With Alzheimer's

Doing things we enjoy gives us pleasure and adds meaning to our lives. People with Alzheimer’s disease need to be active and do things they enjoy. However, it’s not easy for them to plan their days and do different tasks.


People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble deciding what to do each day, which could make them fearful and worried or quiet and withdrawn, or they may have trouble starting tasks. Remember, the person is not being lazy. He or she might need help organizing the day or doing an activity.


Keep a Routine

Planning daily activities doesn’t come easily to people with Alzheimer’s. They also tend to prefer familiar habits, places, and tasks.

But daily routines help them focus on activities they find meaningful. If they know what to expect, it can also lessen frustration and improve their mood.

When you plan a daily routine for the person you care for, think about:

  • Their likes and dislikes
  • How they used to spend their days
  • Times of day they feel freshest: Things like bathing or going to a doctor’s appointment are easier when your loved one feels rested.
  • Regular times for waking up and going to sleep: Don’t let them nap several times during the day, or for long periods. This could disrupt their sense of day and night.

Place familiar objects around the house, such as family photos and mementos. These can make them feel more secure and connected.

Familiar smells and pastimes are also comforting. A favorite dessert and a TV show can be a pleasure for someone who always enjoyed those things after dinner or started their day that way, even if they can’t totally understand the show’s plot.


Here’s a source of unconditional love. Pets convey their needs in ways that everyone, including people with Alzheimer’s, easily understands, and they provide comfort. Relax by watching birds from a window or fish in an aquarium.

Encourage visual expression
Painting and drawing are ways to express feelings safely and with creativity. Encourage using bold, bright colors on big surfaces. Rolls of butcher paper enable seniors with dementia to create without encountering the stress of defined spaces.

Watch old movies and TV shows
Did your aging parent grow up watching westerns like “Gunsmoke” or “My Darling Clementine”? Did they prefer musicals like “The King and I” or “Singing in the Rain”? You can find old favorites at your local library or streaming online. Add some movie snacks for a fun family activity!

Building and creating art
Building and creating art can be quite stimulating. Consider embroidery, painting, and even paper mache or wood projects. Physical activities like kneading clay, scrubbing, or sanding help the mind focus and has easily become a favorite of all the residents at Shaker Place.


Household chores 

Work in tandem while washing dishes, setting the table, sweeping, dusting, sorting laundry, clipping coupons and recycling. Working together as a team can be helpful to caregivers by taking one more task off their shoulders, while the routine of these everyday chores can be useful for the patient.


This can mean different things for different people. Depending on skill level and physical limitations, exercise can mean anything from taking a walk together to using a stationary bike, using stretch bands or watching exercise videos geared towards the appropriate audience.


Going out 

If you are a caregiver, try to make plans for outings during a time of day when your loved one is at his/her best temperament and also keep the outing short. Potential outings could include dining at a favorite restaurant, visiting a museum or taking a stroll through a park or shopping mall.


Things to remember

  • Participating in suitable activities can help a person with dementia to achieve purpose and pleasure.
  • Activities play a significant part in dealing with challenging behaviours.
  • There are many ways to plan and provide appropriate activities for people with dementia.
  • Understanding what makes the person unique can help you plan suitable activities for them.
  • Always talk to the person’s doctor before starting on any new exercise program.
  • A physiotherapist can design an exercise program that takes the person’s current health and abilities into account.


Contact Us


Braley Care Homes

6192 US 60

Hurricane, WV 25526


Phone Numbers:

Referrals and Inquiries: (304) 767-4033

Facility Phone: (304) 201-3677

Facility Fax: (304) 201-3678