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Dementia: Responsive Behaviours

​​​​​​Responsive Behaviours

People with dementia often use behaviours such as wandering, pacing, cursing and calling out to tell us what they want or how they feel. This behaviour may be in response to:

  • pain, hunger, thirst, or constipation
  • feeling tired, too hot or too cold
  • feeling lonely or sad
  • being bored, having no purpose
  • they need to go to the bathroom
  • feeling too busy or rushed
  • feeling confused about things they see or hear (too much noise)
  • missing familiar people and places
  • feeling afraid, liking or not liking something
  • a medical condition or issue
  • medicine side effects
  • not sleeping well

Sometimes a simple solution makes a difference: pain medicine, an afternoon nap, sleeping in, a snack, daytime sunlight, or doing something they enjoy. Sometimes a solution can be harder to find.

Please talk with the care team about:

  • What they may be trying to tell us.
  • What’s helped before or if you have another idea that might help.
  • Anything the care team should know.
  • Your questions and concerns.

Ways to Approach People with Dementia

There are ways to approach people with dementia, to help them feel respected, safe, and understood. These can prevent responsive behaviours. Some examples are to:

  • Smile! Be gentle and welcoming.
  • Use fewer words. Give them time to respond.
  • Give information instead of testing memory: “I’m your sister Mary”, not “Do you know who I am?
  • Help them be as independent as possible.
  • Not to argue or insist.
  • Offer choices.
  • Encourage them to talk about memories and things they enjoy: “Tell me about your mom.”

Current as of: April 1, 2019

Author: Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services