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Difficult Behaviors

2018-07 FTHC In-Service:

Difficult Behaviors

Part 1: Behaviors

Alzheimer's disease and related dementias can cause a person to act in different and unpredictable ways. Some individuals with Alzheimer's become anxious or aggressive. Others repeat certain questions or gestures. Many misinterpret what they see or hear.

These types of reactions can lead to misunderstanding, frustration and tension, particularly between the person with the dementia and the caregiver.  It is important to understand the the person is not acting this way on purpose.

Causes of behavior changes 

  • Physical discomfort caused by an illness or medications

  • Over-stimulation from loud noises or a busy environment

  • Unfamiliar surroundings such as new places or inability to recognize home.

  • Complicated tasks

  • Frustrating interactions due to the inability to communicate effectively


Use this three-step approach to help identify common behaviors and their causes

Identify and examine the behavior

  • What was the behavior? Is is harmful to the individual or others?

  • What happened before the behavior occurred? Did something trigger the behavior?

  • What happened immediately after the behavior occurred? How did you react?

  • Consult a physician to identify any causes related  to medications or illness.

Explore potential solutions

  • What are the needs of the person with dementia? Are they being met?

  • Can adapting the surroundings comfort the person? Can you lower the noise level or turn on lights?

  • How can you change your reaction or your approach to the behavior? Are you responding in a calm and supportive way?

Try different responses

  • Did your new response help?

  • Do you need to explore other potential causes and solutions? If so, what can you do differently?

Continue to Part 2

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