A guide to understanding dementia behaviour

Dementia is one of the biggest challenges within the care world right now and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, therefore, understanding dementia is vital.

It’s widely reported that the care system is facing a ‘dementia tsunami, which looks set to have an unprecedented impact on the current healthcare system and the long-term care infrastructure. 

As people continue to live longer lives, it’s anticipated that dementia will affect every single one of us, either directly or through our loved ones. With this in mind, here’s some further insight into understanding and handling dementia, as well as the future of the condition:

What to do if someone you know has dementia.

Good communication is key

Living with dementia can be lonely and confusing. Regular interaction, whether that’s with a loved one or carer, is crucial for providing people with dementia with mental stimulation and monitoring their overall health and wellbeing.

It’s also proven that people living with dementia tend to retain their social skills so, where possible, lighten the mood and inject humour into your conversations, but never at their expense.

Click to see how laughter is effective in dementia treatment 

Having good levels of communication is critical to this. Among many things, it can help make caregiving far less stressful overall and be particularly useful when dealing with challenging behaviour, (which we’ll cover a bit further down in this post).

It’s not uncommon for people living with dementia to become easily upset or frustrated, especially if they’re being asked to recall incidents or conversations they simply can’t remember. If this happens, one of the best things you can do is change the subject or environment, and then revisit the subject when they’re feeling less agitated. You could ask them to go for a walk, pop to the shops or help you out with a small task instead.

People with dementia often feel confused, anxious and unsure of themselves. In some instances, they may even refer to situations that may never have happened. In these situations, it’s essential that you never try to convince them that they’re wrong. Instead, offer them reassurance, comfort and support.


Accommodate, don’t control troubling behaviour

Dementia causes problems with thinking, memory and reasoning due to the parts of the brain that are used for learning, memory, decision-making and language, becoming damaged or diseased.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. Between 60 and 80% of people are reportedly said to have Alzheimer’s, but there are also as many as 50 other causes of dementia.

Due to the way dementia affects the brain, it’s not uncommon for those with the condition to experience personality and behaviour changes. It’s these changes that can lead to troubling behaviour.

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that it’s not possible to control the behaviour, so it’s vital that you try and accommodate it instead. For example, if the person insists on sleeping in a new place, don’t argue with them, instead try and make them as comfortable as possible.

Unfortunately, people with dementia find it difficult to explicitly communicate what they need. They may suddenly decide to reorganise all of the contents inside their kitchen cupboards every day, which may make no sense to us, but will have a purpose behind it for them.

Frequent personality and behaviour changes can also mean that solutions that may have worked one day, may not necessarily work the next. Where possible, make sure you’re continuing to communicate well with each other and be flexible and patient at all times.

The behaviour we’ve just explored above is only the tip of the iceberg. Incontinence, agitation, repetitive speech and/or actions, paranoia and sleeplessness, are just some of the other challenges associated with dementia.

Click here for advice on caring for someone with Autism.


Useful resources

Where you can, do your research and take the time to understand dementia by reading posts, such as this one, and tapping into your local support networks, such as charities, online forums and helplines. Click here to find some useful resources to get you started. You might also find these books useful too:


The future of dementia

The cost of dementia to the UK economy reportedly stands at £23 billion a year and one in four people in hospital has dementia. As mentioned at the very start of this post, it’s a tsunami that’s on course to impact the healthcare system head on and it’s only a matter of time when it does fully strike.

Fortunately, awareness of the challenges posed by dementia is high among care professionals, as well as those working in public health, community, business and technology - sectors that will all play a part in delivering solutions to this very real problem.

Better prevention, better diagnosis early on, improved caregiving support and wider residential options are just some of the solutions that have been recognised as being paramount to effectively managing the condition from the ground up. However, they aren’t solutions that can be achieved overnight, it’ll take greater overall awareness and collaborative working across multiple sectors, for many years to come.

We hope you’ve found this post useful. For more details or to discuss any of the details further with us, contact us on 03300 55 22 88 or

Click here for dementia-related care home supplies or learn how we helped one care home meet the needs of their residents here.

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