Dementia Care Techniques

Dementias can cause people to act in unexpected and volatile ways. Often people with dementia can get anxious or act in an aggressive manner. Some people may repeat certain questions, statements or movements. Many individuals may misinterpret what they hear or what was said.

These kinds of reactions can result in misunderstanding, frustration and tension between the caregiver and the person with dementia. It is important to realize that the person with cognitive impairment is not trying to be difficult and that their behavior is the way the communicate.

After you have identified the signs of dementia and come to understand the stages of dementia, it is time to deal with the symptoms of dementia and learn how to identify and address common dementia related behaviors.

Typical challenging behaviors to identify and address include

Aggressive verbal behavior (such as shouting or name calling) and physical behavior like hitting or pushing. It is imperative to try to understand the cause of the anger, as it can occur suddenly with no apparent reason or can result from a frustrating situation.

Potential Response


Rule Out Pain as the Cause


Pain can cause a person with dementia to act aggressively.

Identify the Immediate Cause

Think about what happened right before, which may have triggered the behavior.

Focus on Feelings, Not Facts

Look for the feelings behind the words or actions.

Avoid Getting Upset

Be positive and reassuring. Speak slowly in a soft tone.

Limit Distractions

Examine the person’s surroundings and adapt them to avoid other similar situations.

Try a Relaxing Activity

Use music, massage or exercise to help soothe the person.

Shift the Focus

If a situation or activity causes an aggressive response, try something different.

Take a Break

If the person is in a safe environment and you are able, walk away and take a moment for yourself.

Ensure Safety

Keep yourself and the other person safe. If the person cannot calm down, get assistance from someone else and call 911 in case of an emergency.

People with dementia can become anxious or agitated for many reasons. It helps to learn what triggers this response by looking at the person’s surroundings, the time of day, what has just occurred. Evaluate potential sources of pain, hunger, need for sleep and sudden changes.

Potential Response


Check for Pain


Pain can often trigger anxiety or agitation. Sources include being in an uncomfortable situation, injury, reaction to medication or a urinary tract infection.

Listen to the Frustration

Find out what may be causing the anxiety.

Provide Reassurance

Use calming phrases. Let the individual know you are there.

Involve the Person in Activities

Engage the person in art, music or other activities to distract them from anxiety and promote relaxation.

Modify the Environment

Decrease noise and distractions or relocate the person.

Find Outlets for Energy

The person may want something to do. Take a walk or go for a car ride.

People with dementia or Alzheimer’s may not recognize familiar people, places or things. They may forget relationships, call family members by other names or become confused about where they live. The purpose of common items, such as a pen or fork may also be forgotten. These situations can be difficult for caregivers.

Potential Response


Stay Calm


Lack of recognition can be painful but try not to make your hurt apparent.

Provide a Brief Explanation

Avoid overwhelming the person with lengthy responses. Instead, clarify with a simple explanation.

Show Pictures & Reminders

Use photographs and other thought provoking items to remind the person of important relationships and places.

Offer Corrections as Suggestions

Avoid explanations that sound like scolding. Try “I
thought it was a fork,” or “I think he is your grandson”

Avoid Taking it Personally

Dementia causes forgetfulness, but your support and understanding will continue to be appreciated.

People with dementia may do or say something over and over again, such as a word, question or activity. The person may also pace or undo what has just been done. In most cases, they are likely seeking comfort, security and familiarity. These actions are rarely harmful, but can be stressful for the caregiver.

Potential Response


Look for a reason


Try to find out if there is a specific cause or trigger for the repetitive behavior.

Focus on the emotion

Rather than reacting to what the person is doing, respond to how he or she is feeling.

Turn Action into Activity

If the person is rubbing his or her hand across the table, provide a cloth and ask for help with dusting.

Stay Calm & Be Patient

Reassure the person with a calm voice and gentle touch.

Provide an Answer

Give the person the answer that they are looking for, even if you have to repeat it several times. It may help to write it down and post it in a prominent location.

Engage in an Activity

The individual may simply be bored and need a distraction. Engage the person in an activity like taking a walk or working on a puzzle.

Use Memory Aids

Offer reminders that are meaningful to the individual like notes, clocks, calendars or photographs.

Memory loss and confusion may cause a person with Alzheimer’s to perceive things in new and unusual ways. Individuals may become suspicious of those around them, even accusing others of theft, infidelity or other improper behavior. Sometimes a person with the disease may misinterpret what he or she sees and hears.

Potential Response


Don’t Take Offense


Listen to what is troubling the person and try to be understanding. Then be reassuring, respond to the feeling and let the person know you care.

Don’t Argue or Convince

Allow the individual to express ideas. Acknowledge their opinions.

Offer a Simple Answer

Share your thoughts, but keep it simple. Lengthy explanations can be overwhelming.

Change Focus to Another Activity

Engage the individual in an activity or ask for help with a chore.

Duplicate Lost Items

If the person often searches for a specific item, have several available. For example, if the individual is always looking for his or her wallet, purchase two of the same kind.

It is common for a people with dementia to wander off and/or become lost. This can happen at any stage of the disease. In fact, 6 in 10 individuals with Alzheimer’s will wander at some point. They may try to go home when already there or attempt to recreate a familiar routine, such as going to school or work. As the disease progresses, the person with dementia will need increased supervision. At some point, it will no longer be safe for him or her to be left alone.

Potential Response


Encourage Activity


Keeping the person with dementia active and engaged can help discourage wandering behavior by reducing anxiety and restlessness. Involve the person in activities such as doing dishes, folding laundry or preparing dinner. If the person shows interest in getting out of the house, consider safe outdoor activities such as an accompanied walk or gardening.

Inform Others

Make sure friends, family and neighbors know that the person has Alzheimer’s and that wandering may occur.

Make the Home Safe

Install deadbolt or slide-bolt locks on exterior doors and limit access to potentially dangerous areas.

Top-Rated Home Care and Support for Dementia & Alzheimer’s Patients

Dementia Helpers offers specialized home care and support services to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients throughout Chicago and the North Shore suburbs including both Cook County and Lake County. We provide our in-home dementia care and specialized memory care services to residents of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Grayslake, Gurnee, Highland Park, Fort Sheridan, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Lincolnwood, Lincolnshire, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Round Lake Beach, Skokie, Vernon Hills, Wilmette and Winnetka.

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