Dementia Care Site Map
Dementia & Behaviour


As dementia affects each person in different ways, knowing the particular reasons or triggers as to why a person is displaying unusual behaviour will help the person with dementia, their families and the carers to understand and choose options.

Dementia is a result of changes that take place in the brain which affect the person's memory, mood, reactions and responses. Sometimes these reactions may be related to the changes taking place in the brain.

In other instances, the behaviour may be triggered by changes in the person's environment, health or medication. Remember that a behaviour change is not deliberate!


Causes of behaviour change

Always discuss concerns about behaviour changes with the person's GP, who will be able to check whether there is an underlying condition.


It is very important to get the correct information and diagnosis, so as other potentially reversible conditions that can exacerbate the symptoms of dementia can be addressed and treated.


Some of these reversible conditions may include:

  • Infections such as urinary tract infections
  • Side effects from medications
  • Depression and/or anxiety disorders
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Hormone deficiencies


Ways to improve the outcome following periods of unusual behaviour

Symptoms may vary from person to person, but consider the following:

  • The person with dementia may have difficulty expressing their needs and desires. Try and identify what it is they would like.
  • Speak to the person slowly and calmly with a reassuring voice.
  • Provide a calm environment in which the person can follow a familiar routine. Plan a predictable daily routine, taking advantage of the person's best time of day to undertake tasks, such as bathing and dressing.
  • Try to keep the environment familiar. People with dementia can become upset if they find themselves in a strange situation or among a group of unfamiliar people where they feel confused and are having difficulty functioning.


Minimising the distress of behaviour changes

  • Involve the person in a meaningful activity e.g. play their favourite music, or reminiscing about a happy occasion that they remember or bake a cake together.
  • Make a list of activities, people or places that the person enjoys now and plan these things more frequently.
  • Encourage the person to exercise regularly; gentle exercise such as walking or swimming may assist in improving the person's quality of life. You may like to join in!
  • Joining a support group may assist the person in the early stages of dementia and may also assist their family or carer to understand the condition and how to best improve their quality of life.


For more information see Alzheimer's Australia Help sheet on Changed Behaviours and dementia


Some information on Support Groups can be found on our website.


Support services for people with dementia and their family


  • Your Doctor or Health Professional


  • Carers Vic (Carer Support)      Telephone: 1800 242 636




Telephone: 1800 699 799.


Summary: Dementia and behaviour changes

  • Dementia can lead to behaviour changes, which may cause distress to the person with dementia and place added pressure on carers.
  • Understanding why someone is behaving in a particular way can help families and carers to cope with the condition.
  • Discuss your concerns about behaviour changes with the family Doctor.
  • Always remember that the behaviour is not deliberate, it is a symptom of the person's condition.