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How to deal with Dementia people

June 10, 2019

     Sometimes we might not know how to talk, and how to behave around people with dementia. The most important is to try to understand them, asking ourselves questions: Why, When, How, What, Where - that will help us when we might deal with difficult situations.

     If we deal with problem behaviour we need to see the outcome, can they result in harm to self or others? Some behaviour might be embarrassing or uncomfortable but may not actually be harmful. It is important to avoid correcting or intervening that might lead to escalation of the situation and know when to let some things go. For example: “Mary (person with dementia) is putting 3 layers of trousers -  most of us will think that this is embarrassing… but Mary is happy at the moment and not harming anyone, so why not let her do that?”, we must know and separate some behaviours, if there is no harm we need to let it go. We need to allow some sense of freedom and control, create space and let them make choices when possible.

     Look for patterns that will help you to predict or prevent some behaviour. Asking the questions: What happened before, Is there certain time when that behaviour occurs, maybe certain time of the year?

     Sometimes the environmental changes might change behaviour of the person with dementia, for example new place with new surroundings that the person does not recognize, maybe the place is too loud, maybe is too many distractions that the person can’t deal with.

     Understanding the person with dementia is important; sometimes that person might struggle to communicate, might be stressed and can’t explain why, if we know why this is happening we might help to lower that stress and help with the discomfort.

     If you try to put yourself in their “shoes” looking at their body language and imagining what they might think or try express will help you with better understanding them.

     Make sure that the person with dementia needs are complete, maybe they are tired- let them have a rest; maybe they need to use the toilet? ; Maybe they are hungry, thirsty or in pain? ; Quite often if those first needs are met in the first place then the difficult behaviour might be resolved quickly.

Validate the person with dementia feelings.

     If the person with dementia is upset, don’t try to explain that their thinking is wrong, or that they don’t need to be worried. Let them know that you understand that they’re upset and that you want to help. It is important to remember that the person with dementia responds to your body language, facial expression and tone of voice. Use eye contact, a smile or reassuring touch. If there are behaviour problems- don’t take them personally and always try to stay calm.

     Don’t argue, instead try to look for opportunities to agree, for example: the person is looking for a home keys, instead of saying no say: yes, I will make sure to get your keys as soon as we change the locks, the old ones are not working properly. Then the distraction (example) - would you like a cup of tea?


Remembering the past - knowing the person favourite song, food drink, scent, photographs or any items that they enjoy will help in difficult situations.

     Using familiar music, engaging in a favourite hobby or interest, for example: (knowing the past of the person will help), Mary used to bake a lot – sitting with Mary at the table and asking her to help with making a cake, even the simple one, let Mary to pour the flour into the bowl, etc. Be creative and the person will feel appreciate and that is still needed.


Try to remember that some of the behaviours do not define the person with Dementia, if they had the ability, they would probably choose to act differently.