As a caregiver for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll have to deal with a variety of different behaviors which can vary from confusion to angry outbursts. Having to deal with and understand these can be incredibly stressful but, thankfully, there are new ways that you can approach these difficult behavioral patterns.

The first thing to remember is that your loved one isn’t being difficult on purpose. Their sense of reality is entirely different to yours but how they’re feeling is still very real to them. Therefore, as a caregiver, you need to employ effective strategies that will help to accommodate these difficult behaviors. You can do this by thinking about how you’re communicating with your loved one and what environment you’re creating within the home.

To get you through these difficult times, why not try the five-pronged approach using the what, when, where, why and how technique that is outlined in the book: When Caring Takes Courage: A Compassionate and Interactive Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers?

The What

The first thing you need to do is establish what the causes of the dementia behavior problems are. You can do this by objectively examining your loved one’s behavior, this will help you to identify whether these are problem behaviors (ones that could have an adverse effect on your loved one or those around them) or not.

Some of your loved one’s behavior may make you feel uncomfortable and can be disruptive and embarrassing but might not be harmful. To avoid escalating these types of situations, try to avoid intervening or correcting them, instead letting things go where you can. This will enable you to protect your loved one while still giving them the freedom they want and need.

The When

Next, you should start to look for patterns in your loved one’s behavior that will help you to predict when their problem behaviors are going to arise so you can prevent them. To do this, you need to ask yourself what happened just before their behavior started, e.g. was there a trigger point; is it a certain time of day that their behavior gets worse, e.g. when they’re going to bed; and are there times of the year when things get worse; e.g. during the colder winter months.

If you are finding it hard to cope with your loved one’s behavior at certain times of the year, it may be worth seeking professional help like that which is offered here ( This will help to relieve the stress on both you and your loved one.

The Where

Is your loved one being affected by changes in their environment? For example, when their behavior started, what did they see? Was the environment noisy, did it look different to what they’re used to or did it smell different? You should also look to see whether any other stimuli were introduced to them and whether these changes helped or hindered your loved one.

The Why

Identifying what’s causing the dementia behavior problems will help you to calm the situation in the future. So, start by focusing on why they’re behaving in this manner instead of looking at what it is that they’re doing. For example, if someone starts to take their clothes off, it may be because they’re too hot, their clothing is uncomfortable or they need to go to the bathroom.

Understand that these dementia behaviors are often a reaction to something as they get frustrated trying to communicate their feelings. If you can discover what’s triggering their stress, you should be able to solve the problem with much more ease.

The How

If you find that it is a problem behavior that you’re trying to tackle, here are some tips as to how you can get through those challenging moments.

Firstly, you should try to validate the feelings that your loved one is having. Telling them that they’re wrong or that they shouldn’t be reacting this way is more likely to agitate them because they’ll feel as though you’re not listening to them properly. Tell them you understand why they feel this way and that you want to offer your help to them.

When you’re expressing these feelings, it’s important to remember that your loved one is going to respond to your tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. Speak softly and reassuringly while smiling and using eye contact.

Instead of contradicting them, you should accept what they’re saying, offering a solution in the process. For example, if they keep asking for their car keys, you could say that you’ll give them to them when the mechanic has fixed their car before asking them where you’re going to go first when they get them.

Finally, offer them familiar things to calm the situation, such as music, favorite items or photos. Having these on hand when their behavior starts to escalate will help you to try and soothe the situation before it gets out of control.

Jayden Armstrong is a carer in an eldercare facility and has to deal with patients who have dementia on a daily basis. Often heartbreaking he has some coping strategies to help the elderly as well as himself deal with this disease. He shares his thoughts and tips in his articles.

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