1 Dementia and behavioural changes

For some people, having dementia can change their behaviour. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare yourself and deal with problems more effectively, but bear in mind that everyone is different and your relative might behave very differently.

Types of unusual behaviour

  • Repetitive behaviour: for example, carrying out the same gesture or activity or asking the same question repeatedly.
  • Restlessness: for example, pacing up and down or fidgeting. This might be a sign that they are hungry, thirsty, in pain, stressed, upset, angry or in need of the toilet.
  • Lack of inhibition can be a problem with some types of dementia: his or her confusion might cause them to behave in a way that people find embarrassing, such as undressing in public, swearing or making inappropriate comments, or exhibiting sexual behaviour. Trying to undress could mean that they need the toilet. Having the support of your local mental health team is important when behaviour becomes distressing to the person and their family and friends.
  • Night-time waking: some people with dementia are restless at night and find it difficult to sleep. Dementia can affect people's body clocks so that they may get up in the night, get dressed or even go outside. Getting advice and support from your GP or local mental health team is important, to ensure safety and help you with managing your own need for rest and sleep.
  • Trailing and checking: dementia can make people insecure and anxious, so they may follow carers or loved ones to check where they are.
  • Hiding and losing things: people with dementia sometimes hide things and then forget where they are – or forget that they have hidden them at all.
  • Paranoia: some people with dementia can become suspicious and paranoid. For example, if they have mislaid an object they may accuse someone of stealing it, or they might imagine that a close friend or family member is out to get them.