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Support & Insight for the Autumn of Life

11 Tips on Personality & Behavior Changes in Alzheimer’s

Senior with caregiver

In dementia, the brain loses a number of abilities. This can change a person’s personality and behavior. Use this tip sheet’s suggestions to better understand them.

Changes in the way people act can be one of the biggest challenges in caring for people with Alzheimer’s.

There is much you can do to smooth the journey.

Common Changes in Personality and Behavior

Common personality and behavior changes you may see include:

  • Getting upset, worried, and angry more easily

  • Acting depressed or not interested in things

  • Hiding things or believing other people are hiding things

  • Imagining things that aren’t there

  • Wandering away from home

  • Pacing a lot

  • Showing unusual sexual behavior

  • Hitting you or other people

  • Misunderstanding what he or she sees or hears

You also may notice that the person stops caring about how he or she looks, stops bathing, and wants to wear the same clothes every day.
In addition to changes in the brain, other things may affect how people with
Alzheimer’s behave:

  • Feelings such as sadness, fear, stress, confusion, or anxiety
  • Health-related problems, including illness, pain, new medications, or lack of sleep

  • Other physical issues like infections, constipation, hunger or thirst, or problems seeing or hearing

  • Problems in their surroundings, like too much noise or being in an unfamiliar place

If you don’t know what is causing the problem, call the doctor. It could be caused by a physical or medical issue.

Keep Things Simple… and Other Tips

Caregivers cannot stop Alzheimer’s-related changes in personality and behavior, but
they can learn to cope with them. Here are some tips:

  1. Keep things simple. Ask or say one
    thing at a time.
  2. Have a daily routine, so the person
    knows when certain things will
  3. Reassure the person that he or she is
    safe and you are there to help.
  4. Focus on his or her feelings rather
    than words. For example, say,
    “You seem worried.”
  5. Don’t argue or try to reason with the
  6. Try not to show your frustration or
    anger. If you get upset, take deep
    breaths and count to 10. If it’s safe,
  7. leave the room for a few minutes.
  8. Use humor when you can.
  9. Give people who pace a lot a safe place to walk.
  10. Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
  11. Ask for help. For instance, say, “Let’s set the table” or “I need help folding the clothes.”

Talk with the person’s doctor about problems like hitting, biting, depression, or
hallucinations. Medications are available to treat some behavioral symptoms.


For more caregiving tips
and other resources:


  • The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center is a service of the National Institute on Aging,
    part of the National Institutes of Health. The Center offers information and publications for families, caregivers,
    and professionals about Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive changes.
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January 28, 2014 12:14 pm

When running into theis phase act fast dementia can be devastating. I recommend looking for two products : one is Transfer factor's Recall. Number two Prevogen.
more than 3000 studies prove the benefits .

Mrs. StClair
Mrs. StClair
Reply to  Unknown
January 29, 2014 2:47 pm

Prevagen? An excerpt from the 10/16/12 Warning Letter the FDA sent to the manufacturer follows: "… you failed to report to FDA adverse events like seizures, strokes, and worsening symptoms of multiple sclerosis that had been reported to your firm as being associated with use of Prevagen products. Some of these adverse events resulted in hospitalization. In total, our inspection found records of more than 1000 adverse events and product complaints that had been reported to your firm between May 2008 and December 1, 2011. Some of these involved heart arrhythmias, chest pain, vertigo, tremors, and syncope (fainting), in addition to the seizures, strokes, and worsening of multiple sclerosis already mentioned. As of the beginning of the inspection, only two of these adverse events had been reported to FDA or investigated by your firm."

February 25, 2015 3:05 pm

Thanks Mrs StClair My loved one was diagnosed over 7 years ago. Meds taken were Aricept (now replaced by Donepezil) and Namenda. Short term memory is now gone but other functions still mostly ok

February 27, 2015 2:21 am

My husband has been on Namenda for about 4 years and does mostly ok but his short term memory has gotten much worse. I can count on him not remembering things.

Jacques Rosario
Jacques Rosario
December 8, 2015 6:20 am

People those are suffering from mental disorder and imbalance are also suffering from personality disorder and behavior. Which directly puts an impact on their personality and behavior; most probably it is quite common to notice some kind of changes in behavior and personality as the mental disorder person unable to identify his or her current status and ability.

August 14, 2017 4:50 pm

As a caretaker how do you deal with your own feelings regarding issues that existed in the relationship prior to the suspicion of Alzheimer. Do you suppress your own thoughts and positions. Is there a good reference that would cover this area.

Reply to  Anonymous
November 4, 2018 2:18 pm

I've had this question myself and wondered about it. I think that I have let go of my own thoughts as they are no longer as important to me. I replaced them with the day at a time thinking and the here and now. I am never going to change my DW opinion anyway. I may change my approach so the same outcome is achieved.

April 13, 2018 10:30 am

Good question. I have not found ANY support for care-givers – lots of books – no personal support at all

April 13, 2018 3:30 pm

Husband has dementia, when he changes clothes he mixes them with clean clothes, puts wet diapers in basket with dirty clothes. When take him shopping he takes stuff, candy bar & just starts eating. Do I just keep up after him, suggesting he does not do this is not working. am at a loss of what to do.

October 6, 2019 3:38 pm

My father appears to have reached the stage where none of the 11 tips above work although I do use them.I find there is a 24 hour pattern to his behaviour and our day.All I can do is sit it out,keep him safe and be patient until his mood swings change.I find his moods go on from around 12 middday until 6 on a night.Shortly after that he goes too sleep only to wake up in the middle of the night with incontinence.

B. Berger

B. Berger

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