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
- 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:
Keep things simple. Ask or say one
thing at a time.
Have a daily routine, so the person
knows when certain things will
Reassure the person that he or she is
safe and you are there to help.
Focus on his or her feelings rather
than words. For example, say,
“You seem worried.”
Don’t argue or try to reason with the
Try not to show your frustration or
anger. If you get upset, take deep
breaths and count to 10. If it’s safe,
- leave the room for a few minutes.
- Use humor when you can.
- Give people who pace a lot a safe place to walk.
- Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
- 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:
- Read “Caring for a Person with
Alzheimer’s Disease: Your Easy-to-Use Guide”
- Visit www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/caregiving
- Call the ADEAR Center toll-free:
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.