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Ingleside at Rock Creek Blog

IRC Blog
Posted: Wednesday, October 14, 2020

5 types of Alzheimer’s behaviors and suggested positive responses

One of the most unsettling results of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia is the erratic behavior that often occurs. Depending on a person’s unique response and the stage of the illness that they are in, their actions can range from mild to severe.

For the caregivers, these behaviors can leave them feeling frustrated, hurt or afraid. For the individuals, acting out is often all that is left for them to express their own frustration, pain or need. 

Common behaviors can include:

  • Paranoia

  • Anxiety

  • Aggression

  • Wandering

  • Restlessness

  • Repetition of words or gestures

Key reminders for caregivers

Regardless of where your loved one may be on the journey of Alzheimer’s or even the specific behavior they may be conveying, there are two critical things to keep in mind:

  • They are not purposely trying to irritate, anger or hurt your feelings

  • Their behavior is often the only way they can communicate

Alleviating negative behavior

The Alzheimer’s Association has published a guide that reviews some of the typical behaviors and their recommendations for responding. For any troubling behavior your loved one may exhibit, first ask these questions to assess possible sources and solutions:

Identify the behavior and investigate causes

  • Could your loved one be in pain? Is it possible the behavior is related to medications or an illness?

  • Was there a trigger that preceded the behavior? Have you noticed conduct linked to the same trigger in the past?

Explore potential solutions

  • Are the person’s needs being met? Is there something you could do to comfort or calm them?

  • Is there something in your reaction that escalates the behavior after it starts? Could you change your approach or response?

Try different responses

  • Can you come up with different options to try when your typical response isn’t favorable?

  • Does changing your reaction alter their behavior?

Common behaviors and suggested responses

If you’re looking for ideas to help de-escalate situations, here are 5 behaviors and responses from the Alzheimer’s Association to consider:

1. Aggressive behavior

This can include shouting, name calling, pushing or hitting. Take any steps possible to try and prevent it from happening and to avoid any known triggers.


  • Rule out pain, as this can be a quick trigger for aggressive behavior

  • Focus on the feelings behind the actions

  • Try not to get upset and strive to remain positive and calm

  •  Limit distractions in the person’s surroundings

  • Try relaxing activities such as listening to music or having a massage

  •  Shift their focus to another activity or try to distract them

  • Speak calmly and try to reassure the person that everything will be fine

  • Take a break if you need to get away for a moment if the person is safe

2. Anxiety or agitation

Along with looking for triggers, it’s also helpful to note if there is a time of day when your loved one becomes more agitated and adjust any added stressors, such as being hungry or tired.


  • Be an attentive listener and look for what may be causing the anxiety

  • Speak in a calm and reassuring voice

  • Engage the person in activities they enjoy or that will also be a distraction

  • Change the environment by leaving a loud or busy room or if there are too many visitors. Return home if an outing is upsetting

  • If the behavior is resulting from restlessness, is there something they can do, such as keeping their hands busy or suggest taking a walk or ride

3. Forgetfulness and confusion

The frequent symptoms of a cognitive illness include not being able to recognize familiar people, locations or common items. The result is typically frustration and a sense of confusion.


  • Stay calm but understand that if your loved one doesn’t recognize you, it will be painful

  • Keep any explanations of their memory lapses brief and simple

  • Try using photographs or other items to help the person remember relationships or places

  •  Don’t scold any mistakes they may make. Try suggestions instead

  • Don’t take their behavior personally. It is not them but Alzheimer’s causing their actions

4. Repetitive actions

Your loved one may repeat a word or ask a question over and over. They can also do the same with physical actions, such as pacing.


  •  Focus on what they may be feeling, not on the repetitive action

  • Turn the action into an activity whenever possible. Such as asking the person who is rubbing a hand over the table repeatedly to help you with the dusting

  • Keep your responses gentle and caring

  •  Repeat the answer no matter how many times you are asked the question

  •  Have activities available for distraction. Redirect attention as the repetition may be caused by boredom

5. Suspicious behavior

It’s not uncommon for someone with Alzheimer’s to become mistrustful of those around them. They may make accusations of theft or infidelity, which can be painful for family members and caregivers.


  • Try not to be offended but listen to what may be troubling the person and let them know you care

  • Don’t argue or try to convince them that they’re wrong

  • Offer a simple and brief answer. Long explanations can be overwhelming

  • Switch their focus to another activity

  •  If a specific item is always missing, try purchasing a duplicate so it can be easily found

Ingleside at Rock Creek Memory Support Assisted Living

We understand that behaviors from Alzheimer’s can be troubling and a challenge for both the individual and the family. But one of the most important things to remember is that this is not coming from your loved one but is caused by the illness.

We can help families recognize triggers or commonalities that precede a behavior. There may be more signals than you realized. When you do notice any similarities, it can be easier to avoid situations, distract or redirect.

Finally, we also recommend altering your responses. Consider the above options and note whether a certain reaction increased or decreased the behavior.

If your loved one’s level or intensity of behavior becomes more than can safely be handled at home, you may want to consider a memory support community. We’re here to discuss your options when you’re ready.

Call (202) 905-0018 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.


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