Dealing with Difficult Alzheimer’s and Dementia Symptoms

dementia symptoms

Why do Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms cause difficult behavior?

The person with Alzheimer’s or dementia can’t express what’s wrong or what they need, so they act out. Your older adult may act in strange, annoying, or scary ways, but these difficult behaviors often have a real, physical cause.



Step-by-step guide from the Alzheimer’s Association

To help you deal with these challenging issues, we recommend this free guide from the Alzheimer’s Association.

You can turn directly to the specific behavior that you’re currently dealing with. In one short page, clear instructions walk you through how to understand and manage the situation.

The guide has practical advice on how to deal with these 7 common behaviors:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Confusion
  • Repetition
  • Suspicion
  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Trouble with sleep


Why can’t they just tell me what’s wrong?

Because communication is difficult for the Alzheimer’s or dementia patient, you’ll have to play detective to figure out what’s really causing this behavior. It’s usually a signal that there’s a problem.

Respond in a calm, soothing tone while you follow the guide’s steps to check for:

  • Pain or discomfort
  • Signs of overstimulation
  • Feeling disturbed by strange surroundings
  • Being overwhelmed by complicated tasks
  • Frustration because of the inability to communicate


It feels like they’re acting this way on purpose!

It’s natural for you to feel frustrated and angry, but try to remember that their aggressive or annoying behavior is not done on purpose to annoy you.

Your older adult is trying hard to communicate, but lacks the ability to do it properly. Take a deep breath, slowly count to 10, and use the tips in the guide to calmly deal with the situation.


Next Step  Print the guide Behaviors: How to respond when dementia causes unpredictable behaviors


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: ElderConsult


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  • Reply November 4, 2018

    Shelia Salzer

    My 84yo grandmother has dementia and she lives alone. She still thinks she can do anything herself She has 6 different eye drops 3 for her glaucoma, 2 for her servere dry eyes, and one for inflammation. It’s so crazy, I can’t even keep up with all of them, how is she supposed to? She keeps on losing her eye drops and thinks she only has 2 it’s so frustrating She also rummages through everything and never sits still. How do you know when it’s time to put a loved one in an assisted living or nursing home? Which is better an assisted living, nursing home, or a home health aid? They’re all really expensive, but is there a way for you to get help paying for long term care without long term care insurance? Where or who do I contact to get help paying for care? Thank you for your help. I appreciate it.

  • Reply October 19, 2018

    Rich s.

    How long does sun downing usually last, I know it can’t be pinned down exactly. My wife wants to go to the other home and gets very restless and anxious, paces the floor. Very hard to calm down. Any helpful info is appreciated.

  • Reply July 6, 2018


    Hi. I’m having issues getting my Mom to go to the doctors (she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Oct.2016) She will let me make an appt. but wants to cancel because her back is killing her (dr. appt is for her back & 1 for her hearing aid). This has been going on for about 7/8 months. I’ve done everything I could think of to get her to go but to no avail. I’m beyond frustrated and need help. Any advise? Thanks, Teresa

    • Reply July 10, 2018


      It can be so tough to get someone with dementia to go to the doctor. It’s great that you’re persisting since it’s important that she goes. Because this has been going on for so long, you may need to try tricking her into going or just taking her there without her agreement. At this point, her judgement is compromised and her decisions are harmful to her health.

      If she asks to cancel the appointment, just say OK and then don’t do it. When the day of the appointment arrives, you could lie and say that you’re going to lunch or to run errands and go directly to the doctor’s office. Tell her you need to make a quick stop to ask the doctor a question before lunch to get her into the office. But if she refuses to get out of the car, you may want to ask the doctor’s office for help, like bringing a wheelchair and waiting for her outside the office door. Or, bring another family member or close friend with you to help you get her into the doctor’s office.

      Another option is to call the Alzheimer’s Association at 800-272-3900 (available 24/7) to get advice. They have a lot of experience with challenging situations and may know of creative ideas that have worked for others.

      You may also want to consider hiring a 3rd party to help with the situation, like a geriatric care manager. Some people may listen to advice from an outside party more readily than from their own family (frustrating, but it can help solve problems).

  • Reply May 18, 2018

    Chrystal Knight

    Mom thinks she can drive. Everyday ask to fix her car.

    • Reply May 18, 2018


      It’s great that you aren’t letting her drive even though you have to repeatedly answer that question. This article has suggestions that may help — 8 Ways to Stop an Elderly Person From Driving When All Else Fails

  • Reply May 17, 2018

    Darcie Breazzano

    I need help explaining to my family that moms hate of one gal caring for her , is hurting the whole day !!

    • Reply May 17, 2018


      Maybe it would be helpful to have your family observe firsthand what’s happening. If they can see for themselves, they may have an easier time understanding.

  • Reply July 24, 2017


    There was no “guide” when you click on the Alzheimer’s Association link in this article. WHAT are you supposed to see or look for when you get there??

  • Reply April 25, 2017

    Pam Williams

    Thank you for all the very helpful information. It’s so nice to have somewhere to go to answer my questions, This is all new and scary for not only my Mom who is in late stage Alzheimer’s/ Dementia and Parkinson’s. But me as her caregiver as well… So thank you❤ again for answering alot of my questions and helping ease some of my fears😅. I’m Extremely Grateful💝Pam and Patsy Williams😪… God Bless!

    • Reply April 25, 2017


      I’m so glad this article is helpful! Caring for someone with serious health issues is scary. I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s conditions. She’s lucky to have you both to help her! Big hugs ❤️

    • Reply June 26, 2018

      MJ Terkeurst

      It was a difficult decision, but with dads dementia and my elderly mother’s own health issues, she was not able to care for him at home. Her safety and his mental health were both at risk. This is a extremely cruel disease for the person suffering from it, and all family members that love and want to do all they can to make sure there family member is well cared for when you put them in the care of a managed facility. Heartbreaking!

      • Reply June 27, 2018


        It sounds like that was the right choice for the situation even though I’m sure it was a very tough decision to make. The most important thing is to make sure that everyone is as safe and healthy as possible 💜

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