Navigating the Uncharted: Understanding the Reasons Behind the Actions of People Living with Dementia

October 4, 2023
Lori Horstman
  1. Communication Challenges: Dementia can compromise verbal communication skills, leading individuals to express themselves through actions rather than words. Behaviors such as pacing, tapping, or wandering may serve as non-verbal attempts to convey needs, emotions, or discomfort.
  2. Memory Impairment: Memory loss is a hallmark of dementia, and individuals may engage in repetitive actions as an attempt to grasp onto familiarity or recall past routines. Repeated questions or actions can be a way of seeking reassurance or attempting to make sense of the present.
  3. Emotional Expression: Changes in behavior can be linked to the emotional experiences of individuals with dementia. Frustration, fear, or even joy might manifest in unexpected ways. Caregivers can provide support by recognizing and responding to the underlying emotions rather than just the outward behavior.
  4. Disorientation and Confusion: The disorientation that comes with dementia can lead individuals to engage in seemingly aimless behaviors. Wandering, for example, may be an attempt to find a familiar place or person, providing a sense of comfort in a confusing environment.
  5. Physical Discomfort: Individuals with dementia may not be able to articulate physical discomfort or pain verbally. Behavioral changes, such as increased agitation or withdrawal, could be indicators of an underlying health issue that requires attention.
  6. Unmet Needs: Behavioral expressions often signal unmet needs, whether it's hunger, thirst, or the need for social interaction. By identifying and addressing these needs, caregivers can mitigate challenging behaviors and enhance the overall well-being of individuals with dementia.
  7. Loss of Inhibition: Dementia can affect the brain's ability to filter social norms and appropriateness. Individuals may engage in behaviors that might seem socially inappropriate due to the diminished capacity for self-control and awareness.
  8. Environmental Triggers: The surroundings can significantly impact the behavior of individuals with dementia. Changes in routine, unfamiliar environments, or loud noises may provoke distress or agitation. Creating a calming and familiar environment can help mitigate such triggers.
Navigating the world of dementia requires a compassionate understanding of the reasons behind the actions of those affected. By recognizing that behaviors are often a form of communication or a response to an unmet need, caregivers can provide more targeted and empathetic support, fostering a better quality of life for individuals living with dementia. In this journey of understanding, patience, and empathy, caregivers play a pivotal role in creating environments that promote comfort, connection, and a sense of security for those with dementia.