Understanding behaviours

What is it?

Communication is used to transmit ideas and influence people.

Communication between a person living with dementia and others risks breaking down because of differences in their understanding of what is meant.

Carers can inadvertently inflame a situation when the wrong cues have been picked up or when their desires are unwittingly in conflict with those of the person with dementia.

Recognising common difficulties and developing appropriate responses helps to make everyone involved aware of possible misunderstandings so that they can be addressed.

Why is it important?

‘Behavioural disturbance’ in a person living with dementia can be thought of as an expression of their ‘unmet needs’.

It might look incoherent or aggressive to those not familiar with such methods of interaction, and might result in inappropriate behaviours being reflected back at the person living with dementia.

Such ‘unhelpful behaviours’ on the part of well-intentioned carers can be reduced through engagement in different ways.

Reducing behavioural disturbance in people living with dementia is vital to improving their quality of life: it will help to reduce institutionalization and lower the need for potentially harmful psychotropic medications.

Care-giver skill and improved social interaction have been shown to help this to happen. A common example of behavioural disturbance is aggression towards others, which often indicates fear or frustration. This can be helped by leading the person concerned into a calmer or more interesting environment.