Skip to main content

Changed behaviours

At some point, you may notice a loved one with younger onset dementia behaving differently from how they used to. Characteristics that can develop include aggression or agitation.

It may be upsetting if someone you care for is acting unlike themselves. However, changes in the behaviour of a person with dementia are common.

Other examples of potential behaviours include:

  • Overreaction
  • Hoarding
  • Repetition, such as asking the same question, or repeating an action
  • Restlessness, such as pacing or fidgeting
  • Lack of inhibition or socially inappropriate behaviour in public
  • Night-time waking, sleeplessness and ‘sundowning’ (increased agitation or confusion in the late afternoon and early evening)
  • Following you around or calling out to check where you are
  • Putting things in unusual places, and then forgetting where they are
  • Suspicion of others where there are no grounds.

The following help sheet looks at some of the common behaviour changes that may occur when a person has dementia. It discusses reasons for the changes and some general guidelines for coping with them.

How to respond

If you noticed changed behaviour in a person with younger onset dementia, it’s important to understand it is not deliberate. Try not to take it personally.

Things you can to do help support the person living with dementia include:

  • Offering reassurance
  • Figuring out calmly if there is a problem to be addressed
  • Seeing things from their point of view
  • Not correcting or directly contradicting them
  • Distracting them (i.e change the conversation, have something to eat or go for a walk together).

Over time, as the dementia progresses, these behaviours may change even more and other unusual behaviours might emerge.

They may not be able to communicate their needs as effectively to help you understand what they’re feeling. Taking a step back to look at what might be causing the behaviour could help. For example, aggression may be due to frustration they are experiencing.

If you are concerned about what you are observing or would like to learn more:

  • Assess their home environment and see if modifications alleviate confusion or stress
  • Engage in activities, particularly social ones, to help the person feel valued
  • Sign up for an information session about changed behaviours
  • Ask your doctor to conduct a medical assessment.

Browse carer education sessions available on the Dementia Australia website.

Browse behaviours by topic

Got a specific behavioural concern you’d like to learn more about? Learn more about certain behaviours, such as anxiety or agitation via Dementia Australia’s help sheets below.

If you’re concerned about the behaviours of a person with dementia you’re caring for, you can visit the Dementia Support Australia (DSA) website, or call them on 1800 699 799. They provide confidential advice, assessment, intervention, education and specialised support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For language assistance, please contact the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.