Dementia: How to Respond to Behaviours

Why is this Dementia course relevant for Home Care Teams?

There are currently estimated to be over 46 million people worldwide living with dementia1. The number of people affected is set to rise to over 131 million by 20502.  In fact research suggests that there is one new case of dementia worldwide every three seconds3.

Dementia is a syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature – in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (ie the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal ageing4. The symptoms of dementia may include problems with: memory loss, thinking speed, mental sharpness and quickness, understanding, mood, movement, difficulties doing daily activities, language (such as using words incorrectly or trouble speaking), and judgement5.

Dementia can be the result of a variety of diseases and injuries that primarily or secondarily affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is thought to contribute to as many as 60-70% of all cases6.

This course has been specially created to help identify practical approaches that will assist care staff in understanding and responding to the behaviours and psychological symptoms of dementia. The course is aimed towards those in the Home Care industry and is available for Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland members.

Deep dive into the course information

After completing this course, the learner will be able to:

  • Explain why understanding underlying reasons for behaviours is crucial to responding appropriately.
  • Recognise approaches that can be used in the short term to respond to behaviour.
  • Identify how to record and review episodes of behaviour in order to support the development of long term response strategies.

Featured Subject Matter Expert

Colm Cunningham, Director of The Dementia Centre, HAMMONDCARE

Formerly the Deputy Director of UK Dementia Services Development Centre, Colm’s research focus and expertise are in pain management, environmental design that supports people with dementia, dementia and delirium, dementia and intellectual disabilities and night care

Colm is widely published and is also a Conjoint Associate Professor at the University of New South Wares in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, a visiting fellow in dementia design and practice at the University of Edinburgh School of Health in Social Science and a member of the Wicking Strategic Review Panel in Australia.

Sneak peek of course content

People living with Dementia may display behaviours that may challenge staff. While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to responding to these distressed behaviours, understanding the underlying reasons for the behaviour can help staff to respond more effectively.

There are multiple different types of dementia (Vascular Dementia, and Alzheimer’s to name a few) and each type affects specific areas of the brain in different ways. A person with dementia is an individual with their own unique experiences and life story, so it is essential to remember that dementia affects each person differently.

In this course, you will understand not only the distressed behaviours people with dementia experience and display, but also why it is crucial that care staff understand the underlying reasons for changes in behaviours.

Dismissing a change in behaviour as another symptom, or as a side-effect is missing the opportunity to communicate with the individual. Each behaviour needs to be understood as an expression of the person’s thoughts, needs or emotions.


    Common Examples of changes in behaviours:

    • Restlessness
    • Distress or anxiety
    • Pacing
    • Swearing
    • Changes in how the person manages their sexual behaviour
    • Removing clothes in public
    • Repetitive actions
    • Increased waking during the night, getting dressed or trying to leave the house
    • Becoming suspicious or accusatory
    • Searching for something the person belives is missing
    • Hoarding