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Understanding Challenging Behavior

By Sharon Roth Maguire MS, APRN-BC, GNP, APNP
(Page 2 of 2)

Some common themes related to emotional need: Is your loved one bored? Are they wandering or trying to leave your home to find something more interesting to do? Conversely, is the day too busy or too overwhelming and they are looking for more quiet time? The best days for persons with dementia are when they have balance between sensory stimulating and sensory calming activities. Is your loved one frightened of being left at home alone? Are they feeling sad or depressed? The research tells us that the rate of un or under-treated depression is quite high in older adults with dementia. Providing social times and opportunities for continued belonging are important; consider a pet, plant or an indoor garden to offer care responsibilities and purpose to the individual with dementia. 

It may take some time before you are able to identify the potential causes of the challenging behavior, but understanding that it may be the result of an unmet need is an important first step. Unfortunately, there are behaviors that we may never be able to understand as they are part of the mystery of this challenging illness. Finally, it is very important to have a care team that accepts this approach to behaviors as well. Understanding challenging behaviors is key to meeting your needs as a caregiver!

Sharon Roth Maguire is the Chief Clinical Quality Officer for BrightStar Care. She has written and taught extensively on the subject of gerontology, particularly in relation to designing appropriate environments for people with dementia and frequently coordinates the development of geriatric education programs and facilities. She has great experience in helping caregivers who are coping with the challenges of loved one’s living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Send your comments or questions to


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