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Dealing with challenging behaviour


Question: My father has started showing signs of dementia. He says we are stealing from him and other nasty, untrue things. Is there any medication or help that will calm him down and make him more easy to live with?

Dr. Amy: As well as affecting your father’s memory and ability to think things through, dementia can also affect how he feels and behaves. It can be a tough ride for you both. He may be feeling confused and afraid, and I’m sure you feel frustrated and hurt at his outbursts and accusations.

I encourage you to talk with your father’s doctor and arrange for a thorough assessment, if you have not already done so. It’s important to know for sure what medical condition you are dealing with.

There is medication to help with anxiety, depression, or aggression in people suffering from dementia and this is something to discuss with the doctor. At the same time, a variety of tips and techniques can help you deal with —or avoid— some of your father’s challenging behaviour. Home Instead has produced a wonderful resource called Help for Alzheimer’s Families that can help you. They have a training section with videos and recorded webinars. I encourage you to look at this site regularly as they offer live chats on different topics throughout the year.

David Troxel is a regular speaker for Home Instead. David’s books, including The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care, are excellent resources. The Alzheimer’s Association ( also has an excellent resource section on their website, with lots of helpful information and training.

I encourage you to call your local Alzheimer’s organization to learn about support groups and other resources in your area. Many, many caregivers are dealing with false accusations and nasty comments from their loved ones. Knowing you are not alone and not the only one facing this challenge can be a huge relief.

Good luck!


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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. November 1, 2020 at 9:08 pm | Posted by Jill L Dudley

    I have been maried for 62 years. For the last 6 years my husband has suffered from extreme pain which consumes all of his thoughts and activities. He is on very strong narcotics which have affected his mental capacity. It is very difficulty to carry on a conversation with him as he always says you do not know this. He spends most of his time in bed which does make my life easier. However he has become extremly narcasistic and everything must be done his way. We watch the TV programes he likes and eat what he likes. He makes me feel guilty because he says I cannot understand the amount of pain he has. This is probably true but I am feeling very guilty because I am starting to be very resentful. I was just tring to explain he cannot go from doctor to doctor without recommendations as medicare and insurance will not pay for the cost. He has bills for over $1,000.00 because of trying to find a doctor to help him. When trying to discuss this with him he went crazy and said I did not know what i am talking about. My present problem is I have become very emotional and depressed and seem to be unable to deal with total lack of communication. What do others do in this situation. I am afraid I am going to have a complete breakdown if I cannot control myi emotions.


    • October 9, 2021 at 3:09 pm | Posted by Vicki

      My husband often acts the same way. At first, I tried to argue with him, but now I just play like I don't hear him. That is NOT HIM, but the dementia talking. It, nevertheless, is still hurtful. I have to do a lot of self talk and prayer. The prayer helps me the most. I read to him fromt the newspaper when I see something he might enjoy and we have a daily devotional and prayer together.


  2. March 17, 2019 at 6:57 am | Posted by Maryanna Larsen

    My husband has vascular dementia and has his daytime and nights we have tried seroguel and resperidone which both causing side effects stopped the meds. Is this condition one that needs to be accepted and worked around.


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