As caregivers, notice underlying causes that trigger behavioral changes in persons with Alzheimer’s.

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN

Download The FREE CHECKLIST for Decoding Distressful Behaviors By Clicking HERE.


It is important to understand that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia impact a person’s ability to communicate with us using words and language; so their behavior becomes increasingly more important to pay attention to.

Most behaviors are triggered by something, and as caregivers, we have to put on our detective hats and figure out what the trigger was.

Most people who have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia will experience distressing behavior such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, emotional outbursts, agitation, aggression, apathy at some point in the disease.

This is all because of the changes that are happening in the brain, but these behaviors are often because of some other underlying cause.

In today’s episode, I will share four areas that could lead to these types of behaviors and 3 questions to help yourself in order to figure out what the underlying cause might be, so you can prevent or short-circuit these types of distressful behaviors.

Be sure to LISTEN TO THE END and learn how you can get a FREE checklist for Decoding Distressful Behaviors in Dementia based on today’s episode.

Key points covered in this episode:

Communication Challenges

  • Trouble finding the right word(s)
  • Words, sentences and thoughts being jumbled
  • Not being easily understood
  • Leaving thoughts hanging in mid-sentence
  • Replacing words with nonverbal communication such as sounds, gestures, or facial expressions

The environment

  • Too much noise or too quiet
  • Lack of structure or routine
  • Too much clutter
  • Room is too hot or too cold
  • Poor lighting
  • New or confusing surroundings

Physical changes (such as pain)

  • Is there an underlying physical problem such as:
  • Too hot or too cold
  • Tired
  • Hungry
  • Pain

Pain may be exhibited with non-verbal cues or behaviors such as:

  • Agitation or aggression
  • Crying
  • Grimacing
  • Gestures
  • Moaning
  • Restlessness

Unmet social and emotional needs

  • Feeling disconnected to a sense of purpose
  • Sensing a loss of control or choice
  • Feeling bored
  • Feeling unworthy
  • Feeling disconnected from others

✔️ 3 Questions to Ask when you see a distressing behavior to try to prevent them from happening again.

What happened right before you saw the distressing behavior?

How did you react to the behavior? Did your action make the behavior better or worse?

What do you think you could do in the future to prevent the behavior?

Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode.

FREE CHECKLIST for Decoding Distressful Behaviors – Click on this link to get your free handout!

If you have questions, or comments or need help, please feel free to drop a one-minute audio or video clip and email it to me at, and I will get back to you by recording an answer to your question.

More Resources About Memory And Alzheimer’s Disease …

This Is Getting Old has several other episodes about memory and Alzheimer’s. You can check them out below:



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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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