Welcome back! In part one of this two-part series on reducing negative behaviors in the cognitively impaired, we discussed some of the common behavior problems that those with dementia and other cognitive impairments tend to exhibit, including anxiety, aggression, agitation, and combativeness and what you can do to help prevent these problems from occurring. In today’s post, we will continue the discussion by offering suggestions on how to react when the behaviors have already begun to help reduce the intensity and deescalate the situation.

For the caregivers of the cognitively impaired, it is important to remember that the negative behaviors that they exhibit including anxiety, aggression, agitation, and combativeness are not intentional. It is also important to remember that most of the time these behaviors are the result of confusion, discomfort, an unmet need, the inability to communicate or express themselves, boredom, or pain. Our first post in this series was all about anticipating needs and eliminating these things. If negative behaviors have begun to arise, we recommend first reviewing all the things that could be making them uncomfortable.


The main thing to remember when dealing with any person, regardless of age, cognitive awareness, or temperament — yes, it works with animals and children too — is when they are experiencing any sort of negative behavior is to remain calm. In a situation of heightened anxiety, especially when it stems from fear, confusion, or discomfort, reacting with anything but a calm, empathetic tone will only serve to worsen the situation. Calmly and empathetically search for clues as to what spawned the behavior. Validate their feelings if you can and offer realistic solutions.


As we briefly mentioned earlier, sometimes negative behaviors are a simple result of boredom or confusion. If you have rechecked all physical concerns and ensured that needs are met, and they are still exhibiting behavioral symptoms, try redirection. Redirection is anything that diverts attention elsewhere. Get creative and include the person’s interests.


Music is a great distracter and can help people relax. Music can be used to prevent behaviors as well as help deescalate them. If at all possible, include the person in the music. Think about dancing, playing piano, singing, or selecting the music. Be patient, and don’t offer things that may further upset them, like suggesting the person who is non-verbal to sing.

Involve Pets or Animals

Animals are fantastic distracters! They offer not only hours of entertainment watching them play, but their affection and engaging play provide comfort and interaction. Be mindful of kitten claws and the ability for the animal and person to safely interact together. Opting for a full fish tank or a caged bird may be a better option.

Engage Them in Activities

Don’t overthink it. At most assisted living facilities, activity is a formal list of events and participatory activities that include bingo, bowling, exercise, coffee socials, and games. But, don’t underestimate the power of getting your loved one involved in tasks and chores as an active distraction. If you’ve got a basket of clean laundry that needs folding, this is the perfect task to engage them in. In fact, if you see a basket of baby clothes lying around a nursing home, you can bet it is a de-escalation tool in action!

Get Moving!

Restlessness is a key contributor to agitation. If a cognitively impaired person is exhibiting negative behaviors, redirect their attention with movement! Take them for a walk, dancing, or do some exercises. Even the wheelchair-bound enjoy a change of scenery and the stimulation of being wheeled along on a walk. Do chair exercises, practice yoga, or changing locations can provide relief and comfort.

Ensure Comfort

As we have discussed before, and cannot express enough, address needs and provide comfort. Assess all needs —

  • Do they need to use the restroom or have they already and need to be cleaned?
  • When was the last time their position was changed?
  • Are they experiencing pain?
  • Are they hungry?
  • Are they too hot or too cold?
  • Are they bored?
  • Are they thirsty?

Using these tips will help you prevent and react to negative behaviors that can be caused by dementia. These tactics don’t require restraints or use of medication, and anyone can practice them! At Serenity Gardens Memory Care Assisted Living, we believe in addressing the needs of each of our residents to help make everybody more comfortable and living the best life possible. If your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia in Friendswood or Dickinson, contact our home-like memory care assisted living facility for the support and care that you and your loved one deserve!