Behaviors in Dementia

First of all…What is Dementia/Neurocognitive Disorder (NCD)?

According to the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders, dementia/NCD is diagnosed when there is evidence of “a decline in memory, which is most evident in the learning of new information, although in more severe cases, the recall of previously learned information may be also affected. The impairment applies to both verbal and non-verbal material [emphasis ours].  The decline should be objectively verified by obtaining a reliable history from an informant, supplemented, if possible, by neuropsychological tests or quantified cognitive assessments.”

The guidelines further describe three consecutive stages in dementia/NCD:

Mild, Moderate, and Severe.

Why Dementia

Why do we experience behavioral symptoms in dementia/NCD?

The unique biological, social, and psychological factors each person will experience will shape the type of behaviors they may exhibit as they progress with more advanced stages of dementia/NCD. No two people are alike, and it is important to understand the meaning behind the behavior and why someone may be expressing themselves like this.

Persons with dementia/NCD may express certain behaviors due to:

  • An unmet need (e.g., hunger, thirst, companionship, environment change).
  • A disruption or change in their milieu that is making them uncomfortable, confused, or unable to fulfill a need.
  • A change in their information processing, motivational drive, or regulation of emotion.

What are the typical behavioral symptoms in dementia/NCD and what do they mean?

Brain Icons

Based on the Stage Congruent Responsive Behavior (SCRB) Model, there are twelve behavioral categories that dementia/NCD symptoms can be classified under:

  • Disorganized Behaviors
  • Misidentification Behaviors
  • Apathy Behaviors
  • Goal-Directed Behaviors
  • Motor Behaviors
  • Importuning Behaviors
  • Emotional Behaviors
  • Fretful/Trepidated Behaviors
  • Vocal Behaviors
  • Oppositional Behaviors
  • Physically Aggressive Behaviors
  • Sexual Behaviors

Each behavior category has specific biological, social, and psychological factors that influence their occurrence in advanced stages of dementia/NCD. You can learn about each of these behaviors in our clinical book or in our blog posts online.

Join the conversation and learn more about The Meaning of Behavioral Expressions in Persons with Dementia/NCD!