Wherever you go, whatever you read, see or hear you may find the term behaviour in relation to Dementia.

Behaviour is a negative term, part of the medical model of healthcare, that makes people living with Dementia sound like naughty children and may lead to the pathway of BPSD, the Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia and the abuse of their rights.

Terms such as:

Behaviour changes

Challenging behaviour

Aggressive behaviour

Inappropriate behaviour


Because of so called behaviours, frontline Healthcare labels the person with BPSD, reaches for the prescription pad and sends them down a pathway to chemical/physical restraint, sectioning/safeguarding and involuntary care.

I was travelling home by train the others day and I overheard a comment

“their emotions got the better of them”

which got me thinking.

If someone you care for lets their emotions get the better of them, would you label it as behaviour reader or would you consider

what has happened

why it has happened

what has caused the person to react that way

is there a way to avoid that happening again

Alternatively, emotions could be seen as a term for the social model of healthcare

So, when a person with Dementia “lets their emotions got the better of them” ask the questions

what has happened

why it has happened

what has caused the person to react that way

is there something we can do to help

Is it pain, UTI, constipation, are they hot cold, strange environment or what may be over 100 causes.

If you deal with the cause, then maybe you will deal with the emotions, reducing chemical restraint, institutionalisation, reducing the costs to healthcare and the abuses of people living with Dementia.

So reach for the prescription pad, treat the causes and prescribe support, services, assessments, rehabilitation and also activities.

Some doctors now prescribe activities, they can be seen on MAR charts in a few care homes. Things like music, arts, dancing, poetry, things that are appropriate and engage a person living with Dementia.

It’s referred to as enablement.

Whilst medication is a valid treatment for some people living with Dementia as with any chronic terminal disease, only when a proper assessment is done and all avenues have been followed to treat the causes, should medication be used.

Maybe it is time to change the label and move from the negative language of behaviour to a more positive term such as Emotion.


Responding Mindfully to Emotional Turmoil