Shouting and screaming

A person with dementia may scream, shout or moan or use abusive language, occasionally or over and over again.

This behaviour can be very distressing for you and the person with dementia, and can negatively affect how you’re feeling around each other.

There are many possible reasons for why a person with dementia is shouting or screaming. For example:

  • they’re in pain or discomfort
  • they’re attempting to communicate a need – for example, that they’re hungry or thirsty
  • they’re feeling anxious, lonely or bored
  • they don’t have enough to keep them engaged, or there’s too much going on
  • they’re responding to a hallucination or misperception
  • they’re finding it difficult to communicate
  • the room or place they’re in may be uncomfortable for them, for example, too hot or cold, too dark or too noisy.

Shouting and screaming – tips for carers

  • Don’t ignore or talk over the person. Involve them in what is happening and explain what is going on.
  • The behaviour may be a response to them not understanding your intentions. For example, if you’re helping them get dressed or undressed they may not understand why. Providing clear directions about what you’re doing and giving the person time can help.
  • Try to make sure the person spends time with others and has things to engage their senses (such as smells that prompt memories or objects they can play with). Think about whether the environment could be causing the person distress or not meeting their needs. For example they may not be able to find the toilet, or bad lighting may be causing shadows, which can be confusing.
Want more advice on managing aggressive behaviour?

Read tips about managing and responding to aggressive behaviour.

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