It is important to assess a person’s physical health status as any health issues can contribute to behavioural disturbances, often in seemingly unrelated ways. People with dementia are particularly vulnerable to issues with their physical health as they are:

  • more likely to have age related changes to their health,
  • less likely to be able to manage their physical health independently
  • less likely to be able to understand and / or communicate their physical health concerns

Assessment of physical health needs to be a comprehensive and holistic screen. Any less than optimal health issues identified should be addressed in conjunction with an appropriate specialist. Whilst the list below is not exhaustive, please consider how these and other physical health factors present may be impacting on the behaviour.


  • Medical history: Chronic and acute issues
  • Skin integrity: rashes, bruising, redness, swelling, unusual colour
  • Nutrition / hydration: adequate oral intake, weight gain or loss, inability to eat or drink independently
  • Swallowing / eating: history of choking or aspiration, pocketing of food in cheeks, excessive chewing
  • Oral and dental: gum disease, dental decay, ill fitting dentures, bad breath
  • Mobility: recent falls, use of mobility aids, abnormal gait, ill-fitting shoes
  • Bladder & Bowel: incontinence, constipation, diarrhoea, frequency, colour, odour, infection
  • Wound: skin tears, ulcers, wound discharge, odour
  • Pain / discomfort: fidgeting, restlessness; guarding a joint / limb, grimacing, calling out, groaning
  • Speech problems: inability to communicate needs
  • Sleep: insomnia, daytime napping, nightmares, sleep apnoea
  • Sensory: alterations in vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell.


Useful resources

Service Description Contact
Continence information line The National Continence Helpline is an information and referral telephone service for people with incontinence and their carers. 1800 330 066

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