What is dementia?

Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s cognitive functioning. It is a broad term which describes a loss of memory, intellect, reasoning, social skills and normal emotional reactions that are often reflected in a person’s behaviour.

Dementia types

Dementia is caused by many disorders, the most common of these are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Fronto-temporal dementia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Alcohol related dementia.

Most people with dementia are older but dementia is not a normal part of ageing. The onset of symptoms is usually gradual, with early signs of dementia being quite subtle. Dementia has a progressive nature.

What are behaviours of concern?

A behaviour of concern is any behaviour which causes stress, worry, risk of or actual harm to the person, their carers, staff, family members or those around them. The behaviour deserves consideration and investigation as it is an obstacle to achieving the best quality of life for the person with dementia and may present as an occupational health and safety concern for staff.

Examples of behaviours of concern

  • Verbal disruption
  • Physical aggression
  • Repetitive actions or questions
  • Resistance to personal care
  • Sexually inappropriate behaviour
  • Refusal to accept services
  • Problems associated with eating
  • Socially inappropriate behaviour
  • Wandering or intrusiveness
  • Sleep disturbance.


Important considerations

  • Behaviours of concern are common and are a consequence of the brain changes
  • Behaviours may resolve on their own or escalate as the disease progresses
  • Management strategies may only partially reduce the behaviour frequency or impact.


Useful resources

Dementia Collaborative Research Centre The Dementia Collaborative Research Centre conducts dementia research with the primary aim to translate research into practice
National Dementia Helpline (Dementia Australia) The National Dementia Helpline provides understanding and support for people with dementia, their family and carers as well as details of the full range of services provided by Dementia Australia. They also provide practical information and advice as well as up to date written material about dementia 1800 100 500
Dementia Training Study Centres The aim of the Dementia Training Study Centres is to improve the quality of care and support provided to people living with dementia and their families through the development and upskilling of the dementia care workforce and the transfer of knowledge into practice

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