Listless behaviour in dementia

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How to deal with changing behaviour in Dementia

One of the characteristics of dementia is that of behaviour changes. You and your loved one will have to get used to this. To help you with this, ‘How to deal with changing behaviour in Dementia’ has been written. Listless Behaviour in Dementia and 4 other topics (blog posts) help you to understand the change in behaviour of your loved one and gives you tips on how to deal with it better.

Dependent Behaviour

Dementia can cause people take little to no initiative. By themselves they don’t do much anymore. They sit on the couch and look ahead and often have a flat mood. They experience emotions such as happiness or anger less intensely. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach them. When you propose to do something, they will shrug their shoulders more often. What is listless behaviour?

Your interaction changes

It is good to realize that your loved one does not always show this behaviour consciously. The person you are caring for is no longer the same as the person before the disease. Many caregivers have a hard time dealing with this. They often unconsciously treat their loved one in the same way as they did before the disease. To make it easier to deal with the suspicious behaviour of your loved one, it is important that you understand where this behaviour comes from.

Causes and possible solutions

There are six different factors that influence the listless behaviour of people with dementia: the dementia itself, their life course, their personality, the space around them, the people around them and their physical body. You cannot do anything about those factors. In this way you cannot change the course of life of people, their personality or the illness itself. It is important to pay attention to these causes, so that you better understand where the behaviour comes from:

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Listless behaviour can be caused by the dementia itself. Taking initiative is controlled in the front part of the brain. If this is affected by dementia, this can result in your loved one taking less and less initiative and becoming more passive. In addition, in the early stages of dementia, someone often realizes that memory is deteriorating. This can result into your loved one taking less initiative because he or she is afraid of making mistakes. Dementia can also cause emotions to flatten. Feelings of anger or joy are then experienced less strongly.


What people have experienced in their lives can influence listlessness. Someone who grew up with the idea that everything must be perfect, may dare not make any mistakes due to the dementia. This is also called fear of failure. The person will for example take less and less initiative.


Not everyone is used to showing his emotions, and not everyone is entrepreneurial by themselves. If your loved one used to show few emotions or took little initiative, then you can imagine that he / she will not suddenly get these qualities. And maybe even less than before dementia.

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Other factors can be influenced, in other words: there is a good change that you can do something about it.

Someone’s surroundings

If the space around someone with dementia does not stimulate him or her in the right way, then people who display listless behaviour will not be invited to do anything. Some people need many stimuli from their surroundings and others need few. This can also be changed after someone has been diagnosed with dementia. Make sure that your loved one is in a room where there is something to experience, but where he or she can also relax. Finding the right balance between these is important. See together which stimuli work best. Take him or her into consideration when you propose something. And also accept that you do not always get an enthusiastic response immediately. It is already nice to discover something that your loved one likes to do, so that he or she can perform another (small) activity. This does not have to be something very big.

People in their immediate circle

Your behaviour, or that of someone else in the circle of your loved one, can influence their listless behaviour. For example, if your loved one does not always seem interested in doing something together with you. This can lead to you becoming less inclined to ask him or her to do something together. This can make the listless behaviour stronger. Try to encourage or keep stimulating your loved one to do thing together. Also look at the response if you go out together. Are there certain activities that he or she no longer enjoys? Then try to discover what your loved one still enjoys.

Physical Condition

The person with dementia experiences a physical complaint but is no longer able to properly state or explain what is going on. There can be various physical causes for listlessness, such as anemia or low blood sugar, a disrupted day and night rhythm or side effects from the medicines your loved one takes. If you suspect that your loved one has a physical complaint, try to ask as precisely as possible about the cause. Take the time to do this. Also be alert to the day and night rhythm and eating habits of your loved one. Consult the doctor if you feel that there is also a physical cause.

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We hope that we have been able to help you a little in your effort to deal a little better with the listnessness of your loved one. Realize well that not all solutions that you come up with will work (immediately).

Did you enjoy the article? You might also be interested in the following blogs; What is Dementia, Handling wandering behaviour of people with dementia. Or our other topics on behaviour changes in dementia; Suspicious Behaviour, Aggressive Behaviour, Restless nights in Dementia and Dependent Behaviour in Dementia
Or check Dementia-Friendly Singapore on facebook or theAsianparent Singapore

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