Sudden Changes in Behavior - Tip Sheet


A sudden change in behavior is a warning sign. If the person suddenly becomes much more restless, angry, confused, shy, or begins to see things or people that are not really there (hallucinations), something is wrong. There are several possibilities:

  1. The person may be reacting badly to a new medicine (either a prescription medicine or an over-the-counter, non-prescription medicine).
  2. Discomfort with constipation or an illness such as a urinary infection may be starting.
  3. The person may have an injury. Sometimes the person will not remember hurting themselves or may not be able to tell a caregiver about feeling pain.
  4. A change in routine or environment can result in restless or irritable behavior.
  5. Rushing to get ready for visitors or to be on time for an appointment may frighten the person and result in an anger reaction.

In general, you should try to figure out what happened just before the sudden change in behavior. Also talk about sudden changes in the patient's behavior with the doctor.

Material taken from: Helping People with Progressive Memory Disorders: A Guide For You And Your Family, 2nd ed." (University of Florida Health Science Center). Used with permission from the authors: K. M. Heilman, MD, L. Doty, PhD, J. T. Stewart, MD, D Bowers, PhD, & L. Gonzalez-Rothi, PhD. (1999).


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College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida