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How can I deal with my family member’s challenging behaviors without losing my patience?

People with cognitive impairment may exhibit a range of frustrating behavioral problems. These might include communication difficulties, becoming fixated on an idea or constantly repeating a question, aggressive or impulsive behaviors, paranoia, lack of motivation, memory problems, incontinence, poor judgment and wandering. Common causes of cognitive impairment include Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, brain tumor or HIV-associated dementia.

Various strategies can help you deal with challenging behaviors. In many communities, the Family Caregiver Support Program or another community organization offers classes and training sessions that teach skills useful in handling troublesome behavior. There you can receive information about your relative’s ability to understand and communicate. Joining a support group also can be helpful. A support group is a good place to share your frustrations and discuss coping strategies with people who are in the same situation, caring for their family members or friends. While many support groups meet in person, online and telephone groups also exist.

It’s important to remember that it’s the disease, not the person, causing the behavior. Anticipating that there will be ups and downs through the illness can provide important perspective to help, maintain your patience. Compassion and a sense of humor also may enable you to cope more effectively with difficult behavior.

FCA has fact sheets with helpful suggestions for how to manage stress, communicate effectively and safety-proof your home. These include:


To find a support group in your area or to join an online discussion, contact or visit online:


Family Caregiver Alliance

FCA manages a variety of online support groups and discussion boards.

Alzheimer’s Association

Provides reliable information and care consultation, caregiver training and classes, supportive services for families, and funding for dementia research.


This online resource locates in-person support groups in communities across the country.

Eldercare Locator

Connects older Americans (60+) and their caregivers with the local Area Agency on Aging’s Family Caregiver Support Program, which offers classes and trainings, support groups and other services for caregivers.

Well Spouse

Locates support groups across the country for wives, husbands, and partners of the chronically ill and/or disabled.