Intended for healthcare professionals
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CPD modules

Distressed behaviours and agitation in older people with dementia

Author: Karen Harrison Dening

Duration: 2 hours Last updated: 2023 Quality Assurance: Peer-reviewed Level: Qualified nurses, Students Language: English

Course description

This module offers ways for nurses and other healthcare practitioners to care for older people with dementia who present with distressed behaviours, formerly known widely as agitation, and to recognise, understand, assess, prevent and minimise these behaviours to promote well-being. It is aimed at nurses and other health and care practitioners working with older people in a variety of environments, including acute, community and care home settings.

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Learning aims and intended outcomes

  • Explain the main causes of distressed behaviours in older people with dementia
  • Contribute to the assessment of a person presenting distressed behaviours
  • Explain how to care in a person-centred way for older people with dementia who are presenting distressed behaviours
  • Identify non-pharmacological interventions to minimise distressed behaviours as alternatives to pharmacological treatment


  • Introduction
  • A person-centred approach to assessment
  • Underlying pain and distressed behaviours
  • Managing distressed behaviours
  • Conclusion


Karen Harrison Dening
Head of research and publications, Dementia UK.


Please note that information provided by RCNi Learning is not sufficient to ensure competence in the skill. Assessment of competence should take place in line with local practice. Practice should always align with local protocols and procedures, latest guidelines and any regulatory code. All modules should currently be viewed together with available national and local Covid-19 guidelines. For advice, go to


  • Introduction
  • A person-centred approach to assessment
  • Underlying pain and distressed behaviours
  • Managing distressed behaviours
  • Conclusion

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