Common Behavior Problems Among Assisted Living Residents

In this article, we discuss the most frequently occurring types of behavior problems that occur between residents in an assisted living setting. As an aside, these problems can also be seen in memory centers.

The most frequently occurring behavior problems among assisted living residents are:

  • Insulting others
  • Accusing others
  • Wandering
  • Stealing
  • Hoarding
  • Aggression
  • Repetitive questioning
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Refusing to eat
  • Noncompliance
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior

Insulting Others

Individuals in pain or who are struggling with a medical condition are prone to become angry and lash out from time to time. This type of situation is magnified when an individual is not only in pain but suffering from dementia. This can lead to residents of assisted living homes verbally lashing out and insulting other residents and staff. Indeed, the insults that can be thrown about can be fierce and unsettling. 

Insults can be hurled by residents who do have control of their faculties. They can also be made by individuals afflicted with dementia. Insults made by people who do not have diminished capacity can be addressed and it’s fair to expect the perpetrator to change this problematic behavior.

Accusing Others

In a similar vein, behavioral issues among assisted living home residents can also take the form of accusations made against fellow residents as well as staff. Accusing other residents and staff of such things as stealing occurs more frequently in an assisted living home setting that one might image. 

As is the case with insults, there instances in which an individual who is mentally competent makes problematic accusations. The correction of this conduct fairly can be expected. On the other hand, there are instances in which accusations of different types are the outgrowth of dementia. 


A good many individuals in assisted living homes diagnosed with dementia cope with restlessness that accompanies the condition by walking. Unfortunately, the nature of dementia with its confusion and memory issues renders it difficult if not impossible for a resident with this condition to find the way back. This behavior commonly is referred to as wandering.

In this day and age, there is technology that tamps down on occurrences of wandering in assisted living homes and memory centers. These include such things as alarmed doors that alert when a resident may be making a departure from a center as the result of restlessness. 


Property does get stolen in assisted living homes. In a majority of instances, the theft is the result of confusion that is a byproduct of dementia. In other words, a resident confuses an item as his or her own when it really belongs to another resident or even a staff member. 


Hoarding does occur in assisted living homes. Typically, hoarding in an assisted living home setting is undertaken by residents that were raised in households that lacked some of the basics.

In a nursing home setting, two things are hoarded most often. These items are hoarded because a resident “doesn’t want to run out of it.” The two most commonly hoarded things in an assisted living home are food and paper supplies.


Aggression does also occur in assisted living homes. In most cases, aggressive behavior is demonstrated by a person with dementia. It can also occur with an individual in significant pain.

When a resident of an assisted living home with dementia is confused, that individual might also feel threatened or intrude upon. When that occurs, instinct can kick in and the person may feel the need to “defend” his or her self. 

Repetitive Questioning

Yet another example of problem behavior in an assisted living home is repetitive questioning. This is fairly common among residents of assisted living homes with dementia. Technically speaking, repetitive questioning and repetitive behavior (discussed in a moment) is known as behavioral stereotypy. In addition to repetitive questioning, an individual might also repeat the same statement over and over. 

Repetitive questioning or making the same statement over and over again can be frustrating not only to other residents and staff but to the resident with this problem as well. 

Repetitive Behavior

Similarly, there are residents in assisted living homes that engage in repetitive behavior. Simply, they do the same thing over and over – and over. While repetitive behavior typically is not dangerous it nonetheless is not particularly healthy. It isn’t healthy for the resident engaging in such behavior and it isn’t beneficial to those around that individual. 

Refusing to Eat

There are a surprising number of instances in which an assisted living home resident refuses to eat or drink. (Keep in mind that refusing to eat is more immediately serious.)

When this occurs, the staff physician or the primary care physician of the resident (if he or she has one) need to be brought into the situation as soon as possible. There needs to be a determination as to what underlies the resident’s determination not to eat or drink. 


Assisted living home residents have the right to refuse certain types of treatment. They have the right to decline participation in many types if not most activities. Assisted living home residents do not have the right to agree to treatment and then fight receiving it. They do not have the right to agree to participate in an activity and then disrupt it. This type of conduct is known as noncompliance. 

If noncompliance is not an outgrowth of dementia, an attempt typically will be made to correct the behavior. If noncompliance stems from dementia, some other alternative is necessary to address the conduct. 

Inappropriate Elimination

Individuals with milder forms of dementia may engage in inappropriate elimination. They recognize they need to go to the bathroom to relieve themselves. They can’t remember where the bathroom is, however. 

If inappropriate elimination is not the result of dementia, it more than likely will be the result of infection or some other type of illness. The physician should be contacted promptly to consult with the resident.

Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Inappropriate sexual behavior typically is a byproduct of dementia. The most commonly occurring example of dementia-rooted inappropriate sexual behavior is disrobing and masturbating in public. Immediate intervention typically comes in the form of directing the resident to another space that is private. Once that is accomplished, a further attempt is to try to direct the resident’s attention to some other more appropriate activity.

Problem behavior is a matter of life in a nursing home. It is to be expected. Having said that, there are strategies that can be employed to minimize the incidence of problematic behavior in an assisted living home setting.