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Common Reasons for Behavioral Changes

Published: Dec 29, 2022. Last Updated: Jan 6, 2023.

Bodies and minds experience a myriad of changes when you age that can manifest in a variety of ways. One change you can experience is decline in cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Moreover, physical abilities such as strength, balance, and flexibility may also be affected.

These changes can sometimes be accompanied by personality changes such as decreased sociability and increased forgetfulness. Such changes can take a toll on both the one experiencing it and their loved ones. To ensure a healthy and happy later life, it is important to be aware of the reasons for these behavioral changes and to seek out appropriate help.

So, why do seniors experience these behavioral changes as they age? While the answer can be complicated, there are a few common reasons why this happens.


Aging can cause certain physical and physiological changes that can affect behavior. These include changes in hormones, brain chemistry, and even the way bodies function. For instance, as we age, bodies produce less of the hormones that are responsible for regulating moods, such as serotonin and dopamine. This can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, which may manifest as changes in behavior. Additionally, the aging process can lead to a deterioration of brain cells, which can impact cognition and lead to changes in routine activities.

Side Effects of Medication

Some seniors may act differently because of their medication, which can range from changes in mood to more serious difficulties like forgetting things or trouble with common tasks. Some common medications that can result in behavioral changes for seniors are:

  • Antidepressants: These medications are used to treat depression and can cause side effects such as drowsiness, confusion, and agitation.
  • Sleeping pills: These medications are used to treat anxiety and can cause side effects such as drowsiness, confusion, and agitation as well
  • Pain medications: Are used to treat pain and can cause drowsiness and confusion.
  • Blood pressure medications: Are used to treat high blood pressure and can cause dizziness

Early Signs of Dementia

Early signs of dementia can have a profound impact on the behavior and personality. One of the most common symptoms associated with early-stage dementia is difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. This can lead to frustration and confusion, which can manifest in different ways. For example, you may become more easily agitated and frustrated, as you struggle to recall or comprehend information.

Loss of a Loved One

When faced with the sudden absence of someone you care about, it can be difficult to cope with the emotional pain associated with their passing. In addition to grief and sadness, you may feel overwhelmed by guilt, anger, confusion, and loneliness in the wake of a loved one’s death. The grieving process can be especially difficult due to your long-held memories, extensive life experience, and personal attachment to the deceased family member or friend.

As you cope with bereavement, you may notice physical or emotional changes in yourself. These can include increased fatigue, difficulty concentrating, unhealthy eating habits, and a lack of interest in things you normally enjoy. You may also start to withdraw from loved ones or feel excessively sad or irritable.

Changes in Social Support Networks

Social support networks are essential in maintaining physical and mental health. As people age, social networks tend to change due to many factors like relocation, retirement, and the death of family members or friends. Changes in the support structures can have a profound effect on a senior's behavior and personality.

For instance, imagine you are moving into a new community as a senior. It can be tough feeling isolated and alone if you don't have a strong support system in place. You may find yourself becoming more reserved and less inclined to engage with others. This can lead to a drop in self-confidence and an increase in worry.

However, if you are surrounded by loved ones and friends who offer a supportive network, it can aid in keeping you socially active and engaged. Sharing stories, reminiscing about the past, and discussing current events with a group of people can be very helpful in maintaining social connections and preventing depression as a senior.

When To Be Concerned

If you notice your senior loved one exhibiting behavioral changes, it is crucial to take note of these shifts and consider any potential underlying factors. While some changes in behavior are common during the aging process, others may indicate a more significant issue. Some red flags to watch out for include:

The changes are sudden and significant

If you notice a sudden and significant change in your loved one's behavior, it could indicate a deeper problem. This could manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as becoming more iisolated and distant, or more anxious and restless. These changes should not be ignored and may require further investigation.

The changes are affecting their quality of life

If you notice that your loved one's behavior is causing them to struggle with activities that they used to enjoy, it could be an issue worth considering. This could include difficulty engaging in hobbies or social events, or struggling to handle everyday tasks. These changes may indicate that there is a deeper issue at hand.

The changes are affecting their safety

If you notice that your loved one's behavior is changing in a way that could potentially jeopardize their safety, it's crucial to pay attention and show concern. This could include instances of wandering or getting lost, as well as an increase in forgetfulness and disorientation. These signs could indicate that your loved one is in danger and requires additional support and protection.

How to Cope with the Changes

Coping with changes in senior personality and behavior can be a difficult and emotional process, not only for the senior individual but also for their family and friends. Here are some tips that may help if you are re in the situation:

Be patient and understanding

It is important to be patient and understanding when dealing with changes in a loved one's behavior. Remember that these changes are often a normal part of the aging process and can be difficult for them to manage. Try to be patient and understanding, and avoid getting frustrated or angry.

Provide support and encouragement

Changes in their behavior can be difficult for them to cope with. It is important to provide support and encouragement, and to help them adjust to the changes. Letting them know that you still care about them, and accept them for who they are can help reduce feelings of anxiety or depression.

Educate yourself on the issue

Gaining knowledge about health issues commonly associated with aging can help you better understand and respond to changes in senior personality and behavior. Researching common causes, treatments, and support services may also prove useful when developing a plan for coping with any changes that occur.

Seek help from healthcare professionals

If changes in personality and behavior become too difficult to handle, professional help may be necessary. Consulting a geriatric care specialist or other mental health professionals can provide additional resources and support for those coping with changes related to aging. They can help determine the cause of the changes and provide appropriate treatment if necessary.

Reach out to the community

Seeking support from programs in the community that offer services specifically designed for seniors is another great way to cope with changes in personality and behavior. These programs often provide resources such as counseling, recreational activities, and support groups that may help the senior individual adjust more easily to any changes they are experiencing.

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About the Author

Ericka Nicolas

Writer & Researcher

Elder Guide LLC

Ericka Nicolas began her career in the banking industry where she learned the importance of being detail-oriented and well-organized, both of which she applies to her current work as a writer and proofreader. With her vast experience in writing, Ericka is able to produce well-researched and engaging content that appeals to Elderguide's target audience. She was able to provide readers with valuable insights on a variety of topics and ensures that all the information she provides is accurate and up-to-date. She takes the time to carefully study each topic given to her, which allows her to produce truly informative articles. Ericka's passion for writing and her dedication to producing quality content gave way to her goal of helping our readers navigate the complex world of senior living and make informed decisions about their future. Aside from her work at Elderguide, Ericka enjoys spending time with her newly-married husband and their dog, Yari. She loves cooking, traveling, and exploring new restaurants in her spare time.