Why Do Some People with Dementia Cry and Call Out? How Can You Help?

A Woman with Deemenita Appears Tearful
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You may have heard someone who has Alzheimer's disease or another dementia repeatedly call out, "Help me!" or break down into tears frequently. This can be very distressing to experience, for both the person with dementia and those around him.

Triggers for Crying and Calling Out in Dementia

A few possible reasons why your loved one or patient is displaying this behavior include:

  • Physical causes such as pain, restlessness, hunger or a need to use the bathroom

How to Help the Person with Dementia

There are times when it appears there's no reason for the person with dementia to call out or cry, at least none that you can determine. Sometimes, people seem to "get stuck" in a behavior without a reason.

I remember one gentleman with Alzheimer's (we'll call him Edward) who constantly called out, "Nurse! Nurse!" but when a staff member asked what he needed, his answer was, "Nothing." The nurse would leave the room and two minutes later, Edward would call out, "Nurse! Nurse!"

Before you write off crying or calling out as a meaningless behavior and say, "Well, that's just the way Edward is," consider the following interventions to make sure you're doing everything possible to help Edward:

  • Notice any time that Edward is not calling out or crying; observe the environment, time of day, if it's after he just ate dinner or just received care, or if it's when he is in his favorite activity. When possible, recreate the situation that occurred when he was content.
  • Assess him for depression and anxiety. Both calling out and crying can be symptoms of anxiety and depression in dementia.


Alzheimer's Association. Behaviors. Accessed July 27, 2013. http://www.alz.org/espanol/signs_and_symptoms/behaviors.asp

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