Why Do Dementia Patients Play With Poop?

Dementia is a complex and challenging disease that affects not only memory but also behavior and mood. One behavior that is particularly difficult for caregivers to deal with is when dementia patients play with their feces. It is not only unpleasant and unhygienic but can also be dangerous for both the patient and those around them.

There are several reasons why dementia patients may engage in this behavior. One possible explanation is that they have lost their sense of social norms and are simply acting on their impulses. 

Another possibility is that they may be trying to communicate something, such as discomfort or boredom. In some cases, playing with feces may be a sign of more serious psychiatric issues, such as psychosis or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Further in this article, I will cover this topic in detail. 

Why do dementia patients play with poop?

As a caregiver, I understand that dealing with dementia can be challenging, especially when it comes to behaviors like playing with poop. While it may seem strange or disturbing to those who don’t understand, it is a common behavior in dementia patients.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that dementia affects the brain, causing changes in the person’s behavior, mood, and personality. They may become forgetful, confused, and disoriented, and this can result in the behavior of playing with poop.

Some of the reasons why dementia patients play with poop include:

1. Sensory stimulation: Playing with poop can provide sensory stimulation, such as texture and temperature, which may be comforting or interesting to the person.

2. Communication: Dementia patients may not be able to communicate their needs or feelings effectively, so playing with poop may be a way for them to express themselves.

3. Attention-seeking: Playing with poop may be a way for the person to get attention, especially if they feel neglected or isolated.

4. Incontinence: Dementia patients may have difficulty controlling their bowel movements and may not recognize the need to use the toilet. Playing with poop may be a sign of incontinence.

5. Memory loss: Dementia patients may forget what is appropriate behavior and may not understand why playing with poop is not acceptable.

It’s important to note that playing with poop can also pose health risks, including infections and exposure to harmful bacteria. Caregivers should take steps to prevent and address this behavior, such as using adult diapers, frequent toileting, and proper hygiene practices.

It’s also important to approach the behavior with empathy and understanding. Dementia patients are not intentionally trying to be difficult, and they may not understand why their behavior is not acceptable. As a caregiver, it’s important to provide a safe and supportive environment while also addressing the behavior gently and compassionately.

Tips for dealing with a dementia patient who plays with poop

Dealing with a dementia patient who plays with poop can be challenging and unpleasant for caregivers. However, it is important to approach the situation with patience and understanding.

Here are some tips for caregivers:

1. Address the behavior with empathy

Dementia patients may not understand that playing with poop is inappropriate. Avoid shaming or scolding them. Instead, try to understand why they are engaging in this behavior and address it with empathy.

2. Maintain a clean and hygienic environment

It is important to clean up any messes promptly and thoroughly. Use disposable gloves and disinfectant to minimize the spread of germs.

3. Provide alternative activities

Dementia patients may engage in this behavior out of boredom or frustration. Provide them with alternative activities such as puzzles, music, or sensory stimulation activities to distract them from the behavior.

4. Consult with a healthcare professional

If the behavior persists or becomes a safety concern, consult with a healthcare professional for guidance. They may recommend medication or additional support to manage the behavior.

5. Consider using incontinence products

If the patient is experiencing incontinence, consider using incontinence products such as adult diapers or briefs. This can help prevent accidents and reduce the likelihood of the patient engaging in the behavior.

Remember, dealing with a dementia patient who plays with poop can be challenging, but with patience and understanding, you can manage the behavior and maintain a safe and healthy environment for the patient.

What does the research say?

A study by Toshie Ata and associates aimed to explore the prevalence and associated factors of fecal incontinence among nursing home residents with dementia. 

The findings revealed that fecal incontinence was prevalent among the residents, and it was associated with functional impairment, cognitive impairment, and urinary incontinence. 

The results showed that approximately 30% of the patients exhibited fecal smearing behavior, which was associated with more severe cognitive impairment, functional dependence, and neuropsychiatric symptoms. 

Dr. Toshie and associates suggest that interventions targeting these underlying factors may help reduce the occurrence of fecal-smearing behavior in dementia patients.

The study also highlighted the need for individualized care plans to address fecal incontinence in this population. However, the study did not specifically address why some dementia patients play with poop.

Another study by Dr. Keith A. Josephs and associates investigated the prevalence and factors associated with the behavior of eating feces among dementia patients. T

The results showed that the behavior is relatively uncommon but can be associated with cognitive and physical impairments. The study advises that caregivers should monitor and manage this behavior to avoid health complications.

How to clean up when dementia patients play with poop? 

Cleaning up poop can be a difficult and unpleasant task for caregivers. It is important to approach the situation with compassion and understanding, as playing with feces is often a symptom of the disease. 

Before beginning the cleanup process, make sure that you have the appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and a mask.

Start by removing the patient from the area and gently explaining why it is important to clean up the poop. Use paper towels or disposable cloths to pick up as much of the poop as possible. Dispose of the soiled materials in a plastic bag and tie them tightly before throwing them away.

Next, use a disinfectant spray or solution to clean the affected area thoroughly. Allow the disinfectant to sit for a few minutes before wiping it up with disposable cloths or paper towels. Be sure to also clean any nearby surfaces or objects that may have come into contact with the poop.

Once you have finished cleaning, dispose of all the used cleaning materials in a sealed plastic bag and throw them away. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If necessary, you may also want to clean the patient’s hands and any affected clothing.

Remember to approach the situation with patience and empathy. It is not the patient’s fault that they are experiencing this symptom, and it is important to maintain their dignity throughout the process.


While dealing with dementia patient who plays with their feces can be challenging, it is important to approach the situation with compassion and understanding. By identifying triggers, keeping the patient clean and comfortable, providing distractions and sensory stimulation, and seeking professional help when needed, caregivers can help manage this behavior and provide a safer and more comfortable environment for their loved ones.


  1. Thanks for this article, Ryan. So many articles just refer to incontinence rather than behaviours around poo. I had guessed there was a childlike curiosity going on around poo and bowel movements, but the sensory aspect hadn’t occurred to me. Good to know, thank you.

  2. Do dementia patients know they are going poop? My mom who is 86 years old. Sits on the toilet for over two hours while I wait for her to finish pooping is this normal?

    1. Hey Janell, it’s tough to say if dementia patients are aware of going to the bathroom. It might be worth checking with a doctor. As for your mom spending a long time on the toilet, it could be her way of finding some peace or reflecting on things. Have a chat with her about it, might give you some insight.

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