Many people with dementia are admitted to general hospitals, yet doctors feel ill-prepared to manage them. Problems are often multiple and complex. In many cases, dementia is complicated by delirium. Medical assessment must be meticulous and requires collateral history taking, mental state examination and cognitive function testing. Hospital environments can be provocative, and the way staff interact with people with dementia can increase distress. Difficult behaviours usually represent unmet needs. The right approach by (all) staff can reduce this, including special efforts to establish reassuring, comforting relationships with patients. Try to see situations from the perspective of the person with dementia. Skilled communication is vital and family carers should be kept informed and involved. People with dementia are prone to side effects of prescribed drugs. Antipsychotic drugs are rarely the answer to difficult behaviours, but may be used in cases of psychosis or severe distress.