Purpose To explore the psychosocial experiences of people living with dementia using a Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) perspective. Findings The paper suggests that people with dementia control their perceptions by using four modes of control: control, automatic, passive observation and imagination. Limitations / Implications The paper highlights how a perceived sense of ‘too little’ or ‘too much’ control can create psychological and emotional distress, as people with dementia seek to respond to the changing contextual circumstances of their lives. However, more work needs to be done to establish empirically-supported principles (ESPs) that can assist the development of strategies and devices that can augment the ability of people living with dementia to exercise control that they are looking for. Originality The potential benefits of adopting a PCT perspective to understand the experiences of people living with dementia have only been explored in a relatively superficial way. This paper is a first attempt to develop a more considered analysis.