Folding a big pile of laundry, sorting buttons, snapping beans for soup: those repetitive but necessary activities can tend to become mind-numbing and perhaps even irritating for most of us. But for those with Alzheimer’s, there’s great comfort to be gained in familiar, repetitive activities, and after completing an exhausting task, they may even want to undo the work and start all over again.
The staff members of Nightingale Homecare are qualified as Alzheimer’s Whisperers® and offer care, management and support through our Connections Program. Our caregivers, nurses, therapists, social workers and managers have all been trained in a unique approach by Dr. Verna Benner-Carson, a national expert in dementia care. This training has led to highly-developed expertise throughout our agency in managing even the most challenging behaviors associated with a dementia diagnosis.
Thank goodness that the experts in Alzheimer’s care and management have developed tools to manage these and other behaviors to help prevent family members from actually going crazy! Here are some tips from Dr. Benner-Carson and the clinical staff of Nightingale Homecare’s Connections Program.
ASSESS THE REASON
When a patient exhibits repetitive behavior, first look for a reason behind the repetitive behavior. It may occur around certain people or surroundings, or at a certain time of day. This repetition may be a way of the patient trying to communicate something. In this case, focus on the emotion and not the behavior. Don’t think so much about what the person is saying or doing, but how he or she is feeling. Understanding this may provide insight into circumstances that may begin to aide in eliminating the behavior.
STAY CALM AND REASSURING
During periods of repetition, it is normal for loved ones to become frustrated or anxious. Try to remain calm with a gentle voice and gentle touch. It is important not to engage the loved one in an argument over the repetition. Because of the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, many patients are unaware that they’re repeating words or activities.
GIVE THE ANSWER
If it is a repetitive question, give the answer, even if you have to repeat it multiple times. If your loved one has the ability to read, you can write the answer down on paper. You may also be able to create a photo collage around the question that helps answer it. This activity can be done with your loved one’s help, creating meaning to the collage by adding photos to clarify the question. This is especially helpful for loved ones who have lost the ability to read. You can also use a calendar for recurring events your loved one has questions about, and refer him or her to the calendar. Place the memory aide in a prominent location, then refer your loved one to the note/calendar or collage when the question is raised again. Another great way to give the answer is to make up a song in a familiar tune that your loved one knows well, and in the song, provide the question and the answer!
TURN IT POSITIVE AND PRODUCTIVE
If the person is running her hands across a chair or table, give her a rag and praise her for the good work at shining the furniture. Sometimes, repetition evolves because of just plain boredom. This is easily resolved with activity. Give her something to do: sort coins, play with a pet, go for a walk, enjoy a snack, sweep the floor, fold laundry, play music and dance!