Caretakers and loved ones of those struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia: Do you often struggle to find ways to avoid distress, added confusion and irritability when your loved one is actively struggling with a symptom at a given moment? Treatment and effective solutions can be stressful enough for the both of you when trying to navigate through an episode or situation together. But there is one method that often works, regardless of the situation or condition… redirecting their attention.
Lisa Skinner, behavioral expert in the field of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, has helped numerous families navigate the challenges of having a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias over her 20-year career as a community counselor and regional director of senior care facilities. Her recently revised book, “Truth, Lies and Alzheimer’s: Its Secret Faces” explores true stories of families experiencing Alzheimer’s and provides evidence-based solutions, such as redirecting attention.
In her book, Lisa highlights the story of her mother-in-law, Maryanne… a woman that struggled with the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, such as repetitive behaviors and memory loss. She would tend to her laundry in the same manner repeatedly, while frequently asking where her husband is, struggling to remember his death 4 years prior.
She states, “When a person’s defenses are up, as Maryanne’s would have been if we told her the truth, she wouldn’t have been able to connect with us on an interpersonal level. Telling Maryanne the truth wouldn’t have caused her to “snap out” of her belief. Believing that Marty was alive was her reality for the moment. By joining her reality, I relieved her concern, and ensured that we would continue to have an enjoyable visit.”
“Lastly, Maryanne also exhibited repetitive behaviors. Fold, tuck, repeat! Your loved one may repeat words, activities, questions, or stories. They may also pace around a room. These types of behaviors are often a coping mechanism for dealing with stress or fear. Admittedly they can be annoying for family members and caregivers. Do what you can to redirect them. But as long as the behaviors are safe, eliminating them isn’t mission-critical.”