Alzheimer’s and afraid to leave the house or safety of a room:
Dear Francy; My mother is terrified of leaving the living room…she no longer wants to go to the bathroom or to her bedroom. She feels safe in the living room and she clings onto the chair and I have to pull her out of the room to the bathroom. What can I do to release this fear?
First rule; do not connect with the fear yourself. In other words, do not show worry on your face over her fear..treat your mother with smiles and talk to her in a normal tone of voice. Get her to follow you on a daily tour of the house, maybe have her hold a dust wand or rag while you are touring so she feels the movement of cleaning the home. For instance; “Mother would you come and help me with the laundry for a few minutes?” This everyday routine is soothing and your voice shows no change of character…on a good day she will follow you because she is doing something “for you”. That is how our family responds to us the best…they do things “for us”. Lunch time, you ask her to come make a sandwich for you. If you set up a commode to use; place it at the far end of the living room so she has to walk over to it and be close to leaving the room and then slowly move the commode every few days closer to the bathroom. Taking it easy and slow and using your mild calming voice is the ticket.
- Always remember to review the small and large problems with her doctor so he can adjust her medications to help her through her fears.
- Therapy for dementia and Alzheimer’s is not considered helpful when they go into the moderate and above stages.
- Calming, reassuring and cheerful demeanor is the best treatment to receive positive responses.
- Third party care can release the tension and often kick-start the brain into a different focus. Ask a family friend to visit, get an in-home care person for a couple of hours a few times a week, etc. Change is fearful for the Senior but it also might spark different feelings that can change the atmosphere of the home.
- Use music to change moods. Morning music is upbeat and happy, afternoon is slow and calming, evening is fun music with voice, and nite time music is slow and calming.
- If TV is on all the time; monitor it like you would a young child. The TV voices and noises make a difference in the senior’s mood. Find stations that are of interest and then turn it off for a few hours in afternoon to encourage a rest or nap without noise.
- Ask the doctor about sweets; I find afternoon sweets with tea help the brain to re-energize. I give George cookies with tea at 4PM every day…then make sure his dinner is on time around 6-6:30PM with meds
Dear Francy; My Aunt is not sleeping in her bed, she is sleeping on the couch and it is not a comfortable couch to sleep on. How can I get her to move to the bedroom again?
- Make sure the bedroom holds comforting things in it and not memories of things that might upset her. Pictures of spouse or relatives that have passed can be overburdening. Move the pictures from the wall and put them somewhere else in the house. Make the room comforting. Update the room in small ways and refresh bedding.
- Take your Aunt into the room while you are there and have a talk on her bed. Allowing her to reset her mind that the room is warm and friendly. Looking through her drawers and have her help you sort them out. Get her re-involved with the room in a positive manner each time you visit. Even having her take a nap, on her bed, while you clean the house or do her chores.
- Put in a night light in the room and in the hallway to the bathroom for ease of night vision
- Make sure there is a phone, emergency button or a cell phone available by her bedside table
- Change the living room furniture so the couch is not as comforting as it has been in the past. Place a TV chair in the prime space of TV viewing. Make sure the chair is comforting and has a table that is easy for her to use for her snacks and other personal behaviors.
- Call her mid-day and make sure she is not napping all day. In order to have good rest, she needs to have exercise and movement during the day hours
- If she is using the TV to keep her mind busy…put a small TV in her room with an under pillow speaker
- If she is responding to time alone, get her a senior rescue anipal. Like a cat, that will fill her day with movement and love. Older animals are easy to adapt to seniors and they mind the senior’s problems like unsteady and forgetful. Cats can stay indoors, use a potty box and eat and drink from a larger bowl that does not have to be replaced during the day. Place a fluffy cat blanket on her bed so she can welcome the cat in the room with her and not feel lonely in bed.
I hope this helps with the everyday issues that all families face with their dementia senior’s care. Thank you, for your gift of care, these are hard issues to face on a daily basis. Keep talking and asking for help…your care has so much value. It is totally understanding that frustration and self doubt will consistently arise while caring for anyone with dementia. Keep strong; your love and kindness do make a difference in this person’s daily routine.