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The art of redirection


Question: What do I do when she tries to sneak off and starts going down the road? Especially when you try and stop her and she's screaming and kicking at you?

Dr. Amy: While you do not say so, it sounds like the person you are caring for has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Often, as the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s behave in ways that are difficult to manage. It’s not that they want to be disagreeable or difficult. Their brain has changed and they cannot process information the way a healthy brain can.

One thing that may help you cope with this situation is her reduced working memory. When she starts to walk down the street, she will soon forget why she wanted to. In situations like this, you might join her in her walk for a few minutes. Be with her. Notice what she is seeing. Talk calmly to her. Avoid saying anything that shows you are upset. After a few minutes of walking together and chatting, you can then suggest something pleasant to do back home. You might say, “This walking is sure thirsty work. When we get home, which would you prefer: a nice cup of tea or some apple juice?” Then you can gently direct the conversation and your steps back home.

Redirecting and giving simple choices are two ways you can brush through many difficult situations with minimal fuss. So too is saying you are sorry—even if you have done nothing wrong. Take the blame and the moment will pass. The trick it to avoid creating further confusion or upset. Go with her first, then gently steer her where she needs to be.

Home Instead has put together a number of great resources for Alzheimer’s families. I encourage you to check them out. Good luck!

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