Early Alzheimer's: 5 Ways to Deal With Loss of Initiative

Have you noticed passive "onlooker" behavior creeping into your loved one's daily routine? Passivity that comes on gradually is a hallmark of early dementia. How it manifests depends on the person. A planner may begin to defer more to others. A social leader may act more reclusive. A "do-er" may seem less certain about what to do next.

Losing drive and initiative can be a slow process, so these changes might not seem obvious. People often don't think to link them to the memory and thinking changes also taking place because of dementia; they may misinterpret passivity as rudeness or another change in personality.

How to deal with lost initiative?

1. Try to remain understanding. Don't be too quick to call someone with a new inwardness "rude" or "uncaring." Your loved one's brain is working overtime to process changes and compensate. That's a struggle, not a deliberate act.

2. Look for ways to modify favorite activities. Rather than giving up hobbies or work completely, are there ways to simplify the number of steps or to substitute an easier activity so that frustration is lessened?

3. Be encouraging. Once you know to look out for passivity, you can sometimes overcome the earliest signs of it.

4. Keep inviting him or her to participate. Even if you weren't the social director in your loved one's life before, you may need to take on more of that role now.

5. Don't be too quick to turn to passive, easy fixes like TV. Retreating to the tube may seem to be simple, but your loved one needs social interaction and friendships more than ever for stimulation and reassurance. Zoning out in front of the TV hurts more than it helps.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio