Can Alzheimer's affect how someone feels about the outdoors?

1 answer | Last updated: Mar 28, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...
My 68-year-old mom used to love gardening and was famous around here for her wonderful rose garden, but since her dementia has become more noticeable she doesn't have as much interest in her flowerbeds. In fact, she seems almost afraid of the outdoors. What's going on?

Expert Answers

Without knowing her complete history, it's difficult to figure out what may be bothering her. But with dementia in general, there's a tendency to lose one's problem-solving skills. Knowing what to do in the garden -- the process of pruning, watering, weeding, and so forth -- may now be problematic. Your mother may still enjoy gardening but may not know how to proceed. Afraid of making a mistake or embarrassed by her confusion, she may find it easier to withdraw from the activity altogether.

It's like a car that's running but stuck in neutral gear. She needs another person to push her into motion. She needs someone to take the initiative to encourage her, but in a way that preserves her dignity as well as her autonomy.

Instead of saying "Can I help you?" though, you'll have to lead her in a nondomineering way. For example, you could say, "I feel like doing some gardening. Do you want to do it together?" To invite a person to participate is a really helpful technique with someone who has Alzheimer's. Quite naturally, it's difficult for anyone to accept the help of others; it's always better if someone asks us to participate.