How do we get my mom with dementia to stop trying to walk when she can't?

22m asked...

My mom has dementia, she can't walk but constant trying to get up thinking she can walk. She states over and over again she wants to go home and when we tell her she is at home she gets real agitated. What can we do?

Expert Answer

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

Your mom sounds quite typical of most dementia folks in the mid-stage of disease. I'm sure each time you remind her that she can't walk, she immediately forgets what you've told her and tries to walk again. The information about not walking simply didn't get stored and so is not retrieved moments later when she attempts to stand again. How frustrating for you the caregiver! Check with local nursing homes to find out where to get the alarm that attaches to the side of the patient's chair. Each time the non-ambulatory person attempts to rise, the alarm sounds not only scaring the person into quickly sitting down but also alerting the caregiver. These devices work quite well for adults with a dementia such as Alzheimer's. When your mother states that she wants to go home, try making up a reason why she can't go at that time e.g., "It's going to rain" or "the painters are still at the house" or "Uncle Al's coming to visit us here". These gentle 'fiblets' work wonderfully well in giving an answer (albeit a bit of untruth)that satifies her for awhile. She becomes agitated when you try to reason with her instead of giving a simple reason why she cannot go at this time but "perhaps tomorrow". This use of therapeutic fibs usually offers a positive solution to a sticky situation. Keep repeating to yourself that you "cannot reason with someone who has lost the ability to reason" and remember her logic is quite real to her and it is difficult at best for her to fathom why you are lying to her about where she now lives. Her reality is much different from yours and needs to be validated even if that includes those wonderful little fiblets! Good luck and do take care of yourself.