Aug 30, 2014

Learning How to Walk Backwards in Alzheimer's Care

As I learned to walk backwards I felt less anxious, less confused, and less and less anger. As a result, Dotty seem to do the same exact thing.

Alzheimer's Care Like Walking Backwards with a Blindfold On
By Bob De Marco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

My father once told me, "you make your own bed and you sleep in it." This referred to the decisions you make in life, the problems you face in life, and how you deal with the resultant circumstances.

Ever tried to walk a long distance backward without looking over your shoulder? I doubt it.

Go ahead, start walking around you home backwards. No looking over your shoulder, eyes straight ahead, no peeking.

How do you think you will feel? Nervous, anxious, disconcerted?


Now put a blindfold on, go outside, and try walking backwards, How far can you go?

How long do you think you will last before you say, I can't do it?

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If you walk backwards from our front door I'll give you some tips. After about ten steps you are going to hit a concrete abutment. I supplied you with that information. But here is the rule. You can't stop walking and you can't look over your shoulder (you are blindfolded anyway, so it won't help). You will need to make a left after those ten steps, or you will bang your head.

Let's assume you somehow make the left successfully . Okay, here is another tip. After another ten steps you are going to come to a concrete abutment in the parking lot. The kind of thing you see in a parking lot when you park your car.


You'll need to step over that while walking backward without stopping or hesitating. It's likely you are going to trip over the abutment and fall on your butt. Or maybe, crack your head open.

My guess is that if you engage in this exercise with me you are going to feel very nervous, lots of anxiety, and angst. How long before you quit? Before you say, I can't do it.

Now lets say we do the same exercise -- walk backwards, blindfolded, for ten minutes without stopping.

This time around I am going to lend you my hand to hold, and I am going to tell you what to do. Turn left, step over the abutment. And so on.

How does that feel? Feel better? Feel safe and secure while being guided?

When we start it is probably going to be slow going until you learn to trust me. Trust is a key to success. Trust that I won't let you fall and crack open your head.


Do you think we will get better at this - walking backward with a blindfold on - the more we practice together? Will you become more confident? Feel less anxiety?

Will you begin to trust me?


In the real world you would never go out and start walking backwards with a blindfold on.

When a new parallel universe comes to your home -- Alzheimer's World -- you are going to need a whole new set of skills to navigate this backwards universe.

Often, what you need to learn, the new skills you need to learn are contrary to what you have been doing your entire life. In some cases doing the exact opposite of what you would do in the real world works best.

Alzheimer's World can be a really disconcerting place if you stick to the old rules. If you continue doing what you have been doing you might never learn to operate effectively.


In order to thrive you will not only need to learn an entirely new and different set of skills -- you'll need to learn how to change.

Think you can do it?

Oh yes, before I forget. Alzheimer's World is going to change slowly each and every day. The rules are going to change as you walk along blindfolded and backwards. You will need to learn new and different skills and you will need to change -- constantly.

And now to the point.

Yes, you will need to learn how to walk backwards with a blindfold on. To do it seamlessly, without fear. Welcome to Alzheimer's World.

Eventually you'll learn to create a safe secure environment that is anchored in trust. As this bond of trust strengthens you'll find that it is easier to operate and less stressful. Complete resistance will be replace by almost total cooperation.

Together Dotty and I learned to eat, take medication, take a pee, have some ice cream, go out into the bright light, engage in activities like talking or reading the paper, exercising, and having some fun.

My father once told me, "you make your own bed and you sleep in it."  This referred to the decisions you make in life, the problems you face in life, and how you deal with the resultant circumstances.

I had to learn how to walk backwards with a blindfold on. Yes, I did fall on my butt. No I didn't crack my head open, but sometimes it felt like I did.


As I learned to walk backwards in Alzheimer's World, I felt less anxious, less confused, and less and less anger. As a result, Dotty seem to do the same exact thing.

Together Dotty and I learned how to make the bed.

My father was a wise man.

My mother, Dotty, went to Heaven on May 25, 2012.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,850 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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Original content +Bob DeMarco , the Alzheimer's Reading Room