Dec 24, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease, Recurring Obsessive Behavior

A Reader asked.
Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with a recurring obsession Mom has about leaving the house to find her kids (us, when we were little)?

When it happens, she believes she left them "out there" helpless, and she also wants to go back to her house. (We take turns staying with her 24/7 at her home).

We give her a Xanax to calm her down but sometimes it does not help. Whatever we've tried telling her so far does not work well, except for making a fake phone call to see if "the kids are OK".

I'm worried that this may soon not work either. Please give me some tips! Thank you.
Recurring Obsessive Behavior | Alzheimer's Reading Room

Carole Larkin responded.

You are off to a good start by lowering her anxiety by the fake phone call.

Next, try to expand your creativity and redirect her thoughts away from the obsession.

You want to develop a series of very short explanations -- one or two sentences at most and appropriate to the what is going on at the time of her obsession. For example, if the time she’s remembering is school age children and it’s during the day, then of course they are in school and will be home soon.

If it is later in the day, perhaps they are at a friends houses playing; or, aunt Mary took them shopping for your Christmas present, birthday presents, school clothes, etc. Whatever makes sense to her (a normal activity at that time).

Remember- SHORT explanation, simple, and matter of fact. Like this is a normal course of events.

Alzheimer's Dementia -

You could consider writing some notes which go with or fit the situations.

For example,“We are at Angela’s house. We’ll be home at 5:00". Or, "we are with aunt Mary at the mall." You can develop these notes with your siblings and have them handy at all times.

It might help if you hand the note to your mother and let your mother read the notes to you. In other words, instead of you reading them to her.

Let her read the note, then immediately refocus her attention on something else. Something physical might work best. For example, “Mom, I need some help with the laundry, I want to get it finished up quickly. Could you help me by folding these towels?” Have a basket of towels ready for her to fold.

Some activities like that or an activity like making peanut butter on crackers for a snack. She can help you make them. Pick a snack she likes to eat, then let her make some and sample them with something to drink. The objective, be creative in refocusing her attention off of her anxiety and on to something positive and pleasing to her.

You know your mother best. What does she like? Music, looking at magazines, talking about the neighbors or relatives (it doesn’t matter what era you are talking about). Change it up so it doesn’t seem that you are giving the same answer all the time. These things have a good chance of working. Develop and try your own ideas. Learn what works best, and leverage it up.

Don't be afraid to be creative. Be patient and try to establish a new pattern of behavior that replaces the undesirable pattern of behavior.

This might take several attempts, or it might work immediately. Be patient, you'll get there.

Good luck,
Carole Larkin

Advice and Insight into Alzheimer's and Dementia

Carole Larkin
Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, DCP, QDCS, EICS is an expert in Alzheimer’s and related Dementias care and is a Certified Trainer/Facilitator of the Virtual Dementia Tour Experience. She also is a Certified Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She consults with families via telephone nationwide on problems related to the Dementias. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX, and her website is

Original content Carole B. Larkin, the Alzheimer's Reading Room