Repetitive behavior

My Mom has moderate Alzheimer’s, and she’s recently started getting bruises on her hands because she’s clenching her thumb and forefinger so hard. I tried giving her a stress-ball to squeeze, and the doctor thought she should use a hand-grip for this. Nothing has worked. Any suggestions?
Perplexed in Kentucky

Dear Perplexed,
It seems to me that if she is clenching her thumb and forefinger that hard, it may be an indicator of pain in some other part of her body. Have the doctor give her a thorough examination to rule out physical pain. I am glad your physician is involved in this process already, because there are a couple of routes you can take – both with your doctor’s help. Physical and occupational therapists may be able to help, and it is important to request both as they look at things from different perspectives and work together to find some solutions for your mom. Ultimately, they can probably determine what is causing this response and provide some solutions. An occupational therapist can even create braces that your Mom would wear, and they should work even if the stress ball and hand-grip haven’t. Based on their assessment and recommendations, they can also probably determine if there is some pain associated with this repetitive action, and give you some preventative measures necessary to address this concern.

Some things you could do that might create a relaxing environment for her is to start thinking of the things you enjoy together, maybe activities you did together during your childhood, and start focusing on doing some of those things when you see her. She might just be so stressed trying to perform as if she didn’t have this disease that she is just “hanging on for dear life.” Find ways that you and your mom can enjoy your time together. These are often the simple things in life that bring smiles, include hugs and bring up fond memories.

For my Mom and I, one of our favorite things was to blow bubbles. Just a simple bottle of bubbles and a wand, and watching the sun play on them as they rose in the air was a treat. She loved flowers, so I always brought or sent flowers for her, and we would discuss how pretty they were. My sister liked to rearrange the flowers and make them look even prettier. Mom loved to leaf through books with pictures of flowers, and I loved the fact that they had the names of the flowers by the pictures. Mom always wanted to know the names of flowers and I didn’t know, but did want to help her with that activity. We also loved to go for ice cream, which she was able to do to the end. However, if your mom can’t get out and about, you can start your visit by sharing a dish of ice cream. Again, you can insert your own memories and ideas, family albums are good – but don’t ask who people are, rather state who each picture looks like. She’ll likely be glad to help you fill in the memories associated with each picture.