hot pink duct tape solves alzheimer seating issue

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Catherine Bixenman-salesi, who is a member of the online dementia support group USAgainstAlzheimers, is the primary care partner to her mom who lives with Alzheimer disease. Catherine regularly shares innovative, interesting and easy-to-implement “work arounds” to address the challenges she faces interacting with her mom.

I found this one to be particularly creative and practical; here’s a slightly edited version of what Catherine wrote in the support group update:

“I like to pass along tips I have figured out along the way; I hope others will find them helpful/useful.

I was having problems getting my mother to sit in her wheelchair. She just wouldn’t do it. Every time I would try to get her to sit, she’d have a panic attack and start screaming “no, I can’t!” while she grabbed my arms with an iron grip that caused them to be sore to the touch by the end of the day.

One evening I was sitting in the living room, looking at the wheelchair and wondering why she wouldn’t sit in it. Suddenly it occurred to me that her anxiety might be caused by the fact that the whole chair was black. “Maybe she can’t figure out where the seat is because the colour,” I thought to myself. Then I had an “Aha!” moment.

I found my daughter’s hot pink duct tape, tore off a three-inch strip, and stuck it dead center on the wheelchair seat. I thought if I used more, it would be too slippery, and as I wipe the cushion frequently, I also thought germs might adhere between the strips and the seat. Plus, a small square would be easier to remove/ replace.

I also found an old table leg and put some pink tape on the end of it. Now when I ask Mom to sit, I use the table leg as pointer. I tap the stick on the square of pink tape, and say, “Sit here, Mom.” Presto! She sits down pretty as you please. No more anxiety, no more struggle, no more sore arms!”

What a brilliant idea. Much better than saying a person is “resisting care,” or labeling her “combative” and then drugging her into compliance!

Thanks for being such a great dementia detective Catherine, for coming up with creative solutions like this one and for averting arguments by making your mom laugh. You are a care star!

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2 Comments

  1. Inspired solution, Catherine! We use visual confusion to CONCEAL openings like doors from people with dementia because we know about the visual confusion. Why on earth does that knowledge not help us make things easier for them?

    • M. Susan Macaulay on

      Bingo Carole. One of the answers to that question is that the idea of BPSD is so entrenched in people’s minds. We need to #BanBPSD now if not sooner.

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