The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Importance of Environment

It’s been a while since we posted anything. Sorry—busy with other stuff—holidays, family, etc.  After all we ARE retired! But we are back. Dealing with acting-out seems to be a major topic of concern, and rightfully so. Since behavior management drugs can be so dangerous for our LBD folks, our focus is in identifying ways to do this with fewer or no drugs.

Acting out is the behavior your loved one uses to communicate feelings of anxiety, stress, fear or pain. If you can identify the trigger of the feeling, you are on your way to decreasing the behavior. For instance, if it is a certain time of day, what is he usually doing then? Can you make that less stressful?

LBD limits your loved one’s ability to do executive tasks like think, learn or make decisions. Thus, anything that requires an attempt to do these tasks will increase anxiety. (Just think about what it's like when you try to do something you can't figure out how to do, especially if it is something you think you should be able to.)  In addition, LBDers are supersensitive to intense physical stimuli such as light, noise, heat, cold, etc. Their bodies just don’t adapt well anymore.  Here are some things you can manage in your environment: 

Clutter: A room filled with clutter gives your loved one too many choices of where to direct their attention.  Put away all but a few items.

Light:  Besides the general sensitivity to strong stimuli, LBD folks are especially sensitive to light. Make sure your rooms are lighted in a soft, non-glaring light. Avoid sun-glare. Keep your LBDer shaded when you go outside.

Noise: Make sure TVs and other types of noise stay at tolerable levels.  Use softer tones yourself and teach others to do so around your loved one.

Media: LBD takes away the ability to separate reality from make-believe. For example, if the police are chasing the bad guy, you loved one may join in the chase—or feel chased. Monitor all media and replace exciting, scary shows with something more calming.

Choices:  Offer no more than two. Yes or no, here or there, the chair or the sofa, etc.

People: Try to avoid crowds; they bring too much stimuli and require too many choices. For instance, the murmur of several different people talking at the same time at a party or even a small family gathering can feel overpowering.

Replacement items:  New items are no longer fun—they require learning. Try to duplicate a worn out sweater instead of buying one of a different color or style. Buy the same kind of underwear. 

Watch for future entries where we'll talk about more ways to decrease acting out.