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

Friday, January 24, 2014

LBD and Stress 3: Decreasing Triggers

Last week’s blog was about identifying triggers for stress. Here are some of the more common stressors and some solutions that have worked for others:

Too many people. LBD limits the ability to focus and make multiple choices. Crowds add extra stress with movement and commotion everything can become a jarring jumble.

Fix: Avoid crowds. Learn when malls are least crowded and go shopping then.

A more creative fix: Find a way to isolate yourself from the stressful hubbub of noisy active groups.

Donna, who has early onset dementia, tells this story:

I’ve always loved going to the zoo and so when my husband, Nick, suggested we go, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. It was a crowded Saturday but Nick brought along my ear-buds and MP3 player. When the kids and noise got too much for me, I just turned up the music and tuned them out.We stopped to rest in quieter spots so I could regroup. After about 2 hours I was beat; losing focus and balance (that happens when I get tired) but the ear buds and quieter places worked. I had a great time.

Eventually, Donna’s ability to deal with other aspects of the crowd will likely decrease and music alone may not be enough. However, at this stage in her journey, her MP3 player allowed her to spend an afternoon doing something she loved, even in a crowded atmosphere. Adaptation is the name of the game!

Sensitivities—Lewy’s sensitivity issues can make a light appear brighter than it actually is. Noise may appear not only louder but distorted as well, adding fear.

Fix: Avoid bright lights and loud noises.

A more creative fix for bright light indoors: Sunglasses don’t have to be just for outdoors. When you see your loved one squinting indoors, try sunglasses then too.

Media, especially the TV—As the ability to differentiate between fact and fiction decreases, an exciting or scary television show can feel real and thus, be very stressful.

Fix: Monitor the TV and make an effort to choose shows less likely to cause stress.

A more creative fix: Select some low-stress DVDs for your loved one to choose from instead of TV programs. This helps to maintain a sense of control while eliminating possible triggers for stress.

Physical discomfort in the form of illnesses, infections, injuries, constipation, and other irritants can be present and yet not always recognized as such by your loved one. They just know they are uncomfortable and react accordingly. Find the discomforting trigger, fix it and the stress level will decrease.

Fears and other negative reactions—A damaged ability to communicate and impaired thinking skills work together to trigger stress. These problems will be addressed in later blogs.

Evaluating Your Success

Once you’ve found the trigger and made an attempt to change the situation, take time to evaluate your success. This way you will have a better idea of how to prevent or decrease that particular stress in the future.

In your journal, keep a record of your efforts. Answer questions like these:

  • How did you know there was stress? Was there a certain behavior or action? What was the behavior’s hidden message?
  • What was the stressor? How would you recognize it next time? What can you do to keep it from appearing again? 
  • What did you do to change the situation? How effective were your efforts? What would you do differently next time?
Use this information to improve your stress management skills. Next week, the blog will be about retaining familarity--an important aspect for anyone who is losing control of their life--and their surroundings.

A Caregiver's Guide to Lewy Body Dementia is a resource book for all LBD caregivers. Buy it from Amazon through The LBD Book Corner on and help to support our work.

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