My sister's brilliant discovery for distracting our beloved dementia-stricken mom to distract her from things that are causing her difficult behavior to become very hard to manage

She is primary caregiver and noticed that Mom was always tearing her used napkins to shreds. A harmless enough nervous habit, we guess.

My sister is her primary caregiver and she made a one day she took a look at buckets of old documents long waiting for someone to shred them. Seems a pretty common thing because, after all, who really wants to shred buckets of old bills?

OUR MOM! That's who! ! My sister got struck by the ingenious notion of seeing if Mom would show interest and put her nascent paper shredding talents to work for us all!

Mom was sundowning early one day so I set up the first shredding session. She seemed game. We started out with her preparing the documents for, emptying envelopes, removing staples, etc. and handing the shredder-ready stuff to me for insertion and its imminent demise.

I even had Mom doing some paper-feeding but the small narrow slot was difficult for her to manage. And we don't want any shredded fingers to spoil the fun! The whole time I repeatedly reinforced how much she is helping out the family. That made her feel proud, something I haven't seen in about 5 years, since she started becoming this new person.

Very soon it became obvious that Mom was more interested in shredding the papers MANUALLY, rendering the machine obsolete. She just kept tirelessly but gently tearing and tearing with better then usual focus. Her super productivity meant no need to put them in the shredder! I was off the hook!

And she was really into it! Enjoying it! So much so that after an hour, I was the one who called it quits but she paid me no attention and kept tearing it up!

Kind of reminds me of the feeling when a misbehaving child is convinced, through trial and error, to engage in an activity that they know they love...and love....and love. You know what I mean! "Again Mommy!! Again Daddy! AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN!!!"

Do you remember this VERY old joke that sort of fits here? This happens on a city bus between a passenger and his friend, the bus driver.

BUS DRIVER: "How's your mother doing?"

PASSENGER: "She thinks she's a chicken"

BUSDRIVER: "WHAT? ! A chicken!! What are you going to do?"

PASSENGER: "Nothing."

BUS DRIVER: "What do you mean, nothing!?"

PASSENGER: "We need the eggs."

We'd love to hear about similar things you may have discovered right in hour own home that serve to defuse unpleasant behavior, that have worked or not worked, fellow family caregivers. Thanks.



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Thanks, Mayday.
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This is brilliant!! It's an awesome idea and made me really smile :)

"after all, who really wants to shred buckets of old bills?
OUR MOM! That's who! !"


I have a ton of old documents that I need to shred and a brand new shredder, I will definitely give this a go!

And about the talking and reading. I hear you! My mom does the same. When she's in the car with me she reads every single writing, from billboards to signposts, to ... anything. How come they do behave in the very same way? What's the reading meaning? Do they rehearse the meaning of the words in their heads? And with TV. Oh, she loves TV because she talks with it, not a full conversation, but certainly a keen interaction. I'm smiling while I'm writing, but it's a bittersweet smile, cause yes, I miss my mom, the way she used to be, too.

Thank you so much for the great idea and post.
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mojo61 May 2020
Thanks, Arwen.
Thanks, "Tryingmybest". My hope is that it might help others in my shoes.
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That's an awesome story. Thank you so much for sharing.
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Thanks, Mayday. Although we're very grateful to still have our mother and happy she still can communicate verbally, it can be very challenging when it continues for hours on end. And her dementia causes her to say many irrational things. It is sad.

It's especially challenging we are trying to all watch something on TV together, or read, or have a private conversation since she demands to be included in everything!

At first, she would apparently not hear the TV very well (which is kind of funny because she hears most things VERY well!) "What did they say?" after every line wears on anyone's nerves after 3 or 4 hours.

So thinking I was very clever, I activated closed captioning on the screen. And it worked! Kind of. We were very pleased to find she could see and read the text very well. We are not so happy, however, that she insists on reading every line
aloud! Even the commercials! LOL.

So now we alternate between answering her questions and when that gets old, listening to her complete narrations!

Thanks for your suggestion that reading those papers she is preparing for shredding might be helpful. Fortunately. it isn't necessary since she usually is fully engaged in the task at hand.

But she does look at the newspaper every day and shares the same lines with us over and over again. She also has short periods when she can read a page or 2 of books, out loud, of course. But not so often anymore.

Remembering her voracious appetite for books and her life of immense joy of reading, it's just a loss of another of a favorite thing in life that makes me feel deep empathy and a sense of loss.
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Be glad she is talking.. One day they may just render quiet... That is very sad.. Can she read? Maybe she can read to you a bit from the page she is about to shred.
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