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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Huelat

Clutter, Noise and Crowds! Managing Environmental Triggers

In our bustling lives, clutter, noise, and crowded spaces had woven themselves into our routines, often causing stress and fatigue. Yet, for my late mother grappling with dementia, these elements transcended mere stressors; they became catalysts for confusion and distress. My mom, while navigating dementia, taught me how these everyday occurrences morphed into overwhelming triggers. No longer just noise or clutter, they signaled agitation and fear for her. Her struggle to filter those stimuli left her vulnerable, often spiraling into moments of anxiety and confusion. In the journey of caregiving for her, I understood how noise, clutter, and crowds acted as triggers, inciting disruptive behaviors. These triggers weren't just external stimuli; they unlocked emotional and behavioral changes, stirring discomfort, confusion, and fear. Allow me to share how I learned to manage these triggers:

1. Noise:

  • Example: The disruption caused by loud noises from nearby construction often led to restlessness and confusion for my mom. It impacted her mealtime and sparked fantastical stories about lurking aliens.

  • Noise Management: We sought solace in maintaining a quieter environment, using soft music, or providing headphones to muffle disruptive sounds. When that didn’t work, I utilized positive distractions and took her for a peaceful drive.

2. Clutter:

  • Example: A cluttered room became a maze for my mom, prompting frustration when she couldn't find her cherished items. She began pulling things from drawers and closets without a clear goal.

  • Clutter Management: Our focus shifted to organizing spaces and labeling essentials. Simplifying her surroundings became vital, ensuring easy access and reducing her anxiety.

3. Crowding:

  • Example: Family gatherings, though filled with love, often overwhelmed her. The multitude of faces and questions caused a storm of confusion as she struggled to recognize anyone.

  • Crowd Management: I learned to carve out quieter spaces at home and limit visitors or arrange shorter, intimate gatherings. Planning outings with familiar faces became crucial to provide her a calm retreat amidst the chaos.

Understanding these triggers was transformative. By mitigating triggers, we minimized disruptive behaviors. Crafting a serene, organized environment significantly improved my mother’s well-being. It was about identifying triggers, tailoring responses, and ensuring amidst dementia's challenges, she found comfort and peace. This journey enlightened me on recognizing and addressing these triggers. It was in these small adjustments that we created a haven of solace for my late mom navigating the complexities of dementia. My new book – Taming the Chaos of Dementia A Caregiver’s Guide to Interventions that Make a Difference is now available.

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