When It Comes to Decision-Making, Simpler is Better

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • There’s a saying among quilters and sewers - “She who has the most fabric at the end of the game wins.” My mom could easily be one of the top winners in this proverbial contest because of the amount of fabric she accumulated while co-owning a fabric store for over 20 years. Through perusing her stash of paisleys, polka dots and plaids, Mom always had many options of colors, patterns and types of fabric from which to choose when planning her creations.

    Today as an Alzheimer’s patient, Mom has difficulty making decisions that would have been second nature not long ago. I learned that lesson when I decided to bring a coloring book to the nursing home so Mom and I could share an activity. Knowing my mom loves interesting patterns, I found a book of Indian mandalas. Handing the book to my mom, I anticipated she would quickly make a selection. But that wasn’t the case. Thumbing awkwardly through the book for about 15 minutes, Mom finally decided on one of the simpler mandala patterns.
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    Then it was time to pick the colors to use. Knowing that my mom loves various shades, I brought a box with 96 crayons. That proved to be another indicator of how my mom had changed. She spent another 15 minutes trying to choose from all of the colors. She ended up selecting two crayons in the pink family, two in the teal family, and three in the gray family. The only crayons she actually used were the three gray colors and she only completed a small part of the design.

    That activity helped me understand that my mom can no longer handle decisions that on the surface seem easy to make, but actually are more complex. By limiting her choices, I find that Mom doesn’t get as frustrated with herself. For instance, when I bring dinner for Mom, I go with one of her traditional favorites (like quesadillas) instead of foods that can be difficult to eat (such as pasta). Because Mom likes to read, we have subscribed to People magazine, which is easier to understand due to the number of pictures. The secure unit where she lives has puzzles that are appropriate for a young child; on occasion, we’ve worked on completing these puzzles together.

    As we become adults, we always seem to think that multiple choices are good and complex decisions are the norm. However, I have come to learn that as my mom’s disease progresses, her stress level is lowered when she has fewer choices to make. For Mom, simpler is better.

    For more tips on caring for your loved one, visit our Caregiver Center.
Published On: May 05, 2006