My dad used to get stuck in negative stories. He would hear bad news — anything from a car crash that injured a local family to global tragedy — and he would take the story in, make it personal event if it didn’t actually affect him, and be unable to move on to another topic. I dreaded his finding out anything bad, because I knew he would be anywhere from sad to distraught. After trial and error, I figured out three steps to take that would help him either move past the news or at least deal with it in a way that would cause less distress.

  1. Stop the inflow of negative news.
  2. Reassure. Tell your parent that everyone is safe. Even if that isn’t true, you may want to “fibulate,” or tell the lie in service to the person you’re caring for. To my mind, it’s better for them to believe that all is well than to be frightened and unable to move through the fear. (And it should go without saying that you’re responsible for your parent’s safety, so you’ll be in the best position to take whatever precautions are necessary, if any.)
  3. Distract. Point out less alarming things and try to grab your parent’s attention elsewhere.

These steps are fluid, and you may need to move back and forth among them or be prepared to stay on one step for some time. Being prepared with these steps will help you to help your parent.
What works for you? Please comment below with any tips, ideas, or questions you have.
And please visit the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Minute Facebook page for inspiration and tips, then join the closed ACM Exchange Facebook group to find specific answers and guidance to your caregiving questions.