National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

Using the 6 R’s to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

This month is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. As a result, I thought it might be appropriate to discuss a situation that many of us caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s might encounter. We know that there will be difficult days for our loved one, and many of us may become overwhelmed when we don’t understand how to work through behaviors that are problematic for our loved one, ourselves, and others. In the book called, “The 36-Hour Day,” the Johns Hopkins University Press discusses the six R’s of behavior management, which may prove helpful when difficult situations present themselves.

  1. Restrict. Use this R sparingly and with a lot of care. Often times when we try to force our loved one with Alzheimer’s to stop a behavior, it will actually upset him or her more. If the behavior is dangerous and could cause harm to our loved one or others, then restriction of that behavior becomes necessary. If the behavior does not pose a significant threat, however, instead try to redirect your loved one to a more positive behavior as opposed to immediately restricting the behavior.
  2. Reassess. Mentally step back from the situation for a minute and really think about what might be causing this problematic behavior. Is there something in his or her environment that is causing annoyance or unrest, and can that factor be removed? Is there something physically wrong with your loved one that might be causing this behavior? Try to think of every possible reason for why this behavior is happening.
  3. Reconsider. It is important to think about the situation from our loved ones’ point of view. This is as much a transition into the unknown for them as it is for us. Think about how their stress and anxiety may go up in certain situations, and try to understand why that might be the case. Empathy toward our loved ones can go a long way.
  4. Re-channel. This is where that redirection that we talked about earlier really comes into play. Look for a way to change the problematic behavior into one that is safer and non-destructive. Find a hobby of your loved one that he or she is still able to complete. This can help change a problematic situation into a more positive one.
  5. Reassure. In these strained situations it is important to make sure that our loved ones still know that we care. Reassure him or her that everything is alright and that you are still there and care. Give your loved one a hug or some other gesture that may provide reassurance. Even if your loved one doesn’t remember these reassurances, he or she may still retain the positive feelings from it.
  6. Review. After the situation is over, take time to think through what happened. Did you handle the situation well and what would you do differently next time? Think about what things led to the behavior in the first place and how those things may better be prevented. This process may help you to better and more easily handle these situations in the future.


Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.