Caregivers can work toward helping their older
family members retain a sense of self-control by
remaining calm when “habit” strikes. When
Grandma spends 20 minutes cleaning the sink, she can
be asked “What makes you do such a good job?”
This will open the door for her to make her own
connection as to why. The caregiver may learn
about the past (“My grandfather was in the military
and we had to make sure it was clean and sparkling”).
Or they may learn about a contemporary occurrence (“I
heard my son say the place is a mess. I don’t want him
to think I’m a burden”).
In either case, an artful question combined with
a compliment may draw out information. It also
allows caregivers to begin the process of
reassurance which can decrease anxiety.
OCD is designated as an anxiety disorder, and any
type of stress reduction technique that is agreeable
to the person and caregiver can help tremendously.
Aromatherapy, guided meditation, relaxing music and
changes in diet (like reducing caffeine) are
alternative methods of stress reduction that may
have some impact.
Howard Hughes, famous eccentric billionaire,
suffered from OCD. Those who have seen the
movie “The Aviator” or who remember accounts from
decades before have an idea of how bizarre this
individual became. While most people live
undocumented lives, we can look at the experiences
of individuals in public power to relate to.
The Anxiety Disorders Association of America
(http://www.adaa.org/) has a great deal of
information to educate the layperson on anxiety in
OCD, as well as other types of anxiety.
Caregivers may find themselves developing a
generalized anxiety disorder in response to the OCD
disorder for those they are caring for.
Remember that when elders switch locations
(moving in with a child, or to assisted living),
they are going “out of the box” and stress factors
increase. This increase in stress may turn
Mom’s “habit” of cleaning when she is a little
nervous into a full blown obsession over time.
Work on the root cause, always.