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Teaching Now Living: Part 8- Apathy early in the Disease Process

Ellie had always been the type of person that always kept herself busy. Maybe she would tend her African violets, sew a quilt, read a book, go to church, or attend her grandchildren’s many sports activities and musical performances. Her daughters began to notice a bit of apathy early in the disease process. Ellie was always the type to do for others she had always doted on others and never let people dote on her. They began to notice her willingness to let others take care of things.

Ellie had always ironed frequently throughout the week, now her ironing pile had grown so high it was going to topple over. If we mentioned her ironing pile she would reply, “Oh, I haven’t had time” or make another excuse. She became complacent with my sister and I getting her silverware for dinner and letting us clear the table then load the dishwasher.

Apathy is a persistent loss of motivation to do things, or a lack of interest in things. About 2–5% of older people without dementia have apathy at any one time, while about 50–70% of people with dementia have apathy.

Individuals with any type of dementia can have apathy but it is particularly common in frontal-temporal dementia. Apathy can start at any stage of dementia but commonly develops earlier in the disease process It can be very distressing for a caregiver or family member to see the person with dementia withdraw from social gatherings and other activities and hobbies..

Tips: To decrease the apathy with certain activities try to encourage your loved one to be self-sufficient, provide verbal cueing, signage with instruction, and simplify the task. Encourage tasks and activities that the person enjoys and finds meaningful. Keeping a daily routine may help, several smaller steps may be easier to take on than one bigger step and help the person to feel like they are making accomplishments. Most importantly is to keep a positive attitude and focus on what they have achieved.

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