My Mom has begun to scratch her face, ears and scalp and it's become a health issue.

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New Member

Date Joined Apr 2012
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 4/12/2012 8:36 PM (GMT -6)   
My  Mom, who has moderate Alzheimers (diagnosed 3 years ago at age 81)  began scratching her face, ears and scalp in the last couple of months and she can't seem to stop herself.  It's causing a bacterial infection that has spread.  Her GP gave her a prescription antibiotic cream, but the incessant scratching keeps it from doing it's job.  When we discussed it with her Neurologist, he prescribed Zoloft. That has not helped at all. When we ask her not to scratch, she gets upset.  I know she can't help it.    We bought cotton gloves for her to wear, but she keeps losing them.  Other than cutting her nails very short, does any one have any advice?  I'm so afraid it could turn into a staph infection.  Thanks for any advice!

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2004
Total Posts : 23551
   Posted 4/13/2012 6:56 AM (GMT -6)   
Is she around people when she does this? Is she in a home or at home?

It's tough to get an AD patient to stop a behavior and I totally understand your concern. If she is doing it when she is around people, perhaps distraction therapy may work. For example, when she starts scratching herself try to get her to do something else instead - my favorite is using odd materials to submerse the hands in (foam beads, silly putty, play-doh etc). They seem to enjoy the different textures. My Gma loved silly putty :) At night, short of restraint (which I am highly opposed to) there is not much that can be done than what you already are doing.
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New Member

Date Joined Apr 2012
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 4/13/2012 8:00 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank you. My Mom scratches constantly. SOmetimes, she will go to bed so she can scratch without being seen or noticed. But we haven't known what to do to distract her, other than holding her hand or asking her not to do it. I'll get some silly putty/play doh and see if that helps. Thanks again!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 2386
   Posted 4/15/2012 11:50 AM (GMT -6)   
Gloves? you can get a velco kind to make it more difficult to take off.
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New Member

Date Joined Apr 2012
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 4/16/2012 12:12 PM (GMT -6)   
WE've tried gloves, but not the velcro kind. Her neurologist called this morning and increased her Zoloft from 50 to 100 mg per day to see if that helps. THanks for your response. I really appreciate it!

MT Lady
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 969
   Posted 4/20/2012 10:16 PM (GMT -6)   
I totally understand and empathize with you. My mom, who has Alzheimer's, takes her bridgework out. No, nothing wrong with the fit, we've had her at the dentist several times. She takes tops and bottoms out and if she's in her room well that's fine, but she does it at the dining room table, she's in assisted living and I don't know how the people at her table can stand it. One woman turns her chair away from my mom so she doesn't have to watch. When I'm there at meal time, I ask mom to not do it and she just ignores me. Sometimes I can ge t her to keep her hands in her lap so at least no one sees them. For many, many years, my mom use to knit and crochet and she stopped nine years ago, the same year she was diagnosed. I think she has simply forgotten how to do it. She also smoked at one time. I just wonder if this somehow pacifies her, something in her hands? I've tried to give her stuffed animals. I bought her a "someone to care for" baby doll from the Alzheimer's store...she wants no part of any of that. She has no interest in anything. Dementia is so, so, so difficult
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Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2012
Total Posts : 231
   Posted 4/21/2012 12:23 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi. I usually post on the anxiety forum but the title of this post caught my eye and reminded me of something I saw recently. I hope you won't think I'm just butting in. I saw a show that had a little girl about 3 who was constantly scratching at her face and had all ready caused permanent scaring. The family was asked to try giving the girl one of those big soft make up brushes and a sponge. The brush she could lightly stroke her face so she still got that physical stimulation with out hurting her self and the sponge would keep the other hand busy. It took a little while to break the habit but the parents eventually got her to stop and her face healed up. I know it would be a bit different but it probably comes from a similar response to anxiety.
best of luck
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