Some days, Peter’s inertia is so big that it borders upon catatonia.
Today was one of those days. My husband and I took him to Descanso Gardens to hike around and get moving. Peter moved like a patient with Parkinson’s Disease. I had to walk arm in arm with him, chanting “Right, right, right, left right” to get his legs to move with any speed at all- otherwise, they just seemed glued to the ground. He just kept asking me for “Car ride, please.”
So I sent my husband to go on ahead about 50 feet, and said, “Peter, want to earn minutes for a car ride? If you can walk over to Papa, who’s waving over there, in one minute, I’ll give you a stick. You can trade in every stick you earn for a minute of car ride.” I had Peter push “start” on my cell phone timer, and then cheered him on to make that long walk to Papa. He started out slowly, but as he saw the seconds running down on my cell phone which I held up, he moved faster and faster. When I started the last 10 second countdown, he even ran a couple of steps! Success! He just made it, and proudly accepted a stick I picked up from the ground with a big smile. We kept this game up all the way up the hill to the Brody House museum.
After earning five sticks, Peter seemed to have warmed up. He walked at a normal pace for a while, without needing the stick incentive. When he slowed down again, we resumed the game, but needed fewer repetitions to keep moving. We made it back to the entrance after earning another three sticks only. And we even varied the game in which he got the stick after one minute of successfully matching my pace as I would walk super slowly, faster, stop dramatically, etc. (If he didn’t keep pace, I threatened to stop the timer and start all over again, but never had to carry that out.)
I suspect there’s something wrong with that basal ganglia that controls initiation and stopping. Behavioral techniques like the game we played are like the oil that Dorothy would administer to the tin man’s joints- at least it works for a while.