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Is Leaving Cupboard Doors Open A Sign Of Dementia

Recognition And Coordination Difficulties

Prevent Elopement/Wandering: Door Guardian in Alzheimer’s Dementia Care

A person showing early signs of dementia may put everyday things in unusual places . They may have difficulty recognising familiar items such as a chair, soap, toothbrush, cutlery, kettle, coffee jar, cooker or fridge.

Signs of a loss of coordination skills can include struggling to undo or do up buttons, to tie or untie shoes and neckties, and to use a hair brush or razor. They may be more subtle, such as putting down a cup of tea too close to the edge of a table or having difficulties lifting a teapot or kettle or using a knife to cut vegetables or fruit.

Why Rummaging Is Considered A Challenging Behavior

Rummaging can be very frustrating for caregivers because it can make quite a mess. The entire contents of dressers may be removed and sometimes can be hidden all over the room. Caregivers can feel like they’re constantly putting things back or trying to find what the person with dementia has moved around.

Sometimes, rummaging can be a concern for the person with dementia if it is related to anxiety and causing distress.

At other times, rummaging seems to be an enjoyable activity, such as where the person is sorting items or going through familiar items that may be reassuring to them.

Labels And Signs Can Help Someone Get Around

Labels and signs on cupboards and doors can be helpful, such as a toilet sign on the bathroom or toilet door. Signs should be:

  • clear
  • have words and an appropriate picture that contrast with the background
  • placed slightly lower than normal as older people tend to look downwards

It may also help to put photos on cupboards and drawers to show what’s inside them. For example, you could put a photo of cups or mugs on the cupboard that contains these.

Alternatively, see-through cupboard doors can be a great help to someone with dementia, as they can then see what’s inside.

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Man Shares Story As Part Of Alzheimers Society Dementia Awareness Week

08:00, 14 May 2017

As part of Alzheimers Society’s Dementia Awareness Week, which runs until Saturday, we take a look about what it means to live with dementia, and what people can do to help….

For many, leaving the cupboard doors open would be put down as a natural part of ageing. But for Ken Nicholls, it was the first sign of his dementia.

The 75-year-old, of Shaftesbury Drive, Maidstone, was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease around six months ago after he began forgetting things. But while some might be fearful in the face of the condition, Mr Nicholls has a different outlook.

I am very pragmatic, I just accept it, he told the Kent Messenger. Ive got it so Ive got it. Some people refuse to do that, but it makes it much easier. I might get angry at myself when I forget things, I keep bashing into cupboard doors. Ive walked into the patio doors, which really hurt.

My wife and I have even cancelled a foreign holiday because I was concerned about what I would do if I got parted from her. But generally we havent let it affect our lives.

I still have my independence and Ive had a great deal of help, meaning I can plan for what happens next.

The retired accountant has joined a number of Alzheimers Society groups, including a dementia cafe, while his wife of 47 years, Carol, has been on a carers course run by Bay Tree House.

I still have my independence and Ive had a great deal of help, meaning I can plan for what happens next” – Ken Nicholls

Make Sure They Eat And Drink Enough

My family likes to leave random cabinet doors open ...

It is important to make sure your loved one is eating and drinking enough. A person with dementia may not realise they are hungry or thirsty, may not recognise familiar food or just refuse to eat; this can lead to malnutrition, weight loss and put them at risk of illness. A helpful guide from Dementia UK can be found here.

  • Be patient, allowing extra time for meals.
  • Place fluids in a clear, easily recognisableglass or cup and leave within their reach.
  • Offer food that is easy to eat without cutleryif they now struggle with a knife and fork, or softer foods if they are havingdifficulty chewing.
  • Prepare food that looks and smells appetising toencourage your loved one to eat.

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Ways To Manage Dementia Rummaging Behavior

1. Make sure they wont accidentally hurt themselvesIf dangerous items are easily accessible, seniors with dementia could easily mistake them for safe objects and hurt themselves.

For example, they may not recognize knives as sharp items and could cut themselves. Or they could mistake cleaning fluids for normal beverages.

To keep them safe while theyre rummaging, remove potentially dangerous items and keep them out of sight in secured, locked areas.

Spoiled food in the refrigerator or cabinets could also be a risk. People with dementia might be looking for a snack, but arent able to recognize when food isnt safe to eat.

Clear out food as it expires and make it difficult to access raw foods or cook them right away.

2. Protect valuables and important documentsYour older adults rummaging behavior might stress you out because they could lose or destroy a valuable object or important document.

The best solution is to remove anything of value or importance and lock them safely away.

That could include jewelry, legal or financial documents, checkbooks, credit cards, or keys. You could even replace some items with fakes so your older adult wont notice theyre gone.

Another concern is that your older adult could be hiding or throwing away the mail. If thats happening, you may want to redirect all their mail to a post office box or a trusted relative or friends house.

Helping them easily see or locate commonly used items is another way to reduce rummaging behavior.

More Tips For Rummaging And Hiding Behavior

Here are some more suggestions:

  • Keep the person with Alzheimers from going into unused rooms. This limits his or her rummaging through and hiding things.
  • Search the house to learn where the person often hides things. Once you find these places, check them often, out of sight of the person.
  • Keep all trash cans covered or out of sight. People with Alzheimers may not remember the purpose of the container or may rummage through it.
  • Check trash containers before you empty them, in case something has been hidden there or thrown away by accident.

For more information on how to improve the safety of your home for someone with Alzheimers disease, visit the Home Safety Checklist for Alzheimers Disease.

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Gardens And Outside Spaces

Like everyone else, people with dementia may benefit from going outside to get some fresh air and exercise. Make sure that:

  • walking surfaces are flat to prevent trips or falls
  • any outdoor space is secure to prevent someone wandering off
  • flower beds are raised to help people with restricted mobility look after their garden
  • there are sheltered seating areas to enable someone to stay outside for longer
  • lighting is adequate any entrance to the garden should be easy to see and return home from

Bird feeders and bug boxes will attract wildlife into the garden. And a variety of flowers and herbs can help someone stay engaged.

Page last reviewed: 24 July 2018 Next review due: 24 July 2021

Was Slow To Recognise That His Wife Was Developing Alzheimer’s

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In elderly married couples increasing forgetfulness may have been attributed to growing old. But equally a caring daughter may kid herself that the changes she is observing are normal.

She’s eighty one and she has had Alzheimer’s for, let me think, in terms of how long we’ve been aware of it has been the last four years, let’s say four years. Perhaps a bit longer than that, maybe it was about five years that we suspected that she was, you know, rather vague and we put it down to old age. And I think there was probably then a couple of years that we kidded ourselves – I have three sisters – that there was nothing wrong with her at all, as you do.

A husband who had been married many years knew something was wrong but had no idea what it was. One daughter who saw her mother relatively rarely describes concerns which mounted over several years.

Well as I said previously at first I thought we were having problems and it wasn’t until the doctor gave us a scan that we realised something was wrong but prior to that life was pretty bad really because we had no idea what the problem was. You just felt as if things were going apart and you couldn’t do anything about it and strange things were happening. Like, as I say, money being drawn from the bank, over spending, not looking after things as well as they were being looked after, but still not realising that there was a problem at all as regards health.

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Safety Outside The Home

Some people with dementia may become disoriented and get lost in unfamiliar, or even in previously familiar surroundings. Therefore it is important at all times that they carry appropriate identification, including their name and address and an emergency contact number. An identity bracelet is ideal.

Safety tips:

  • Keep paths well swept and clear of overhanging branches
  • Remove poisonous plants and dispose of hazardous substances from sheds and garages

Early Signs Of Dementia

Its not easy to spot the early signs of dementia in someone we are caring for. If a person is struggling to remember a name, follow a conversation or recall what they did yesterday, many of us may put it down to the fact that the person is getting older. But it may well be a warning that they are in the early stages of dementia.

Family, friends and care workers are likely to be the first to see the signs and play a key role in encouraging a person receiving care to see a GP.

Because I was with my wife continuously, I think I was less likely to recognise some of the changes that were taking place than people who saw her less regularly.

A carer speaking about his wifes early signs of dementia, healthtalk website

A doctor can help establish whether a person has dementia or a treatable illness or condition that can cause dementia-like symptoms, such as depression, a urinary infection or nutritional disorders.

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His Wife Recognised Her Problem Early Having Had Experience With Family Members Who Had Alzheimer’s Disease

Another situation which may lead to recognition of a problem which may have been progressing unnoticed for some time is a visit from a family member or friend who hasn’t seen the affected person for some time. A doctor concerned about his previously independent professional mother describes her panic when she realised that she no longer knew how to care for her young grandchild. A husband who had spent several years hoping that he was wrong about his wife’s condition was unable to ignore symptoms apparent on a visit to their son and his wife.

Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks

Nursing home makes locked doors disappear for residents ...

“This is quite a ‘good’ warning sign, if I can call it that,” Dr Farrow says.

“If we used to be very good at something, and we’ve become less able to do that, that can be a sign.”

If it happens repeatedly, this alone could be a reason to see your doctor, she says.

“Some women who’ve always been great cooks for instance gradually start to make more and more mistakes and this might make them not want to cook anymore at all.”

Younger people may start to make mistakes at work, even in a job they’ve always been good at.

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How To Keep A Wanderer Safe And Indoors

When it comes to keeping someone from wandering outside , you can lock the doors to the house as long as you are home in the event of an emergency. It is not cruel to lock the doors. You are also saving the neighbors and police some worry. If the police are summoned frequently, they may insist that you find some way to keep your loved one inside and supervised so they will be safe. JessieBelle

Get deadbolt door locks, take the keys out of them at night, and keep the keys on a chain around your neck, that way if your loved one is wandering at night, they cannot get out of the house. If there is a fire, you do not have to look for the keys in the middle of a crisis, because they are right there around your neck. If all the deadbolts are keyed the same, you only need to wear one key. LyricaLady

Child locks and alarms work well and are reasonably priced. Also, try installing a lock at the bottom of the door or at the top. Your loved one may not think to look in those places to unlock the door. jycaregiver

I finally secured the doors to the point that my mom could not open them on her own. I covered our doorknobs with plastic covers designed to keep toddlers from opening doors. Eventually, I had to secure those with duct tape wrapped around and around, as she could get the knob covers off when she was really intent on leaving. I also had to add internal hardware, like sliding locks and chained door guards, and these had to be installed above her reach. Catjohn22

Minor Memory Lapse Or Sign Of Dementia How To Tell The Difference

There I stood in the elevator with a colleague, staring at him like an imbecile.

I was telling him about a book I’d just finished, a gripping account of an attorney who fights courageously to free wrongly convicted inmates from death row. It was the stuff of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” except the stories were real, and the injustice was shocking.

You’ve got to read this book, I told him. Sounds interesting, he said. What’s it name? Who wrote it?

That’s when my brain went blank. Hard as I wracked my mind, I could not remember the name of the author. Or the title of the book.

Awkwardness filled the elevator like Muzak. I was embarrassed and my colleague was embarrassed for me. The door opened and we hurried off in different directions.

When your brain abandons you in that way, you feel more than stupid. You feel addled. You wonder if you’re losing it. Could it be an early, ominous sign of dementia?

Probably not, says Dr. David Libon, a geriatric neuropsychologist at the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging.

“That’s not a memory problem,” Libon says. “It’s an age-related word retrieval problem. It’s a very common type of problem we all experience as we get older.”

That’s a relief to me, and perhaps to you. I know many people my age, and even much younger, who find they’re becoming more forgetful and worry what that might portend.

Dr. David Libon

Dr. Christian White

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Making Your Home Dementia Friendly

As a caregiver for someone with dementia or Alzheimers, you know the challenges. One such challenge may be adapting your living space to better accommodate your loved ones changing needs. This month we thought we would look around the house, room by room, and see how it can be modified to make it more dementia friendly. When your home incorporates the elements of dementia friendly design, your loved ones risk of falling is reduced, his memory is aided, and he has more freedom to use his own abilities. A good design helps your loved one thrive.

Before going through each room, we will first review some elements of good dementia design.

Difficulty Finding The Right Words

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Another early symptom of dementia is struggling to communicate thoughts. A person with dementia may have difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be difficult, and it may take longer than usual to conclude.

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Making The Home Safe And Comfortable For A Person With Dementia

The content below is reflective of our leaflet.

Dementia can have a significant impact on a persons daily life, including how well they function within their home. Memory issues or problems recognising and interpreting the objects around them can cause the person frustration or create safety issues. The persons difficulties can be made worse by other health conditions, which might affect their sight and mobility.

To help the person with dementia maintain their independence and to support them to have a good quality of life, its important to make their home as easy to manage as possible. This leaflet has tips that our dementia specialist Admiral Nurses use in their practice to help people with dementia to be safe and comfortable at home.

If possible, try to involve the person with dementia in decisions about any changes you are making. If this is not possible, always make sure decisions are taken in the persons best interests.

Changes to a home do not have to be expensive. With some simple adjustments, a home can become safer and more comfortable, helping the person with dementia to be independent and remain in their home for longer.


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