Hoarding And Hiding Behaviors In Dementia
by Health Professional
We all have possessions. These are the things we value and that make us feel good. We look after them, admire them and sometimes we collect them – but some people hoard.
When people with dementia or mental health issues were hidden away in large impersonal institutions some had belongings but many did not. Over time their things were lost, stolen or forgotten. Sometimes small mobile objects replaced what they had lost in their previous lives. Pockets or handbags were stuffed with paper, food and tobacco and sometimes even human waste. This amazing article called Abandoned suitcases reveals the private lives of asylum patients and is a poignant glimpse into the possessions of people who lived and died in such hospitals in the last century.
The Need for Possessions
Status offers no protection from dementia, hoarding and hiding. In his later years King Henry VIII of England hid little piles of coins in a variety places because he feared his money was being stolen.
Coping with hoarding or hiding
Because objects that are hoarded or hidden often give the person a sense of security and/or safety it would be cruel and upsetting for caregivers to have them removed.
Do not de-clutter too much at a time and involve different members of their family if possible so that they do not associate one person with what can be a very upsetting situation for them.
Agitation In Alzheimer’s Patients
Many times, Alzheimer’s caregivers are faced with their loved one’s inexplicable, intractable agitation, a common Alzheimer’s symptom. Knowing their history might provide clues. For example, a woman who once eagerly anticipated her husband’s arrival home from work each day might calm down if you talk to her about how good it felt for him to arrive and reassure her that her husband will be home soon. If he is deceased, there’s no reason to mention that, Rubinstein says.
Are There Any Exceptions
While some dementia patients eat too little, others overeat. Some dementia patients may eat too much food at a time or consume meals too often.
Its also possible for patients to demonstrate excessive eating and other related eating behavioral changes because of changes in their dietary preferences.
They may even be obsessed with certain foods.
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When And Why Does Hoarding And Hiding Occur During Dementia
Hoarding has the tendency to happen during the middle and early stages of dementia. There are times when hoarding is the patients response to feelings of isolation wherein the focus is more on things and not on interaction with other people or to loss of memory function control, friends or meaningful life role.
When a person has dementia, they will likely hoard things due to the anxiety of knowing that they might lose something. Having the things around them can give them some sense of comfort.
Patients with dementia also tend to hide items they hoard, forget where they placed them, and accuse other people of taking them. It is sometimes associated with delusions that someone will steal their items.
Hoarding may also form because of the life-long tendency that could get more out of control once dementia lessens the impulse control. For instance, a person who collected dolls for so many years might start growing that collection. This will soon turn into a large collection that might take over the whole house, making it end up containing many things that dont hold any value at all.
Some of the most common items that people frequently hoard and hide include:
Aggression In Alzheimer’s Patients
“Oftentimes, aggressiveness is just frustration because they aren’t getting their point across,” Rubinstein explains. Dementia results in increasing difficulty with communication, so figuring out how best to communicate with your Alzheimer’s patient will help. Alzheimer’s caregivers might create a picture book or photo menu to help your loved one point out what they want to eat or drink or who they are thinking about. Keep air horns around the house and blast them to stop physical aggression in its tracks, and don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 for help if this Alzheimer’s symptom turns dangerous.
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Alzheimer’s And Hallucinations Delusions And Paranoia
Due to complex changes occurring in the brain, people with Alzheimer’s disease may see or hear things that have no basis in reality.
- Hallucinations involve hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things that are not really there. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s may see children playing in the living room when no children exist.
- Delusions are false beliefs that the person thinks are real. For example, the person may think his or her spouse is in love with someone else.
- Paranoia is a type of delusion in which a person may believewithout a good reasonthat others are mean, lying, unfair, or out to get me. He or she may become suspicious, fearful, or jealous of people.
If a person with Alzheimers has ongoing disturbing hallucinations or delusions, seek medical help. An illness or medication may cause these behaviors. Medicines are available to treat these behaviors but must be used with caution. The following tips may also help you cope with these behaviors.
Ways The Elderly Hide Signs Of Dementia
Dementia signs may be subtle in the early stages. Your mom may have trouble recalling certain words, or your dad may forget to pay a few bills. Its possible they dont even realize theyre showing signs of dementia or they may not want you to know.
For so many years, dementia has been a stigma, says Brenda Gurung, a certified dementia practitioner for the Alzheimers Association and a senior national account manager at A Place for Mom. But specific dementia diagnoses are diseases they dont mean youre a failure of a person.
It can be devastating to receive a dementia diagnosis. But getting help sooner rather than later may prevent accidents, financial problems, and other troubling consequences of dementia behaviors in the elderly. Learn ways your loved one may be covering up dementia symptoms and understand steps you can take to help.
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What To Do When Your Loved One Rummages
Rummaging through drawers or papers is one of many different repetitive behaviors some individuals living with Alzheimers tend to show. This can be triggers by nervousness, boredom, anger, or vulnerability. As a caregiver, here are some tips for you: Appreciate that this curious system is a function of the diseaseRead More
Five Ways To Help Identify The Causes Of Problem Behavior
Common Causes of Problem Behavior
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Do Dementia Patients Lie
Emotions like anger, anxiety and confusion often leave elders feeling vulnerable and taken advantage of, which causes them to become defensive and accusatory as they try to make sense of what they cannot understand or remember. Misplacing and hiding personal items is a hallmark of dementia, which can be terribly disorienting and frustrating for patients and caregivers alike. When you add in a bit of paranoia and delusional thinking, a lost purse or medication bottle can suddenly spur a senior to falsely accuse their family caregiver of theft.
Unfortunately, there are many instances where people have taken advantage of someone with diminished mental capacity. However, when dealing with the cognitive changes in dementia it is far more likely that helpful and well-meaning gestures are misconstrued as acts of trickery or deceit. For example, a dementia patient may ask a caregiver or family member to launder a piece of clothing, repair their eyeglasses or purchase groceries using cash they provide. When they find their favorite blouse, glasses or money is gone, they fail to recall their own request or misconstrue the information theyve been provided. Accusations can fly and then the caregiver is left trying to explain themselves to someone who is impossible to reason with.
Why Won’t Alzheimers & Dementia Patients Take Showers
So first a little background about me I take a shower every day! I love showers and have washed myself everyday since I can remember. My shower is filled with pretty smelling soaps and gels oh and I get away from my 3 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats and the turtle in there. It is my super special alone place.
Well, come to find out, many people, especially older people, don’t have that same feeling about a shower. My friend Tena D who is from South Dakota said they never took showers as children and there was only one bath day
Saturday night! They would fill the tub, everyone would hop in and out, warming the water occasionally and bam, clean for the week.
Come to think of it, my Mother, who died in her late 50s and who would have been 80 now did weekly bath thing she never showered.
Doh. No wonder Mom won’t take a shower she may have never showered before in her life.
Even though it would be SO MUCH EASIER, the thought of a shower is super foreign to her!
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How You Can Help
- Don’t try to clean everything out of your loved one’s home all at once. You’re better off reorganizing it and clearing paths so that there is a less of a chance of her tripping over the clutter.
- Designate a drawer for belongings that are special to the person. It may be possible to remind them to place items there that they might otherwise lose.
- If you are removing things, such as rotten food, take them off the premises right away. If you leave it there and just throw it in the garbage can, your loved one might spend much time undoing what you did and taking it all back out. Rather than ask their permission to remove it, do it discreetly in order to not increase anxiety.
- Don’t try to use lots of logic to persuade your loved one to change. This is rarely effective in someone who is living with dementia.
- Please be compassionate. Understand that hoarding is a response to dementia. It’s her way of coping with changing memory and confusion, and it’s not something she can easily control.
- Distinguish between harmful hoarding that poses a risk to the person and other hoardings that simply bothers you or embarrasses you. In dementia care, it’s important to be flexible when at all possible, recognizing that dementia already takes much control from those living with it.
How To Prevent Hiding And Hoarding Behavior
Here are a few tips to help you put a stop on a dementia patients tendency to hide or hoard things:
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Tips To Reduce Nighttime Restlessness
Improve sleep hygiene. Provide a comfortable bed, reduce noise and light, and play soothing music to help your loved one get to sleep. If they prefer to sleep in a chair or on the couch, make sure they cant fall out while sleeping.
Keep a regular sleep schedule. Be consistent with the time for sleeping and keep the nighttime routine the same. For example, give the person a bath and some warm milk before bed.
Wandering Outdoors With Alzheimer’s
About 125,000 affected adults wander away from their Alzheimer’s caregivers every year, with potentially serious consequences to senior health. One way to combat this is to put special sensor alarms on doors and windows or make doors harder to open with childproof knobs. Also invest in an ID bracelet, GPS-tracked phone, or a Project Lifesaver device, which can track a wanderer. Consider creating a securely fenced-in area around the home where your loved one can safely enjoy the outdoors, a boon for senior health.
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Repetition In Alzheimer’s Patients
Alzheimer’s caregivers can feel like they are losing their own minds to dementia, as they must keep answering the same questions repeatedly. But patients who repeat themselves just want to be reassured, Rubinstein explains. One way to cut down on anxious questioning is to be strategic about discussing schedules. Don’t announce plans days or weeks in advance. Instead, just arrange the details and tell your loved one on the morning of a medical appointment or other event. Apologize if necessary for the “short notice.”
When A Person With Alzheimer’s Rummages And Hides Things
Someone with Alzheimers disease may start rummaging or searching through cabinets, drawers, closets, the refrigerator, and other places where things are stored. He or she also may hide items around the house. This behavior can be annoying or even dangerous for the caregiver or family members. If you get angry, try to remember that this behavior is part of the disease.
In some cases, there might be a logical reason for this behavior. For instance, the person may be looking for something specific, although he or she may not be able to tell you what it is. He or she may be hungry or bored. Try to understand what is causing the behavior so you can fit your response to the cause.
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Outrageous Things People With Dementia Say And How To Respond
Dementia can cause people to say and do some pretty odd things. Family caregivers may be caught off-guard at first, but as they learn about their loved ones condition, it should become easier to adapt to these new quirks. However, people who are not providing care for someone with dementia typically arent familiar with the unusual symptoms that Alzheimers disease can cause. When elders living with cognitive decline need to interact with outsiders as they venture out to shop, attend doctors appointments, socialize and live their lives, embarrassing and sometimes inappropriate scenarios may ensue.
Handling dementia-related behavior changes while out in public is a harrowing experience at times. I can recall one instance when I was sitting with my neighbor, Joe, at the local clinic, waiting for some medical tests he required. Joe saw a man pulling an oxygen tank behind him and excitedly yelled, Look! Hes got a golf cart! While an outsider would have been confused by his exclamation, it made sense enough to me. Joe had loved playing golf as a younger man, his sight was poor and his word-finding abilities had declined over the years. He saw and announced what he knew: a golf cart. The man walking by was embarrassed. I simply smiled at him and redirected Joe, asking him to tell me his best golfing stories.
Why Do Dementia Patients Hide Things
Hoarding and hiding things is often a natural manifestation of dementia. This is a persons way of holding on to the past while keeping a sense of security to the present. They feel much safer when they hoard and hide more.
But, the thing is that it could be quite dangerous if there are a lot of things cluttering a room that could make the place unclean and unsafe. It might also pose a serious problem for caregivers and family members if the dementia patient hides or takes away important stuff such as pills or keys.
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Learn Their Hiding Spots
Try to keep yourself apprised of all the various hiding places that your loved one uses. This can help you help them when looking for a lost item. It can also be useful when finding things that belong to others, or rescuing perishable items that your loved one might take out of the refrigerator. However, these are special hiding spots, so be tactful and discreet when it comes to looking through them.
Why Might A Person With Dementia Hide Hoard Or Lose Things
People with dementia often lose items as a result of their memory loss. They may misplace common items, such as glasses or keys, or put an item somewhere for safekeeping and then forget where it is. They may also leave items in unusual places for example, leaving the remote control in the bathroom, or tea bags in the fridge.
If the person thinks an item should be somewhere and its not, this may lead them to think that someone is hiding or stealing things from them. This is a type of delusion. It can be difficult both for the person and those around them. It can help to try see things from their point of view. The person with dementia is trying to make sense of their reality and what is happening.
It is also important to note that there may be truth in what the person is saying dont dismiss it because they have dementia.