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Why Do Dementia Patients Hide Things

How You Can Help

Purposeful activities for dementia: Alzheimer’s Australia VIC
  • 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.

When People With Dementia Become Withdrawn

When a person with dementia doesnt seem to be aware of other people or is quite unresponsive, we may describe them as being withdrawn. It can be difficult to know what to do in these situations. If someone seems to be spending much of their time disconnected from social interaction and activity, it is important to explore why this is happening and investigate any possible unmet needs. It may be that the person is tired or it may be because they are feeling bored or cut off from others. This feature explores some of the reasons why a person with dementia may appear withdrawn and what we can do to help.

My hiding place now is one that I can stretch out to and run away to for a while.

Extract from From my hiding place, a poem by a person with dementia published in You are words

Dementia & Paranoia: My Mom Thinks I Steal From Her What Do I Do

Question: How do I respond to my mother with Alzheimers disease who keeps accusing me of stealing her money?

Answer: Your mother is experiencing a delusion. Delusions are false, fixed beliefs that cannot be explained on the basis of ones culture or religious background. In dementia, delusions occur frequently, with up to 30 per cent of individuals experiencing delusional ideas at some point in their illness.

Delusions in dementia are most frequently paranoid or persecutory in nature, and typically involve themes of people stealing from them, or people trying to harm them . Depending on the theme of the delusion, the person with dementia may become anxious, fearful, depressed, or even aggressive.

When delusions arise suddenly, it is always important to rule out a medical condition, like an infection, that could be causing the new symptoms. In these cases, treating the underlying medical problem, or stopping a new medication, might reduce or eliminate the delusion.

If the doctor confirms that the person is medically stable, this might be another new symptom of the illness, and suggests that the underlying dementia is getting worse. Delusions in dementia however, are not necessarily a permanent symptom of the illness, and may wax and wane throughout the course of the disease.

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Coping With Dementia And Lying

Each dementia patient experiences different symptoms at different times throughout the course of their condition. Since Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia do not typically progress in a neat and predictable pattern, it is important to understand that new behaviors like confabulation and wandering often come and go without warning. As with many other symptoms, it is best to prepare for the likelihood of dementia behaviors before they arise instead of being caught by surprise.

Ways To Manage Hoarding Behaviors

Why Do Dementia Patients Wander?

All of these scenarios pose hazards to dementia patients and even their caregivers. A significant hoard of items piled on floors and stacked on furniture can cause falls and illness. Improper medication management can lead to dangerous over- or under-doses. Unopened mail can result in unpaid bills, lapsed health insurance and shut off utilities. Fortunately, when an elderly parent is exhibiting hoarding behaviors due to Alzheimers or dementia, there are some techniques that you can use to try to manage them.

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Forgetting Holidays Or Important Dates

Although its normal to occasionally forget an appointment every now and then, it is unusual to forget important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays regularly. Another early sign of dementia is consistently losing track of the date or even the time of year. Your mom may say shes misplaced her calendar or your dad may say he cant find his watch but beware of these subtle and early signs of dementia.

Hoarding: A Challenging And Potentially Dangerous Dementia

Has your loved one always been a bit of a pack rat or someone who believed in saving for a rainy day or waste not want not? When they were younger, did they like to collect things, such as dolls, coins, and other items considered valuable and worth accumulating? If so, you could start to see their collecting behaviors intensify as they age, especially if dementia is present. Many individuals with Alzheimers disease tend to experience an increased desire to collect thingseven items that are used, broken, dirty or worthless. This behavior is sometimes referred to as hoarding.

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Rummaging And Hiding Things

Caring for a patient who rummages around or hides things in the home can be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

Rummaging/hiding things behavior management
Protecting property
Lock certain rooms or cabinets to protect their contents, and lock up all valuables.
Have mail delivered out of reach of your loved oneperhaps to a post office box.
If items do disappear, learn the persons preferred hiding places.
Restrict access to trashcans, and check all wastebaskets before disposing of their contents in case objects have been hidden there.
Protecting your loved one from harm
Prevent access to unsafe substances, such as cleaning products, alcohol, firearms, power tools, sharp knives, and medications.
Block unused electrical outlets with childproofing devices. Hide stove knobs so the person cant turn on the burners.
Lower the temperature on water heaters.
Designate a special drawer of items that the person can safely play with when keen to rummage.

Dementia Delusions And False Accusations Of Elder Abuse

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I was fortunate that none of the elders I cared for ever leveled serious accusations against me, even in their severely demented states. Some caregivers arent so lucky, and some fabrications can have very grave consequences. False allegations of elder abuse and neglect arent just emotionally devastating they can have dire legal and financial ramifications for family caregivers as well.

If reported, Adult Protective Services or the police may investigate allegations of elder abuse. Even if it has been confirmed that a loved one has dementia, making up stories about being mistreated or financially exploited can still trigger a full APS investigation. This is often humiliating for family caregivers and may seem like a waste of time and resources, but elder abuse is a reality for many seniors. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that as many as 2 million seniors are abused in the United States. Proper authorities must look into all reports to protect vulnerable adults.

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How To Treat A Dementia Patient Who Hoards

Similar to other types of OCD-related disorder, hiding and hoarding may be harder to manage and more complicated to cure. This is mainly because the patients themselves dont think of their behavior as a problem. When the person isnt suffering from dementia, it would help to get psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. But, if the person has dementia, the best course of action is gentle management of the behavior.

Aside from hoarding, people who have dementia usually hide their stuff only to forget the hiding spot and put the blame on other people for stealing them. The person might end up spending lots of time rummaging or searching through stuff and getting upset as they do so. It could mean turning over and handling the contents of items again and again. The behavior could be very annoying for caregivers and family members if the patient constantly takes things in out of cupboards and closets.

Dealing With Dementia Behavior: Wandering

Two characteristic precursors to wandering are restlessness and disorientation. An Alzheimers patient may exhibit signs of restlessness when hungry, thirsty, constipated, or in pain. They may also become disoriented, pace, or wander when bored, anxious or stressed due to an uncomfortable environment or lack of exercise. As well as adding physical activity to your loved ones daily routine, you can:

  • Immediately redirect pacing or restless behavior into productive activity or exercise.
  • Reassure the person if they appear disoriented.
  • Distract the person with another activity at the time of day when wandering most often occurs.
  • Reduce noise levels and confusion. Turn off the TV or radio, close the curtains, or move the patient to quieter surroundings.
  • Consult the doctor as disorientation can also be a result of medication side effects, drug interactions, or over-medicating.

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Understanding Alzheimers Or Dementia Behavior Problems

One of the major challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimers or another dementia is coping with the troubling behavior and personality changes that often occur. Aggressiveness, hallucinations, wandering, or eating or sleeping difficulties can be upsetting and make your role as caregiver even more difficult. Whatever problems youre dealing with, its important to remember that the person with dementia is not being deliberately difficult. Often, your loved ones behavioral issues are made worse by their environment, their inability to deal with stress, or their frustrated attempts to communicate.

As you try to identify the causes, its important to remember that a patient with dementia responds to your facial expression, tone of voice, and body language far more than the words that you choose. So, use eye contact, a smile, or reassuring touch to help convey your message and show your compassion. And rather than take problem behaviors personally, do your best to maintain your sense of humor.

Hoarding Is One Symptom Of Alzheimers Disease And Dementia

Why Dementia Causes Rummaging Through Dresser Drawers

Hoarding all kinds of things is a serious symptom of dementia and Alzheimers disease. The dementia sufferer will hide items all around the house and then start looking for them. The problem is their memory is shot and they dont remember where they put the items.

Indeed, it is not unusual for someone with Alzheimers or any type of dementia to start searching through cabinets, drawers, closets, the refrigerator, and other places where things are stored. He or she also will hide items around the house. Although it can be dangerous, there are ways to allow the person to participate in this behavior safely.

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Create A Calm And Soothing Environment

The environment and atmosphere you create while caregiving can play a large part in helping an Alzheimers or dementia patient feel calm and safe.

Modify the environment to reduce potential stressors that can create agitation and disorientation. These include loud or unidentifiable noises, shadowy lighting, mirrors or other reflecting surfaces, garish colors, and patterned wallpaper.

Maintain calm within yourself. Getting anxious or upset in response to problem behavior can increase the patients stress. Respond to the emotion being communicated by the behavior, not the behavior itself. Try to remain flexible, patient, and relaxed. If you find yourself becoming anxious or losing control, take time out to cool down.

Things Alzheimer’s Caregivers Should Never Do

Let’s face it. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is hard work. You may have to deal with personality changes and difficult behaviors. You may be asked the same question over and over. You typically face issues with bathing, dressing and toileting. Your loved one may wander off if you aren’t careful.

Eventually, you may have to grapple with the decision to place your loved one in a long-term care facility. And the list goes on and on. But the most painful thing you will ever face as an Alzheimer’s caregiver is that you slowly lose the person you love.

If you read books, attend presentations and talk to experts about Alzheimer’s caregiving, you’ll get a seemingly unending string of advice. Some suggestions will be good others won’t be very sound. What I want to achieve in this article is to offer some ideas about five things Alzheimer’s caregivers should never do.

Don’t Be in Denial

When a loved one shows signs of dementia it’s painful to acknowledge it. It’s common for their friends and loved ones to be in denial. It’s easy to ignore the symptoms, make excuses for the person, push the symptoms to the back of your mind and find other ways to avoid thinking even for a minute that the person may have dementia. I wrote more about this in an article entitled “Alzheimer’s and the Devil Called Denial.”

Don’t Ask “Do You Remember?”

Don’t Argue With or Contradict the Person

Don’t Delay Nursing Home Placement When It’s Clearly Needed

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Trying To Normalize Unusual Behavior In Conversations

Insisting theyre fine when theres an obvious problem often points to denial. Comments such as This is normal forgetfulness for my age, or Im fine Im just tired, are common ways people deflect problems triggered by dementia.

With some dementias, the brains frontal lobe is affected early on. This area controls a persons executive function and filter.

In conversations, you may notice your loved one isnt following their train of thought, Gurung says. Maybe they monopolize the discussion with topics that are comfortable to them, like old stories or their favorite hobbies. Or they may even make inappropriate comments, jokes, innuendos, or slurs.

She adds that while the signs can be subtle, your conversations may feel slightly uncomfortable, which can be a sign of dementia behavior.

Refusing To Participate In An Activity They Once Loved

Dementia friendly activities do to at home with your loved one

The refusal to do a regular chore, play a game they once enjoyed, or try something new could signal early signs of dementia. Your mom or dad may shy away from familiar activities that were once second nature, because they can no longer remember how to do them.

Someone in the early stages of dementia will exhibit two coping mechanisms when their favorite activity becomes too overwhelming, says Gurung. They may turn inward and self-isolate, or point the blame toward others.

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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.

Dont Take Accusations Personally

It may be difficult not to take an accusation personally or be offended. But it is important to remember that the person with dementia does not mean to offend you and that their behaviour is merely a result of the disease. Such false accusations are perhaps understandable – they know that something was in a particular place, but have forgotten having moved it or given it away. Someone must have moved or stolen it. The person may be more suspicious of people than they were before the disease and may therefore be more inclined to believe that it was stolen .

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Lack Of Engagement And Being Withdrawn

As dementia progresses, it becomes more likely that a person will become withdrawn, but this doesnt mean that this withdrawal is caused directly by the dementia. A person with dementia is much more likely to become withdrawn because they feel isolated or bored.

Many people with dementia spend much of their time alone or, even if they are with others, there may not be much conversation between them. A person with dementia may find it difficult to initiate a conversation or an activity themselves. When no one else does anything to engage their attention the person has no choice but to retreat into their own thoughts.

The person may spend much of their time asleep too. After being withdrawn for a period of time, people tend to find it hard to come back into contact with others. They may seem disinterested if somebody does then try to engage with them or offer them something to do.

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For these types of behaviors it is best to keep the affected individual engaged mentally, socially or physically. Creating a structured program, nurturing the individual’s strengths and building self-esteem might lessen the destructive behaviors and give the individual with dementia a purpose for getting up each day.

Sometimes it is helpful to have a rummage box, with broken things like model cars, old phones and old toys. Leave a note in the box with instructions on what needs to be repaired. This could keep the affected individual occupied and thus lessen the tendency to tear up or destroy things.

If the individual is safe and the items or papers he or she is tearing up are not essential, then allow it. Give the individual old mail or scratch paper to rip up or old gadgets to take apart, and this might curb the compulsive behaviors. Old clothes also can be torn up for use as cleaning rags.

Overall, accept the behavior for what it is. It might be a phase and once he or she tires of the activity it will cease. Of course, if the destructive behaviors are getting out of hand or sudden changes are occurring, it is best to be seen by a physician for a full assessment.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area at or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.

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