As dementia progresses, memory loss, poor judgment and certain behaviours can make general housekeeping a challenge.
A person may develop behaviours such as rummaging constantly through drawers and hoarding objects throughout the house.
As a caregiver you may find this behaviour exasperating! Especially when you’re accused of stealing precious items.
Stop for a minute and examine why a person may be stockpiling certain items.
Usually the person has forgotten what an object is and where it goes. They may be hoarding items in familiar places worrying they may simply forget where they put them.
Those items may also give them a sense of familiarity and comfort. We all know how distressing it can be to lose our purse.
Fear of strangers stealing from them may mean the person with dementia starts to hoard items in drawers for safekeeping and subsequently forgets where they put them.
Sometimes this behaviour can be related to boredom or the person may simply be trying to make sense of objects around them.
Constantly fidgeting and rearranging objects about the house isn’t always a bad thing.
It may be annoying to you but if a person is happy rearranging a cupboard it can help give them a purpose, maintain motor skills and alleviate agitation.
You can make life easier for yourself and the person in your care by:
1. Limiting the number of valuables around the house.
2. Buying 2 or more items that look the same such as key rings, handbags, glass cases etc.
3. Declutter cupboards! Remove clothes and shoes that are never worn.
4. Create a space to rummage e.g. an office with old magazines, letters and folders to sort.
5. Locate likely hiding spaces and check readily.
6. Choose items with bold colours that are easy to find.
7. Place large signs on cupboards and drawers such as ‘socks’.
8. Rummaging can be turned into an activity by creating a box of items for the person to sort such as letters, old photos or magazines.
A cluttered environment can make caregiving stressful, even unsafe. Try and keep a home clean and minimise unnecessary items that may pose a danger. If you have the space keeping a room free for someone to rummage, clean and do what they will can be positive.
Remind yourself that as much as some items may look like junk to you, try not to throw out possessions that hold special meaning for a person with dementia.
Recognise that the person living with dementia may keep certain items in strange places as a general reminder.