You may find that your mom or dad is misplacing items more frequently. They could also be deliberately hiding things and then forgetting where they put them. This can lead to frustration for both you and them.
It Could Be About Control
Sometimes individuals challenged by dementia hide items to feel that they are still in control. Being in control is part of being an adult. We are used to making our own decisions and choices. Losing our ability to make decisions is very difficult.
It is important to give your mom or dad as many decision-making opportunities as possible. But, frame those opportunities in ways that they can handle. If you throw too many variables at them, they will become confused, anxious, and upset.
Give them two choices that are both acceptable. For example, you could say, “Do you want to wear your red top today or your blue top?” Instead of “Do you want to get dressed?” This helps them make choices within a limited framework. They get dressed and they get to choose what they wear.
Storing Household Items
When it comes to household items. try and create an easy way to store things.
They may have a meal card or a key that they need to use daily. Find a place that is easy to get to for storage of that item.
For example, my friend’s mother needed a meal card for mealtimes at the retirement residence she lived in. She left it in her mailbox which was near the dining room. This made it easy to locate and she didn’t lose it. In that same place, another individual put his meal card in one of those conference nametag holders that slips over your head. When he returned to his room, he hung it up on a hook by the door.
Both approaches allowed the individual to competently manage their daily lives. They weren’t always looking for their lost meal card, and their kids weren’t running over everyday to help them look for it.
Keep Spare Sets
There are some items for which you should keep spare sets. Items like keys and glasses are important to daily living and your mom or dad should not go long without them. So, keep an extra set to substitute if the originals go missing.
Label drawers and cupboards to aid in putting things away. Sometimes the words alone will not be sufficient, and a picture is helpful. For example, in the kitchen you could put a picture of a cup on the cupboard that holds the cups and glasses. Not only will they be able to find things more easily, but they will be able to put things away. This will aid them in taking care of daily activities.
Help your mom or dad declutter their space. Too much clutter can make it easier to lose things or hide things. Try and hang picture on walls, get knickknacks up on shelves and have hooks for keys. Reduced clutter will help them manage their space better. This will give them a sense of control and competence and will aid in their well-being.
When Things Are Missing
When items are missing help them look for them. While this may be a frustrating daily occurrence for you, try and maintain your patience. They will be very good at reading your body language, so impatience or anger will raise anxiety levels for your mom or dad. Remain calm and assure them that you will find what they are looking for.
You may find that they have standard hiding places for certain items. If this is the case, consider creating a special drawer or spot for that item.
Your mom or dad may also accuse someone of stealing the object they are looking for. Whether or not this is true, they will be distressed over the loss of the item. Help them look for it but remember that the disease could trigger this accusation. This is an important point to keep in mind if they accuse you of stealing something. Though it may be difficult, don’t take it personally.
One friend of mine had taken their mother into their home to care for her. They moved her pictures into their home to make it more familiar for her. She reacted by accusing them of stealing her pictures.
This type of reaction can make you feel undermined when you are trying to do a good thing. It is important that you and your family understand that this is the disease speaking. In this case, eventually she settled into her surroundings, but her reaction still stings to this day.
If It No Longer Exists
You may also find that they are searching for something that doesn’t exist anymore. When this occurs try and distract them with another activity. Do not spend a lot of time trying to convince them that the item no longer exists. They will have a difficult time processing this information and it can be very upsetting for them and for you.
Helping to manage the change from total independence to living with the need for assistance is difficult. There will be bumps in the road. But focus on creating an environment where they can thrive and feel good about their ability to function as independently as possible.
Do you need help in the area of Dementia Care? Check out this available resource: Fit Minds Family Caregiver Program
Nicole has trained hundreds of professional and family caregivers who have touched the lives of thousands of individuals living with a cognitive impairment. Nicole also holds a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Master’s in Law from Queen’s University specializing in Negotiations and is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging.