Asked by Lisa Hill
Do People With Dementia/alzheimers In The Beginning Stages Resort To Stealing ?
It is important to understand the concept of stealing in order to properly answer this question. Most cases of stealing in healthy individuals require some sort of intent. When an individual with dementia takes somebody else's belongings and refuses to return them, intent is usually not the cause. As a result of confusion, disorientation, and poor judgment, individuals with dementia could have either forgotten that they took this item to begin with, misplaced it and forgot its location, thought it belonged to them (possibly because they had a similar item in the past), or other reasons. This is not an uncommon behavior for people with dementia and should be treated with care and sensitivity. Also consider the fact that many individuals with dementia like to "hold on" to items, regardless of what they are, because they provide some sort of comfort via tactile stimulation. If someone takes another's sweater, it may not be because they are in need of a sweater, but because the soft warm material feels good on their hands or they are enticed by the color or texture of it. If you see that a person has taken an item that does not belong to them, it is important not to react as though they stole it. An easy trick is to simply wait a few minutes until the person has put the belonging aside and remove it from their view. It is also a good idea to replace it with something so that they don't feel a loss in case they do remember. Another helpful tactic is to provide the individual with a box of their favorite things. For example, if you have observed that someone tends to take coins, pencils, and pictures, you can easily give him or her a shoebox of these items so that they can hold onto them and feel a sense of ownership. In fact, if you would like to get creative, you can make a fun and stimulating activity of the whole process. If you find that Sally tends to take other peoples things, you can create a memory box with Sally by collecting some of her favorite items and reminisce with her about the meaning of them. By decorating the box with her name and/or picture on it, you can frequently redirect her to "Sally's box" every time she is in search of something.