Editor's Note: This article was originally written by the Social Services Team of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA).
We frequently receives questions from caregivers regarding rummaging or hoarding behavior by loved ones. These behaviors are common among individuals with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. We would like to share some tips for caregivers whose loved ones are hoarding or rummaging.
Individuals with dementia sometimes put items down and forget where they put them. They may also save or hoard items including food or money because they feel a need to "hold on" to something or to "complete" something. If this is the case in your household, you can choose to ignore the behavior if it is not particularly troublesome or unsafe. Though, collections of food may potentially become health hazards.
Alternatively, you can clean out the person's collection. If you do, we suggest that you leave a few items behind (again, as long as they do not pose a danger); they may feel less obligated to add to a tangible collection than to start a new collection.
Some individuals with dementia rummage through drawers, closets or refrigerators. This behavior can be vexing for the person who will reorder these storage areas - you. It may help to provide a box or private space for individuals with dementia so they can rummage freely without disturbing other items in the home. This space should contain items that are safe and will interest the person.
Rummaging or hoarding behaviors may endanger an individual. It is important to put away any items that are valuable or hazardous. Caregivers should try to place items out of their loved one's reach or in secure locations.