Communicating with Love – Loving Them Throughout the Dementia Journey, Part Two Hoarding or Rummaging Behavior 

Uncertainty or anxiety about the future can cause your loved one to hoard items that give them comfort or are connected to memories. If the behavior is not particularly troublesome or unsafe – ignore it. While the hoarding is usually related to anxiety, the disease may make it difficult for your loved one to articulate their concerns in a rational way. 

 Try to learn their hiding places and occasionally clean out their collection, leaving a few items behind. They will likely not notice what has been removed and this allows you to control the clutter, while giving them the items they need. 

One of my first clients, Julie, would not let the activity calendars be removed from her apartment. Instead of directly confronting her, our Fit Minds coaches would make suggestions about why we should throw away old calendars and ask her permission. Treating the senior with dignity, no matter what the level of cognitive functioning is core to our values.  Everyone has a right to make their decisions ~ we have an opportunity to guide them to good decisions. 

 Many of our loved one’s hoard food from their senior living communities. There are literally dozens of ‘to go boxes’ in their refrigerators.  Mom used to take extra cookies every night and when I visited, she would ask if my son or daughter wanted the cookies. Instead of confronting her, I thanked her for thinking of my children and brought the box with me. Most times, we never ate them but instead of confronting Mom’s hoarding behavior, I affirmed it. She never knew they don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies.  Dementia changes relationships, it does not end them. 

– Janet

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