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Dementia Care Tip: Managing Rummaging Behaviors

Forgetful Senior Man With Dementia Looking In Cupboard At Home
Dementia rummaging behaviors can be managed so they are not disruptive.

Searching through cardboard boxes, cabinets, and closets, taking out odds and ends from drawers, and sorting repetitively through a number of items could be frustrating for individuals providing dementia care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, but in fact these behaviors are fulfilling a purpose. Rummaging may provide a measure of comfort for individuals with dementia, together with the reassurance of recognizing familiar items and finding purpose and meaning.

The important thing then is not to deter rummaging, which can trigger agitation, but to better manage this behavior if it becomes disruptive. These tips can help:

  • Keep rummaging to a controlled area. Assemble boxes of items the senior seems primarily drawn to, such as keys, paperwork, a wallet, tools, gardening equipment, sewing implements, sports memorabilia, and so on. Whenever a family member starts to rummage in other locations, take out one of the boxes and guide his/her focus there.
  • Establish a task based on rummaging behaviors. Let the older adult know you could really use his/her help with a specific activity that takes advantage of these behaviors, such as folding towels or socks, sorting nuts/bolts in a toolbox, or inserting paperwork into folders.
  • Identify other stimulating tasks to relieve boredom. Rummaging could be the reaction to feelings of uneasiness, loneliness, or boredom. Experiment with different activities you can encourage and do alongside the senior, such as arts or crafts, puzzles, going for a walk, listening to music, etc.
  • Keep valuables out of reach. Realizing that the senior has the predisposition to rummage, make certain that any essential documents, jewelry, keys, credit cards, etc. are all kept safely away. It is also a smart idea to tuck away the mail when it arrives, to ensure that bills as well as other items aren’t getting tossed or misplaced.
  • Step up security precautions. Now is the perfect time to gauge how hazardous objects are stored in the home, such as sharp knives, cleaning products, even some kinds of foods including raw meat that the senior may inadvertently mistake for another food product and ingest. Keep all items that might cause a loved one injury in safe locations, ideally locked away.

Relevar Home Care, providing Alzheimer’s care in Rochester, MI and the surrounding areas, can help with the professional in-home care services that offer engagement and companionship in creative, satisfying, and fulfilling activities for those with dementia that lead to fewer challenging behaviors. Call us at (888) 493-3513 for further dementia care resources or to set up an in-home assessment for more information on our services.