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When a Person with Alzheimer's Starts Rummaging

It is not unusual for someone with Alzheimer’s disease to start rummaging or searching through cabinets, drawers, closets, the refrigerator, and other places where things are stored. He or she also may hide items around the house. This can be annoying or even dangerous for the caregiver or family members. If you get angry, try to remember that this behavior is part of the disease.

In some cases, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), there might be a logical reason for this behavior. For instance, the person may be looking for something specific, although he or she may not be able to tell you what it is. He or she may be hungry or bored. Try to understand what is causing the behavior so you can fit your response to the cause.

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You can take steps that allow the person with Alzheimer’s to rummage while protecting your belongings and keeping the person safe. The NIA suggests that you can create a special place where the person with Alzheimer’s can rummage freely or sort things. This could be a chest of drawers, a bag of objects, or a basket of clothing to fold or unfold. Give him or her a personal box, chest, or cupboard to store special objects. You may have to remind the person where to find his or her personal storage place.

Here are some other ways you can keep a person with Alzheimer’s safe while rummaging or hiding things:

Keep the person with Alzheimer’s from going into unused rooms. This limits his or her rummaging through and hiding things.

Search the house to learn where the person often hides things. Once you find these places, check them often, out of sight of the person.

Keep all trash cans covered or out of sight. People with Alzheimer’s may not remember the purpose of the container or may rummage through it.

Check trash containers before you empty them, in case something has been hidden there or thrown away by accident.

For more information on how to improve the safety of your home for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, see the Home Safety Checklist for Alzheimer’s Disease. For more information from the NIA on Alzheimer’s, click here.

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