How to Help Manage Rummaging Behaviors in Dementia

Forgetful Senior Man With Dementia Looking In Cupboard At Home
Rummaging behaviors in dementia are not uncommon and can be managed.

Searching through boxes, cabinets, and closets, taking out assorted items from drawers, and searching repetitively through many different items can be frustrating for the people providing care for a senior with dementia, but in reality these actions are fulfilling an objective. Rummaging behaviors in dementia can provide a measure of comfort, together with the reassurance of identifying familiar items and finding purpose and meaning.

One of the keys then is not to discourage rummaging, which may result in agitation, but to better manage this behavior if it becomes disruptive. The following tips will help:

  • Keep rummaging to a specific area. Assemble bins of items your loved one seems especially drawn to, such as keys, paperwork, a wallet, tools, gardening equipment, sewing implements, sports memorabilia, and so on. When a senior loved one starts to rummage in other areas, pull out one of the bins and direct his/her focus there.
  • Develop a task centered on rummaging behaviors. Let the older adult know you could really use his/her help with a certain activity that makes use of these behaviors, such as folding towels or socks, sorting nails/screws in a toolbox, or filing paperwork into folders.
  • Find other stimulating activities to ease boredom. Rummaging could be the reaction to feelings of uneasiness, loneliness, or boredom. Experiment with different activities you can easily suggest and do along with the senior, including arts or crafts, puzzles, taking a walk, listening to music, etc.
  • Keep valuables out of reach. Realizing that your senior loved one has the predisposition to rummage, be certain that any essential documents, pieces of jewelry, keys, credit cards, etc. are all kept safely away. It’s also best to tuck away the mail when it arrives, to ensure bills and other items are not getting tossed or misplaced.
  • Step up security precautions. Now is the perfect time to gauge how hazardous objects are stored in your home, such as sharp knives, cleaning products, even certain types of foods such as raw meat that the senior may inadvertently mistake for another food product and ingest. Keep all items that could potentially cause the individual injury in secure places, preferably locked away.

Midnight Sun Home Care can help with the professional in-home care services that provide companionship and engagement in creative, pleasant, and fulfilling activities for individuals with Alzheimer's that lead to fewer challenging behaviors. Give us a call at (907) 677-7890 for more dementia care resources or to schedule an in-home assessment to learn more about our Mat Su home health care services. See our full service area.


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