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Why do Alzheimer's patients hide things?

The behavior is part of Alzheimer's disease. Hiding things could be an attempt to regain control of one’s situation. Besides, someone with Alzheimer’s may feel paranoid or have delusion. Commonly, they believe that their things will be stolen. This is why they have to protect them. Therefore, hiding things in various places.

Forgetting where they put things often results in losing them.

Sometimes, things get lost in very unusual places, like behind a frame.

This can be very frustrating for family members and caregivers.

In this article, you can find various ideas on managing such behavior.

Table of Content
What to do when an Alzheimer's patient hides things?
Where do Alzheimer's patients hide things?
Why do Alzheimer’s patients throw things away?
A word from the author
List of Resources
About the Author

What to do when an Alzheimer's patient hides things?

There are 7 tips you can try out immediately, including (1) having a hoarding box, (2) making a spare key, (3) hiding important documents, (4) getting a GPS tracker, (5) frequently checking hiding spots, (6) removing valuable items, and (7) having a calm attitude.

Let me tell you a sweet story of my grandpa.

One day, I see how he walks with a bunch of blue handkerchiefs upstairs.

This was very unusual. So I decided to follow him upstairs.

And there I see him squeezing all of them behind a cabinet.

He squeezed them in the gap between wall and cabinet.

Fascinated by what I saw, I placed a small hoarding box directly next to the cabinet.

I left the top of the box just a split wide open. After a week, I checked the box.

It was filled with all sorts of things.

Handkerchiefs, baking powder, and even cutlery could be found in it. All to my big surprise.

So, here are seven tips any family member or caregiver can try out.

What to do when an Alzheimer's patient hides things?
7 Tips to try
1. Have a hoarding box. Any size will do the job. Just make sure that your beloved person knows where it is. Even better place it in close proximity to typical hideouts. The availability of a box can be a more convenient alternative than the usual hideout.
2. Make a spare key. Make a spare set of anything that could get lost. For example, glasses, all types of keys, or the magnifying glass.3. Hide important documents. Try to move every important document, like insurance papers or birth certificates, to a safe place in the house. Somewhere that requires a key to open it would be a fabulous choice.
3. Hide important documents. Try to move every important document, like insurance papers or birth certificate, to a safe place in the house. Somewhere that requires a key to open it would be a fabulous choice.
4. Get a GPS tracker. Instead of making spare sets of keys consider key chain GPS trackers. They are simple to attach to any key chain.
5. Frequently check hiding spots. Sometimes you might be surprised by what you find. Even food is not safe from being hidden. The consequences of food lying outside the fridge are obvious. Thus, make sure to check their typical hiding places regularly.
6. Remove valuable items. Rather store away at a protected place, before pricey jewelry disappears.
7. Have a calm attitude. It can be frustrating to encounter that many things seem to get lost around a house. However, try to stay calm. The way you react to such a situation can make all the difference. You can find out why it makes all the differences in the article “How to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s”.

Besides, make sure to lock up any dangerous or toxic product in the environment.

Another thing to take care of is the way you receive mail.

Commonly, someone with Alzheimer’s throws away mail.

This can cause serious problems in the long run.

Unpaid bills could be pilling up without you knowing.

Consider getting a post office box or getting a mailbox with a lock.

Something else that can be done is to create a space where your beloved one can freely go through things and hide them.

Maybe you have a spare room, where unimportant things can be placed.

It could be the perfect spot for someone with Alzheimer’s to outlive their need of rummaging.

Where do Alzheimer's patients hide things?

Someone with Alzheimer’s may hide items in strange places, including (1) behind the cabinet, (2) under the mattress, (3) in the fridge, (4) in the fireplace, (5) into the cleaning door of the chimney, (6) in old unused shoes, and (7) under the couch pillows. There are many other spots one with Alzheimer’s may hide things. Make sure to observe where they go, when having something in their hands.

You can even see it as some sort of sport.

Try to not get caught, though.

Otherwise, you might not find the best ‘hiding spots’ in your house.

Why do Alzheimer’s patients throw things away?

The behavior is part of Alzheimer's disease. Throwing things could be caused by delusion or paranoia. Afterward, they often claim that the things were stolen. Partly it can be due to wanting to control the environment. Throwing out things is one way to do so. Make sure to store important items like photos or other memories away. Otherwise, you risk losing them.

Besides, nothing else is safe, too.

You might wonder what someone with Alzheimer’s typically throws out.

Here is a small list with items:

Items that someone with Alzheimer’s might throw out.
11 Examples
1. Jewelry
2. Hearing aid
3. Books
4. Photos
5. Plants
6. Cutler
7. Money
8. Underwear
9. Pajamas
10. Mail or Letters
11. Fresh food

Nothing is really safe. When it overcomes someone with Alzheimer’s everything could be thrown out.

Except for things that are out of sight or screwed.

A word from the author

This behavior can be very frustrating for family members. Wonderful memories caught in old photos might be disposed of in the trash. However, understanding that this is part of the disease is substantial.

Therefore, save everything of value.

You can give them additional room to go through items, as long as they are not valuable in any way

List of Resources

Patric Pförtner

B. Sc. Psychology

Hi, my name is Patric Pfoertner and I graduated 2020 from the NBU. Currently, I work and study in Germany. My specialisations are Cognitive Psychology paired with a good slack of Clinical Psychology. Just this year I started publishing my research in the CBB Journal. Feel free to read about it at ResearchGate. Otherwise, click the other button to read my full CV.

About Author ResearchGate

P.S.: I am available for psychological consultation, too.