Does Alzheimer’s dementia Cause Hoarding?
That’s what one of our readers asked recently. Their Dad has begun to save all sorts of things; plastic tubs, vegetable cans, and plain old nails. Cans and cans full of nails.
While I’m not certain what causes all of his hoarding, we have to remember that as the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is losing short-term memory first. As this happens, their long term memory may become more vivid. During later stages of dementia, the person is not thinking as you or I would. Since the person with dementia is usually elderly, they may be remembering the poverty of the Great Depression, or at least the admonition of their parents; “be frugal and conservative, pinch every penny you can.”
When Mom could still shop for her own groceries, she would stalk the soft drink aisle in Safeway for 10 minutes to find the fullest bottle of Pepsi. Often she’d move a bottle from shelf to basket only to put it back and pick another instead. She wanted the best bargain for her money. On the other hand, a distant relative raided her bank account for thousands of dollars and she never had a clue.
If you haven’t already read it, I have written an article about Mom’s hoarding Cottage Cheese cartons. Actually, she was hoarding without knowing she was hoarding.
If this behavior isn’t causing issues, I say let them do it. If it takes up too much space in the home or has become a health issue, find a reasonable compromise. For my Mom I designated one small cabinet in the kitchen for her own use. Occasionally she’d forget, but if I saw her heading for her bedroom with a newly saved “find,” all I had to do was remind her of her own private cabinet.
We agreed when it was full, she would throw a few things away…and she did. This little cabinet stored; McDonald’s cups, plates and straws. (All washed clean by Mom) egg crates, plastic grocery bags, and any other empty containers I hadn’t thrown away before she spied them. That was a challenge for sure.
I’ve often wondered if I had noticed this frugal hobby sooner in Mom’s dementia, I might have swayed her toward hoarding a single, small item. Something like toothpicks. But it was too late, Mom was already saving everything–
Always remember to: Pick Your Battles
Don’t allow a little hoarding to ruin your day. Compromise and find a solution that works.