Dementia Caregiving 101: What Are Rummaging Behaviors and How Can They Be Managed?

Dementia Caregiving
Dementia caregiving can involve challenging behaviors such as rummaging.

Looking through boxes, cabinets, and closets, taking out assorted items from drawers, and sorting repetitively through a number of items might be frustrating for people providing care for a family member with dementia, but in fact, these actions are fulfilling an objective. Rummaging may provide a degree of comfort for individuals with dementia, with the reassurance of recognizing familiar objects and finding purpose and meaning.

The important thing then is not to discourage rummaging, that can lead to agitation, but to better manage this behavior if it becomes troublesome. These strategies  can help:

  • Keep rummaging to a specific area. Put together containers of items your senior loved one seems particularly interested in, for example, keys, paperwork, a wallet, tools, gardening equipment, sewing implements, sports memorabilia, etc. When a family member starts to rummage in other areas, take out one of the boxes and steer his or her attention there.
  • Create a task aimed at rummaging behaviors. Let the older adult know you could really use his or her help with a particular activity that takes advantage of these behaviors, for example, folding towels or socks, sorting nails/screws in a toolbox, or inserting paperwork into folders.
  • Find other stimulating activities to help remedy boredom. Rummaging could be the outcome of feelings of restlessness, loneliness, or boredom. Experiment with different activities you are able to recommend and do together with the senior, for example, arts or crafts, puzzles, taking a walk, listening to music, etc.
  • Keep valuables out of reach. If you know your loved one has the predisposition to rummage, make certain that any important documents, jewelry, keys, credit cards, etc. are all stored securely away. It is also smart to tuck away the mail when it arrives, to be certain bills as well as other items aren’t getting tossed or misplaced.
  • Step up safety precautions. Now is a good time to assess how hazardous items are stored in the home, such as sharp knives, cleaning products, even some types of foods including raw meat that a loved one may unintentionally mistake for another food product and ingest. Keep all items that could cause the individual injury in safe places, ideally locked away.

Home Sweet Home In-Home Care can assist with the professional in-home care services that provide companionship and engagement in creative, satisfying, and fulfilling activities for individuals with Alzheimer’s that lead to fewer challenging behaviors. Email or give us a call at (269) 373-5444 in Kalamazoo, (269) 763-5350 in Paw Paw, (269) 849-9252 in St. Joseph, or (269) 963-9888 in Battle Creek for more dementia caregiving tips or to set up an in-home assessment for more information on our elder care in Kalamazoo and other Michigan communities. For a full list of the communities we serve, please visit our Locations page.

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