How to Manage Rummaging Behaviors for Seniors with Dementia

Forgetful Senior Man With Dementia Looking In Cupboard At HomeDigging through boxes, cabinets, and closets, pulling out odds and ends from drawers, and sorting repetitively through a variety of items can be frustrating for those providing care for a loved one with dementia, but actually these behaviors are fulfilling a purpose. Rummaging can provide a measure of comfort for those with dementia, with the reassurance of recognizing familiar objects and finding purpose and meaning.

The key then is not to discourage rummaging, which can cause agitation, but to better manage this behavior if it becomes disruptive. These tips can help:

  • Keep rummaging to a controlled area. Put together boxes of items the senior seems particularly drawn to, such as keys, paperwork, a wallet, tools, gardening equipment, sewing implements, sports memorabilia, etc. When your loved one begins to rummage in other areas, pull out one of the boxes and direct his or her attention there.
  • Create an activity centered on rummaging behaviors. Let the senior know you could really use his or her help with a particular activity that utilizes these behaviors, such as folding towels or socks, sorting nuts/bolts in a toolbox, or placing paperwork into folders.
  • Find other stimulating activities to alleviate boredom. Rummaging may be the result of feelings of restlessness, loneliness, or boredom. Experiment with different activities you can suggest and do together with the senior, such as arts and crafts, puzzles, taking a walk, listening to music, etc.
  • Keep valuables out of reach. Knowing that your loved one has the propensity to rummage, be sure that any important documents, jewelry, keys, credit cards, etc. are all stored securely away. It’s also a good idea to tuck away the mail when it arrives, to ensure bills and other items aren’t getting tossed or misplaced.
  • Step up safety precautions. Now is a good time to assess how dangerous items are that are stored in the home could be to your loved one, such as sharp knives, cleaning products, even certain types of foods such as raw meat that the senior may accidentally mistake for another food product and ingest. Keep all items that may cause the senior harm in secure locations, preferably locked away.

Generations at Home can help with the professional in-home care services that provide companionship and engagement in creative, enjoyable, and fulfilling activities for those with dementia that lead to fewer challenging behaviors. Contact us at 727-940-3414 for additional dementia care resources or to schedule an in-home assessment to learn more about our services.