Is compulsive scratching common?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother in-law has had Alzheimer's for at least four years. She is getting progressively worse, now forgetting where their bathroom is in there home. She is crying a lot at night and also repeatedly scratching her head, causing sores. My father in-law has had her wear hats to help stop the scratching, but it only works sometimes. Is this head scratching common with Alzheimer's or could it be a medication problem?

Expert Answer

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

The head is an unlikely place for itching, if that is the cause of her scratching her head.  Could it be a scalp condition?  Perhaps seeing a dermatologist  could provide an answer.  I think the hat idea is a good one.  Have a variety of hats and let her choose the hat for the  day.  Young people like the knitted hats and they come in a variety of colors.  also try to keep her hands busy when she feels like scratching with a variety of sorting activities like separating cards, folding baby clothes, buttons (if she is not in danger of swallowing them) and craft items that are seasonal.