Why do Alzheimer's patients misplace things?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Keys in the freezer, dishes in the bathtub "“ why do Alzheimer's patients put things in strange places, and what can be done to help?

Expert Answer

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

As Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, judgment grows increasingly impaired and putting keys in the freezer makes perfect sense (open the door and put the keys in safe place where they won't get lost, close the door). Even placing dishes in the bathtub makes sense when you consider a bathtub is where things (and people) get clean.

Although these behaviors are often the norm for one with moderate Alzheimer's, they are cumbersome and annoying for the caregiver in a hurry who "lost" her keys. (Hint: Look in the freezer!)

5 Tips to Reducing Lost and Misplaced Items

  1. Put your own keys in a place where your loved one is unlikely find them. Instead of using a hook or shelf by the door, hide them in the back of a lower drawer or shelf. Give your loved one a set of old keys to hold onto.

  2. Unplug all appliances that can pose a danger such as a toaster for when your loved one decides to place a spoon in one of the slots. It's happened!

  3. Check cupboards and cabinets daily for that open jar of peanut butter or quart of milk.

  4. Look in the back of your loved one's closet for inappropriate items hidden. You might be surprised to find your wallet, favorite pen, jewelry, or even a cup of urine. Honest!

  5. Lock your closet or home office when you're away from home to prevent your papers and other valuables from being reorganized and "put away."

The best you can do is be aware of how the disease affects your loved one, make your home safe, and check storage spots--cupboards, cabinets, closets, drawers, and the freezer, often.