Why does my mom hide toilet paper, napkins and tissues everywhere?

Lisjeg asked...

Hello everyone. God bless you all. My 87 year-old mom has dementia and it has been hard to see how she is losing her own personality. She is always asking how to do things and when to do them. She used to be very independent. I have many questions because we are new to this disease. One of the things that puzzle me is that she hides either toilet paper, napkins or tissues everywhere. Does anyone know what causes this?

Expert Answer

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

A red flag symptom of dementia is memory loss so it is very common for someone to ask questions repeatedly. Another symptom is forgetting how to perform familiar tasks requiring one to ask how to do something they always did so well. 'Hiding' and 'hoarding' are also very common behaviors for persons with dementia. "Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter", a film by Deborah Hoffmann (1944) chronicles her mother's stages of dementia. In one scene, her mother obsessively hides and packs odd items in luggage. In her mother's mind, and perhaps in your mother's too, these items are valuable and she wants to make sure they are not lost. Many persons with dementia also forget the function of familiar items so it is possible that all these paper goods have a different meaning to her. If you google 'agnosia' you can read more about this phenomenon.