My mom is an obsessive anti-hoarder. Is her 'buy and return' system a dementia thing?

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I hear alot of people talking about their parents hoarding. My mom is an obsessive anti-hoarder. She's constantly buying things (clothes, cellphone, home phone, TV), then returning it or giving it away because they clutter things up or she can't figure out how they work. She keeps secrets from me (even though I'm the one she calls when she needs help), so I usually discover these things weeks or months later, usually by accident. If it's a big purchase, she enliss help from well-meaning but uninformed people. Last week, I discovered she bought a used car that "her friend" (40 year old man who works for the utility company) found for her. He's "going to buy her old car - making monthly payments". She doesn't need to be driving, so I was going to let her old car die gracefully without replacement....now she's back on the road, driving way too fast. She just loves this guy because "he really understands what it's like to be old and lose your freedom".
My questions: 1. Is her 'buy and return' system a dementia thing?
2.How do you deal with "helpers" (when you often don't know they
exist? When we stop one "helper channel", she just finds
another.
3. Are these behaviors normal aging, or a sign that she needs
assisted living or 24/7 supervision ?

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With dementia, many behaviors will escalate as time progresses. Buying and returning can be compared to binge eating and purging. Mom liked the feeling that she got when she was buying. Some people like to buy and return so that it gives them a reason to go out on an errand.
As for her helpful "cohorts in crime" they may believe that they are doing her a favor- or they can be taking advantage of her. Who has her POA? I'd speak with the bank about having a hold on any check over a certain amount and they would need to contact you. Also, if possible have computer access to the account so you can track her spending. As for her driving the reality is that as long as "she" believes she can drive- she will and no amount of talking reason is going to change that. Even if they take her license away don't be fooled into thinking she wont drive- people with dementia forget that they can't or shouldn't drive.
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No. The buy-and-return thing has nothing to do with dementia. It is a form of mental illness closly linked to shop-lifting. Although these people do not commit the crime of shop lifting, their behavior is in question. If left untreated, it may result in a mild psychosis.....hopefully not, however, in your mom's case.
I can honestly say that I don't know how it's treated, but it definitely can be treated ( case histories in APA Journals.) Check with a clinical psychologist for starters.
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I have this "buy and return" behavior myself....(some women just can't make up the minds.)
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There are several topics here. One is driving, and it's pretty clear that anyone with dementia should not be driving, period. As for elders who don't have dementia but are possibly losing the sharpness of other faculties necessary for driving, check out www.aarp.org/weneedtotalk
The other topics are the buy-and-return behavior, and the "other helpers." You're in a position where -- of necessity! -- you really are trying to control her life, while she like anyone else is trying to retain control. Recognize that from the get-go. You don't want to trigger deliberate obstructionism from her, then you'll be in total conflict forever. And paranoia may also show up as her dementia increases. So pay attention to what really matters and why. Safety first. Pick your battles. If you're focused on HER safety it gives you a good basis for working WITH her rather than against her whenever that's possible....
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Here is a recent article on this site outlining how to prevent someone with cognitive impairments from driving: https://www.agingcare.com/Answers/should-someone-with-early-dementia-be-driving-138936.htm
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Please do something about the driving way too fast thing. My family is out on the roads and I don't want to lose them. I was in a bad car accident in 2010 and almost lost my life due to a dementia patient. Please do something about her driving today or tomorrow, not next week.
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That's the one. The buying/returning is not totally new, but has escalated recently, and I suspect it has to do with a sense of loss of control. I pay her bills, so the finances are ok, but the secretiveness over trivial matters is a concern. I agree, the driving is bad, but she puts on a good show for the doctor who thinks its marvelous that an 85 year old can still be "as spunky and independant as she is" --- God spare us from 'encouragers' ----
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Oh wait ... I've confused your mom with someone else, haven't I? Sorry. Your mom is the one who can't figure out how to use the med alert button, and can't remember sending out emails shortly after she has done it, right? Disregard what I said about a pill, but the principle still applies. If she has episodes of memory loss and also drives too fast, (and no doubt has age-related slower response time), I sure don't want her on the highway with a school bus carrying my grandkids, you know what I mean?
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Has she been this way all her life, or is this buy-it-return-it behavior new? It doesn't particularly sound like dementia -- that is, I've not heard it as common symptom. If your mother is competent to make decisions, and she can afford it, she can buy and give-away or return to her heart's content. Do you think she is endangering her economic well-being?

Driving is another matter. You were hoping not to have a confrontation over this by just letting the car die and not resurrecting it. Darn, that is not going to work. But if you suspect that your mother is not safe driving (and I can't imagine how she could be, if she has episodes when she can't remember what to do with a pill) then you've got to do something. Would her doctor tell her she shouldn't drive anymore, if you presented him with evidence behind the scenes? If that approach won't work, report her to the department of motor vehicles or the agency that licenses drivers in your state. What if she has an episode where she can't remember what the brake is for?

Good luck to you.
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