My mom packs every night like she's leaving. This started two months ago. I thought I minimized the room, but she will squeeze her things into whatever bags she finds. Now everyday she "packs" her toiletries and I'm so tired of looking for soap, toothpaste, tissue, deodorant, etc. I can't keep giving her new ones everyday, searching the room every morning before work and hearing her complain that I'm going through her things. Last week she took all the forks out of the kitchen. I then took all silverware out of the drawers and replaced them with plastic ones. Two days later the forks reappeared. I'm not bringing back the silverware though! I keep my bedroom door locked because she use to move my things. What do I do?? Any tips would help. I hide the stock of tissues, paper towels and soap because she goes into the closet and packs those. My room is getting crowded!

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Find Care & Housing
I remember this stage so well. Deep breath and patience. We used to refer to her bedroom as the magic room. She'd go in there when she was particularly agitated or stressed and pull out all her clothes to pack and go home. It relaxed her and she'd come out after awhile like a new person. I had to remove most of her clothes because it made it easier for me to clean up when she was done. I used to laugh at myself because Im the way I am with drawer and closet orginization because of the way my mother raised me. Now she's the one making the mess. Mom isnt mobile enough to do this anymore, so know that this phase will pass.
Helpful Answer (1)

Grandma had a folding stage. She would not sleep for folding her blankets. I was brain storming trying to come up with ways to help her get rest so she wouldn't sit and fold and fold and fold. She was even removing her clothes at one point to fold them and that made keeping her warm and not sick almost impossible. She'd take all the clothes out of her closet and fold them. She'd take everything off the floor and 'fold' that into blankets. She'd just fold anything and everything. I finally had to turn up the heat in her room to combat a cold she had gotten being cold having taken everything off during the night and sat cold.

Then we went through a clean stage where she would pick up everything off the floor and hide it around the house claiming to have cleaned up a bit. Imagine my fear since she has Syncope which is the tendency to pass out if standing up or bending over. But it too passed and now I just get her cup being folded up in a blanket next to her or a fiddle with her blankets and her packing up to go home and stacking her walker with her pillows and blankets so she's ready to go home when I leave. She now sleeps at night and doesn't wish to fiddle so much and in fact will curl up in her blankets (I found she sleeps better when she's cold so she has to snuggle. In the summer there was a few nights where it was hot and that made for no sleep for her hence why I used her extra money one month to invest in an air conditioner right next to her chair). But her folding her own personal items into a basket was much easier to clean up after and deal with.

How I handled some of those stages was play stage. I put up a fake rack in her room with some clothes on it so she could fold them or in your case so she can pack them. I gave her baskets of towels, then switched to hand towels as the regular towels were too big to be successful with and then finally to wash cloths to make them easier to handle. It was helpful for me to put things away and great for her as they gave her something to do. (She still has a pile of hand towels next to her that I use to clean up original spills on the carpet or on her tray or on her). The towels weren't her clothes and even the racks placed in her room weren't what she was currently wearing but would give her a sense of something to fold. I then put blankets in a reachable location to her chair and gave her a basket to put them in when she was done by her chair. This worked wonders so she was no longer running through the house looking for something to fold. Instead she would pick up a hand towel or her blankets out of the basket and fold and fold over and over again. She would end up cleaning up after herself and it would satisfy her.

Just be patient as every stage things change. Sometimes they get worse and sometimes more tolerable. Just keep being creative and using people's brains here. The people here are really truly amazing and so helpful with brain storming and coming up with ideas on how to help with stages and what to know to expect!
Helpful Answer (1)

I don't know if it helps any to know that this is a self-limiting phase and it will gradually fade out and be replaced by other behaviors (which might be easier or harder to deal with).

It is the dementia. There is damage in the brain. No amount of reasoning, bargaining, tough love, negotiating, or magic is going to change it. The best you can do is try to minimize its impact on you.

In this phase my husband tried to call the sheriff to report that he was being held against his will. Fortunately he couldn't dial the phone well. Sometimes he went across the street and asked the neighbors to make the call for him. He was in his own home. But he kept insisting he wanted to go home. This made more sense when you realized that he had delusions that he was in a train station or a hotel or a high school. He never packed silverware, but some of the things he did pack were touching. A map of Glacier park. (We live in Minnesota.) A t-shirt. The book he was reading.

For him this paranoia/packing to leave stage lasted 4 or 5 months, but it sure seemed like forever while it was happening.

It may be that placing your mother in an appropriate care center will be the best solution in the long run. Whether that is regular assisted living or memory care will have to be evaluated, but it wouldn't hurt for you to start exploring the options, and looking at the finances to make that happen.

Meanwhile, try to take your mother's behavior in stride. She isn't doing this to hurt you (in spite of what she may say). She is doing this because her brain is damaged.
Helpful Answer (1)

Oh, Sistasoul. This must be so so hard to deal with.
Nothing drains your spirit more than trying to help someone who refuses help, is a danger to himself and projects all his fears on you... I've been there, not with my mother, but I know very well what you are talking about.

Eventually, the way someone lives determines the way he or she will go away, hopefully to a more serene place, when the time will come. This has been my conclusion. But oh, it is so hard to witness.

I just wanted to give you all my support. Stay strong, you can make it.
Helpful Answer (1)

I was feeling VERY TIRED AND OVERWHELMED this morning and just reading everyone's responses has lifted my spirits a little. I came to work today and one of my friends gave me a card that spoke such words to my heart. Every suggestion that you all have given, I shall try and we'll see what sticks!

My mom was such an independent person, private and NEVER wanted people to know what was happening in our home. It was dysfunctional at best, and I believe parts of her is still in there with the same persona. So the aggressive behavior for me that she displays is somewhat hard to distinguish because she was like that when I was growing up. Last evening was awful, and to think we just left the doctor's office to "clear" her for travel for a weekend visit for her sister's 80th birthday party. We had a nice dinner at the restaurant and she goes wacko because I won't take her to the bank so she can withdraw all her money out and not give it to caregiver. And her delusions of my "motorcycle man" riding his motorcycle all over the house, and on and on of stories. Her blood pressure was high due to her anxiety yet, she refused to take her meds. She did not sleep last night and neither did I. I can't keep going like this and I don't have the money to have the caregiver come for hours on end. No true relief from my family.

So to do my part as the best daughter decision for my mom is to do my due diligence and look for a memory care facility for her. She refuses meds from me and I can't always slip it in her food because sometimes she refuses to eat. She thinks it punishes me when she doesn't eat or take her meds. She says this way she can tell people that I'm not caring for her when they see she is losing weight. Everything is my fault. It's crazy, she is hurting herself this way.
Helpful Answer (3)

Oh Gosh, I remember this stage so very well, when our Nana came to live with us from Wales, UK.

She would often "steal" silly little items from around the house, children's gumball rings, bottle tops, her own jewelry, any tiny treasure she could get her hands on, but even worse, her dirty underwear and other nasty's. She would wrap and double wrap these items in tissue, and put rubber bands around them, and then hide them deep in her closet, in suitcases, or behind them.

After a particular episode where she became unable for our Mom to manage her at home, as remember not much was understood about organic brain disease, Alzheimer's, or Dementia in the 70's, she was put into hospital and it was determined that she could not return home to us, and so she was placed into a Nursing home, my poor Mom's saving grace after caring for her for 12 years, and my Parents, not yet having finished raising their own 6 children, poor Dear's!

When we went to move our Nana to the Nursing home (I was about 17 at the time), it was then that we found dozens and dozens of these wrapped up trinkets, and you didn't know what you would find inside, so every one needed to be opened, Yucky!

My Nana sadly also cut up 100's of old family pictures, the real old ones from the late 1800's, early 1900's. It's those things you cannot replace.

I'm so sorry you are going through this, I was but a kid when this was going on, and didn't feel the entire extent of the stress caring and watching out for her as my folks did, but I also remember Mom and Dad removing the stove buttons, so she wouldn't burn our house down.

It wasn't until I was in my 40's, that I began helping in the care of our own 4 parents, though luckily none of them died of Dementia, but other horrible disease processes. None of which are easy, but such is the role of the chosen child, normally it's just one, however I lucked out in that all of my siblings shared in the care of our Mom and Dad, my husband unfortunately was the Only one who looked after his folks, with my help of course.

My husband's Dad died last month of Lung Cancer, on Hospice and in our home.

You be sure to take care of you in this rough rough time of caring for your Mom, it so important that you get as much help as possible, and breaks along the way! Take Care!
Helpful Answer (2)

Madge wrote, and I think that "truer words were never spoken":

"The more self sufficient they have been in their life I think the more troubling it is for them to lose control"

Madge, your insight explains so much, as well as the basics of an alternate theory: find a way for them to keep control, whether it's over the number of cans in the pantry or over their own health.

I'm going to spend some meditation time this afternoon going over everything we do to think of ways I can create more control for my father. With him, though, the loss of woodworking ability is probably something that will really be a challenge.

I've seen this so much, personally, and see it in myself. I guess I'll be a real curmudgeon when I get older, but maybe I can develop a plan to maintain control over something as I age. Let's see....I still have control over my massive fabric stash, my gardening magazines...
Helpful Answer (4)

You're in a very difficult stage and I remember it well - although it will pass it can last longer than you can imagine

The more self sufficient they have been in their life I think the more troubling it is for them to lose control

Take away the checkbook and car keys then they tear the place apart looking for them so they can hide them someplace safe where you won't find them and take them away again - much like a dog burying a bone -

Sometimes mom knew exactly where she put them and other times if she changed the hiding place because I discovered the last ....

dementia is a long tiring journey for everyone
Helpful Answer (3)

Oh wow....know how you feel. Haven't been accused of kidnapping; just that I'm the worst thing that was born. (or best...depends on the hour ;-) It sounds like she packing your house because your things are her things - and it sounds like the whole place is "her house" and not "your house."

What the other posters are suggesting are good ones: Though I realize it's a great inconvenience to you to deal with the challenges of her illness, what she has and you don't is time: meaning she has time when you're at work to find everything you've hidden, so when you are dealing with someone who has a "Alice in Wonderland" type of mindset at the Mad Hatter's tea party, you don't need rationale, you need patience and a supply to outwit and outmaneuver your parent.

When my mother began to "hoard", we packed up everything - and took it to a room we can lock. We got those bookshelves and stacked everything neatly for us- it looked like a library-used shoeboxes and plastic things to keep everything neat for us- not her- for like everyone else, no one wants to try to find their stuff when they got to go to work and aren't dealing with this.
But it you're dealing with a parent that doesn't that, what's normal isn't always the safe option, so this is where creativity begins. If you plan to store flatware in the house, unused office space in the house is a great way to keep things close at hand with furniture already in your home.

What you may need to do is switch things around. Empty out the locking cabinets in your house and start locking everything up. It would be better, (and easier) for you if you already have an office space, if not, a four shelf cabinet with a locking drawer in your house (any office supply store) will go a long way: flatware in the top drawer, plates and cups in the second, paper goods and other misc items in the bottom. Get two if you need them. Make sure you have a locking toolbox for the tools you may have, and everyone has keys to it.

Cabinets have doors close together? Bike lock and the cable that goes with it keeps your plates where they are. (Duplicate keys to the family). Better yet, a office filing cabinet with a lock; repurpose any old office cabinets we have in our "office" into useful store everything in there we need (just make sure the locks work). Lock up the tools in a working toolbox.
Will it be inconvenient? Yes, but we do that more often than not, no one asked us whether you wanted to deal with a locker at school, we just adjusted to it and made it a part of our day.

Considering she took flatware, it could have been knives. That's something to consider, especially if you're storing things and are used to availability at a moment's notice (in the kitchen, who doesn't expect to reach in and pull out plates and knives while cooking and eating?) So while it may not look pretty, choosing pretty and locking furniture will not ruin the look of your house, and if you already have the furniture that locks, that's a bonus - nothing will look out of place at all.

Around the holidays, this becomes especially important because you want to dignify your parent, so using the dishwasher to clean up is one thing, finding your stuff gone the next day is another. It would help if you have extra furniture that doubles as storage in the house. This is tricky: she can't be in the room when this is done: after everything is washed up, you can put your clean dishes and flatware in those storage spaces (it doesn't even have to be neat) so you can enjoy the party and not go through the eye popping discussion of explaining why you're locking up your stuff right after dinner. It does have to be done out of their view or breakfast may be missing your needed pans and dishes.

We put out the bare things needed - "her stuff" and "our stuff." We even got tape and labeled it. She will not like seeing everything "disappear" but it's best that the stuff disappear (we made stuff disappear into cardboard boxes when they took her on shopping outings) before you divvy what's left.

Then came the words: if you lose what is labeled your stuff, we can't help you find it because we won't know where you put it. But if our stuff is missing, we know it's you. And if you take our stuff, we will replace it with something from your pile because we didn't lose it.

Was I ungrateful little brat that she raised? Yep, plenty. Got called lots of names, but it gave her the control she needed and gave us a sense of control as well. So even when it got to a point that she was going through the house and trying to get into that part of the house, where we locked everything up, the idea isn't to give in- it's to set boundaries when you're not there and not harm herself or someone else.

If she is into packing, it's because she trying to gain a sense of control over her environment. Which is why you give her "controlled control" over her environment- if she wants to pack up what's her; she can. Remember when we did things behind our parents' back because no one could tell us what to do? Even it its stupid, we did what we could to assert control - kind of why your real forks returned after the plastic ones came out- she probably didn't like eating with them and that was her way of bringing normal back to dinner.
If you have limited space, I would recommend using what you have, but in this case, the only real suggestion is office cabinets; they aren't pretty but going to a local hardware store and letting them suggest a variety of colors to fit into your décor will go a long way. In my home, we literally cleaned out a space and locked it until she relinquished the desire to control it; her desire to control that part of her world.
Helpful Answer (1)

I'm going to take a different approach. Do you really think that she has comprehension to know what she's doing? That sounds cruel, and it's not intended to be that way at all. Rather, my thought is that she's acting on some instinct that she doesn't understand.

I've seen the hide and go seek, lost accidentally and found accidentally syndrome, but now surprisingly in myself. The more stressed I get, the more difficulty I have in finding some things even when they're right in front of me. If there's dementia involved with your mother's health, that could account for some of the hiding issues.

I think the idea of a fidget box or fidget suitcase is a good one.
Helpful Answer (3)

Arwen31, nonsense, nope, then I would be talking nonsense as well (smile). I've asked those questions in the past and it only makes her more frustrated. She either says she doesn't want to live here with me, I kidnapped her to come here, never asked her to be taken care of, blah blah blah. She is not appreciative for what has been done for her (understanding it's part dementia moments and other part is her personality. She has always been hard to get along with).

So yesterday I was able to get my aunt to keep her for a few hours that allowed me time to "down-size" her room even more. Based on the suggestions here, I got rid of ALL plastic bags, went through her room like a tornado reading and destroying documents that are not needed and clothes she can no longer fit was given to Goodwill. Over the summer I had my contractor to block off part of her closet so she has limited access to out-of season clothes. I had to go in there to change out the clothes and then place some items in there. Now, I thought it would help with the places to hide items and limit my search and clean-up until I woke up at 2 am and she had never went to bed and had EVERY PIECE OF PAPER THAT I HAD LEFT FOR HER TO READ THROUGH SPRAWLED ACROSS HER BED! But at least I know she only has three places they can be now when I look.

This is just the phase we are in or the dementia at it's best. We will most likely be taking our last family trip for a long time on Friday. Just her going 30 min away from the house to her sister and back home is confusing for her so our flight to SC for her oldest sister's birthday I'm sure will be something or maybe not, she wants to go "home" anyhow. She wants to pack and I've stopped that a long time ago because it causes me serious frustration when we are flying and can only take limited luggage. She would pack EVERYTHING if I let her pack. I literally take the suitcase to work and leave it at the office until travel day just to keep it out of her eyesight. I'm tired just thinking about this trip.

You guys are great with all the tips and help. I pray I can maintain this for awhile longer. I want her to have the best she needs for as long as I can give it, but I do feel myself getting more tired just trying to think of how to keep her at home without killing my soul.
Helpful Answer (1)

I see :( It must be so difficult to keep up with this, you are brave.
Have you tried to ask her where she's going with her suitcase?
You know, trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who's confused, maybe she doesn't know exactly where she's going and when she's coming back, this is perhaps why she wants to take with her everything she has, just in case she needs it... in a way, it does make sense.

Perhaps you could try to reassure her that if she has to leave it'll be only for a couple of days and then she can always come back home if she needs more of her stuff?
If I'm talking nonsense, please ignore me.
Helpful Answer (1)

Thanks Countrymouse and Arwen31. I did give her a "little suitcase " once and that made it obsessive about not being large enough to fit ALL her things. Once She packs something, she never wants to unpack if I suggest it. She does NOTHING if I suggest it. I'm the "problem/disrespectful person that is keeping her in this "place." This is her statement when I ask her anything. She does have a little container that she keeps personal hygiene items in the bathroom but now it is used for everything but that. There's nothing underneath sink anymore because she kept hiding things or packing them. Mom also uses paper towels to wrap things in. I don't know where her cellphone is now. I haven't seen it in a week, I had to unwrap it out of paper towels. Yesterday, I threw away ALL plastic bags. I use them for lining waste basket, but she was using them to pack clothes and items in her room.
Helpful Answer (1)

^ this is a great idea, making her pack her suitcase and then unpack it herself will make her feel more independent!
Helpful Answer (2)

I'd go for the replacement activity option. If you can make a bit of cupboard space and put the things (dummies or decoys or spares) she "needs" to take with her in there, and give her a capacious suitcase and maybe a cardboard box, then she can pack away to her heart's content. And maybe next morning you could ask her to unpack? - back into the cupboard?

Not if it would make her frustrated and potentially physical with it, but you could also think about putting those child-proof door catches on the relevant cupboards. They may deter her for long enough for her to go and find something else to fiddle with.
Helpful Answer (3)

Oh boy, I hear you.

My mom has just recently started showing signs of cognitive decline, and "the hiding" is one of the issues I'm facing too, and one of the most frustrating.

It started with misplacing and losing things around, now it's getting at a new level.
Just last night I realized all the bills, bank letters, pension letters - all the mail of the last month - which I still had to go through - was missing from the kitchen counter. Gone. I looked everywhere but couldn't find them and I don't have a clue of what was there exactly.

It finally dawned on me last night that trying to explain to her for the umpteenth time how important they are, getting frustrated (with that kind of frustration that makes you feeling instantly soo tired) is completely pointless and is damaging both her and me. The only sensible approach, I thought, is prevention. So I spoke with her building caretaker and asked him if he can keep all the mail and give it to me instead of putting it in her letterbox. It's sad to think she'll go every day to check the letterbox and it'll be empty but we'll be both less tense, I hope.

Your problem is trickier. But perhaps try the same approach, like hide all the bags, put locks on cabinets, store things she doesn't need etc... or going in the opposite direction, leaving a suitcase ready with everything, including toiletries, in her room and bring it to the bathroom with her when she needs washing so she can feel like she's in holiday... :D

I don't know, maybe I'm going nuts myself, I'm just trying to think creatively here cause I feel like any sensible solution is not enough...

You have all my support, the "looking everywhere" part is so frustrating!
Helpful Answer (1)

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter