How do I keep my Mom from pulling TV cables and phone cords?

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My mother has dementia and has been a nursing home since April 2014. She's more delusional than not but relatively calm now.

I had a phone installed in her room and got a very basic handset for her night stand because she can't remember how to work a portable or cell phone.

For the first few months, everything was fine. Then, for some unknown reason, she started yanking the cord from the wall jack which is halfway up the wall, not by the baseboard. Not just unplugging it... yanking it hard enough to pull the wire from the plug. After replacing the cord a couple of times, the very patient maintenance staff put the phone securely on the wall (it doesn't plug directly into the jack) put a box over the jack so she can't get at it and covered the little bit of cord with layers of duct tape. So now she's started pulling the spiral cord between the handset and base. I bought several replacements and left them with the staff. She doesn't remember breaking the cords and blames them on other people from the staff to various family members who haven't even visited because they live too far away.

I wish that were the only thing she's doing. Shortly after Thanksgiving she moved her TV (an 19 inch older tube model so not light) from atop a small dresser, yanking the power cord (but not breaking it) and Dish cable (breaking it) to the hallway. She blamed it one of the cleaning crew saying he stole it.

The home then gave her a smaller TV but, a few days later, she yanked the cords and moved it to the hallway again.

The social worker, maintenance supervisor and I discussed various options such as mounting the TV on the wall out of her reach but are afraid she might try to climb up to remove it so she no longer has a TV. Now, she's been yanking and breaking the cable from her roommate's TV after the roommate (who's bedridden) is moved to the day room in the morning.

Since she doesn't remember, we're at a loss as to why Mom is doing this. Have any of you ever encountered this behavior? Any solutions?

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txcamper, that's a great idea about a "fidget box"... that's something to think about as my Dad gets older... right now his mind is ok, and he stills like to take things apart to see how they work [he's always done that] but there will come a time when he needs to take apart something to keep busy that doesn't disrupt the house.
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Freq flyer has a good point - common denominator is "cord" and you will probably never know the connection, and it wouldn't matter anyway. At this point she can't be reasoned with. It sounds like you may end up taking the phone and tv out of her room. Memory care units have common rooms for tv and usually a phone they can use - or maybe get her a cell phone if she still knows how to use that sort of thing. Its really really strange what dementia patients do and they don't even know why. I sometimes wonder if it might be partially boredom and the need to do something, anything within their control, since their mental and physical ability is so diminished. Once they do it a few times, it becomes an memory they obsess over. My mother is not in memory care yet - but heading that way. She is in IL, and we are moving her to AL within the month. I figure she is around stage 4-5 of Alzheimers. For the past couple of years, she has been moving things around, taking things off walls and surfaces, out of cabinets and putting them in drawers or the closet floor, etc. She doesn't know why. So far its been non destructive - the other day she put coffee cups under the sink with the cleaning supplies, put the Tylenol in a lower kitchen cabinet, removed a Christmas door decorations and hung it on a hanger, put the extra toilet paper rolls in the clothes closet etc. For two years she kept removing the cover off her memory foam mattress pad "because it was made in China". I wish you luck. Its surprising that the facility your mother is in doesn't have a solution for the problem as they are so much more experienced with all sorts of very odd behaviors.
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Time to remove the phone and tv. If she is nursing home, they will have a tv in a central location, and she would have access to phone in and out calls if necessary by front desk.
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Thanks to everyone for your responses. After talking with the social worker and maintenance supervisor, we thought it best for Mom not to have a TV. Even if it's mounted we're afraid she might try to climb to get at it. If she continues yanking the phone cord, I'll disconnect her phone service. I'm the only person she calls anyway and residents can make calls from the nurses' station.

As far as the other nursing homes with dedicated dementia wards not accepting her... as far as I can figure they just didn't want to deal with a potentially problematic patient.
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Early in his dementia I bought a switch cord for my husband's lamp. It plugged into an outlet and the lamp plugged into it. He could easily use the switch (which I hung on the bedpost) without reaching up into the lamp shade. He seemed to love it. Then he started taking it apart, which meant getting on his knees on the floor and doing some awkward reaching.

The third time this happened I caught him in the act, so to speak.
Me: "Dear, I thought you liked that new lamp switch."
Him: "It is wonderful! It used to be so hard to shut the bed lamp off!"
Me: "Why are you taking it off the lamp?"
Him: "Didn't you tell me that you bought it for me?"
Me: "Yes. I bought it so you could use it with the lamp."
Him: (Reasonably) "Well I sure don't want to leave it behind in this motel when we leave!"

Ah. His removal of the cord was related to his delusion we were in a motel. Makes sense if you accept the underlying premise.

MinNJ, I suspect that there is a "reasonable" explanation for your mother's obsession with cords. Maybe she thinks they are snakes. Maybe she thinks little blue men from outer space can eavesdrop through them. Maybe she wants to be sure they go home with her tomorrow. Probably you'll never know what her reasoning is, but somehow it makes sense to her.

Meanwhile, keeping those things out of her room seems wise -- or having replacement cords for the phone, as you've tried. How to keep her roommate's things safe is a bigger concern.

I wonder if it would help if she spent less time in her room. I don't mean have her sit in a wheelchair outside the nurses' station, but see that she goes to most activities. Even if she doesn't sing along or try to cover her bingo card or make valentines to decorate her room, the distraction of being with other residents might be good for her.

Dementia is such a cruel disease! Its unpredictability makes coping with it especially hard. If this nursing home is going a good job with Mom, I'd tend to tackle each foible as it arises. Keep Mom and her roommate safe, right where she is.

My husband, by the way, did not graduate from removing the cord to drinking shampoo or using soap suppositories. This may be the only odd behavior the NH will have to cope with for your Mom. Most NHs have a high proportion of residents with dementia, and if the NH is good they deal with the quirks and unpredictability of that set of diseases well.

This might be a good time for a discussion with the staff. Attend the next scheduled care conference. Ask how the staff feels about their ability to cope with Mom's odd behaviors and under what circumstances they'd recommend a memory-care environment. Not that it is their decision, but it would be useful, I think, to understand their philosophy.
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My cousin went through the phase of unplugging the tv. She would do it mindlessly and have no memory she did it. She would disconnect the cable box from the tv and complain the tv didn't work.. After 2 hours, I finally found it inside a kitchen cabinet. Reminding and explaining won't help. Remove them from her room.

I would evaluate what else she might be doing that could be potentially harmful. If she is not in a Memory Care unit, there could be issues. They limit things that could cause harm, such as having no shampoos, lotions, mouthwash, kept by the residents, since they may ingest them.

When a resident has certain behaviors, it may not be possible for them to continue in a regular AL. Memory Care is much better at addressing dementia behavior that can be destructive.
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You can also buy cord "channels" that disguise the cords, but they'd still have the plug in at the end that would go into the wall. If you google "Wiremold C10 Cordmate Cord Channel, White" you can see what I'm talking about. I'm not sure if it would work on a curly phone cord, but should work on the TV cord OK. You can also google "Command cord clips" which are adhesive clips that you stick to the wall and hold the cord against the wall in place. Maybe that would work for the TV. I'm stumped about the phone cord. Good luck!
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The common denominator is a *cord* item. I wonder if she thinks these cords are something else, like snakes, that she feels she needs to remove to keep her and her roommate safe. Experience with a belt [if they are allowed] to see if she removes it. If that is the case, then think of some way to make the cords look like something else.
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Test your mom's ability to use a phone and a remote control. This will be your answer as to whether or not she needs these items in her room 24 hours, 7 days a week. I don't think so.
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My brother escaped from a memory care unit. They found one a little more secure. He is only 58... Pooor guy, and now I have mom and brother basically the same level of ALZ...They both walk and walk and walk...
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