Is obsessive compulsive behavior common for the elderly and how do caregivers help and cope?

Mom is 85 and obsesses about many occasions and situations. My sister and I try to avoid giving her too much information ahead of time because she will go on and on about what, when and where? Is there a forum on line to help us deal with this behavior. She also cuts up papers, plastic soda bottles and re-arranges my refrigerator when she visits. She lives in the garage apartment on my sister and brother-in-law's property but when my sister goes out of town overnight Mom stays with me.

Answers 1 to 10 of 27
My mother shares a lot of these traits, OldestDaughter1. As you describe, information overload and obsessing about that is very typical but I sometimes wonder if that is a way of trying to hold on to information when so much is so easily forgotten? I also don't know if this behavior is attributable to the aging process or more an exaggeration of the person's lifelong tendency to some OCD....this is definitely the situation in my mother's case. "Things" always have to be/look "just so" and that always causes a problem with reminder notes that I try to leave visible on her table....she doesn't like the way the table looks so moves or puts them in a drawer and then has no idea where they went. As I write this it sounds like your mother's additional behavior of cutting up papers, plastic bottles, etc. and re-arranging your fridge are another form of just trying to keep some additional order in her life when she feels she is losing this. I'm not sure if I have any real answers for you other than to realize the behavior is unlikely to change but this is an excellent forum to vent and garner support for all that we collectively deal with. Good luck and hugs for support.
YES its as they lose the ability to look global at things so focus on the small nitty gritty. sometimes some happy pills help to smooth the really OTT states, Ive noted my Ma has improved, but she still packs up everything and rearranges the room at the rest home EVERY day..
I've wondered that as well. My Mom (85) is obsessed with order and cleanliness. Shes been reorganizing my refrigerator and pantry since I moved out of her house. She's always been like that, but now things are exaggerated. And now that she can no longer do things for herself, I wonder if I should do them for her, or just tell her to live with it. For example, the bath mat must be placed with the tag down. If you do it wrong, it's now dirty and must be put in the laundry hamper. Or the toilet paper must be folded into six squares before its used. Lots of yelling screaming and crying when I refuse to do these things for her.

She's now in a nursing home and they do things though that would bother me as well. For example they put her shoes on the bed, or the toilet bowl brush on the sink. Yuck.

I think it has something to do with control and the lack of control that they now have in their lives.

I'm curious about what others will say.
I find that my father, age 93, has set himself up in a routine. I truly believe it's because he realizes that his memory is not what it was and by doing the sameon a daily basis, it helps him to feel that he's remembering. He takes many medications so he has legal pad after legal pad filled out with the name of the medication, the date and the time it was taken. I see myself doing little things repetitively that I didn't do before. I truly feel that it's a part of the aging process. He saves plastic bags from the store. They're piled on a kitchen chair. He says he uses them for his garbage, well, I'm sure he does, but does he need 100? It's not harming him or anyone else so I let it be. Sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles with them.
My mom is 86 and obsesses over the thought of not reading something. Therefore, she cannot through any any mail, especially junk mail. The table is piled high and when the piles fall over, she puts them in a bag and starts a new pile. Hoarding of sorts. Then the bags pile up. It makes me crazy! But I can't stop the behavior. She recognizes it but does nothing to change. We've had many heated discussions over it but it's not worth it. When she dies or moves, I'll just throw it all away. Too bad I have to wait for that. She is also has OCD with bags, any kind of bags, paper, plastic, gift bags. She now has "bags of bags" in her only closet.
*away any mail, sorry.
Top Answer
I'm pretty sure it is all part of the aging process. As long as your Mom isn't really hurting anyone, it might be best to just roll with it. If anything it is helping her keep in touch with normal things she used to do and if nothing more, gives her self something TO do. In a restaurant, my MIL refuses to put her coffee cup on the paper placemat because she doesn't want to get it dirty (???); she will fold her napkin very thickly and put her cup on that. Of course, not balanced properly it slops over and we have to have her area cleaned up. After a couple of times she stops. At first I'd get upset, then realized this was a 'cycle' she had to go through. I bless the wait staff, they see us coming and stand waiting for her to do this, help clean up and distract her with her meal so she doesn't do a repeat. We even time the coffee so she only upsets it once. Amazing how the mind works!
LittleBird you're a saint! :-)
Recalling my own 90 year old mother's obsessive behaviors has helped me to monitor my own at age 68. My mother's diagnosis is dementia with Frontal/Temporal disintegration, so there are firm causes. I believe my "neat and clean" impulses are age related and involve being retired without enough outside focus. At this stage of life having things "just so" has become a fulfillment. And yes, I volunteer and belong to a Book Club.
I also think that this OCD behavior was there before dementia but dementia intensifies it...

My MIL had OCD before she became ill, but it became worse when the illness got worse.. My Mom on the other hand has never had OCD but not that her dementia is progressing she shows signs of OCD...

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