Navigating the Early Stages of Dementia

I wanted to get my mom a red purse thinking it would be easier to find. 

I feel that the early phases of dementia bring some of the hardest things to navigate. Things get lost, misplaced, or hidden really well, and it can be incredibly frustrating as well as humiliating to the person who is missing their phone, keys, purse, or wallet.

With no short-term memory, it’s hard to rely on what the person says about the last place they had the item. It’s also human nature to get a little defensive when someone is grilling you about where you left your wallet. It’s best to take a breath and tread lightly. The person that lost the item and can’t find it is already in distress, and I know from experience, looking for it over hours can be maddening.

Some ideas to help:

  1. Get the Tile (or TrackR or other GPS device) you can store in the wallet, purse, put on the keychain or attach to a phone.  You can put an app on your smart phone to find it.
  2. Make sure you have color copies of their identification so you have account or record numbers should you need an ID replacement.
    • Cancel the credit cards and checking account. A growing number of seniors are having fake checks drawn on their checking account after a purse or wallet has gone missing (even to show up later, they already have your routing and account number).
      • Only carry a check register with a little money in the account.
      • Do not use Debit Cards that immediately draw money from your checking account but use a prepaid credit card, or set up an account with a low credit line to minimize exposure.
    • In most states, you can log in to their DMV account and reorder a replacement drivers license.
    • Keep other forms of valid photo identification active. For instance, should you lose your driver’s license, having a valid Passport can act as a backup form of photo identification.
    • Contact the issuing agency. For those of you with a military ID, you may find the local base can help you navigate the loss of the ID.
  3. Get a safe with a digital keypad for safe keeping. For a family friend who has children that visit, I mentioned they might want to consider storing the important IDs in the safe and the siblings can easily get into it if they share the safe passcode should they need to help mom replace a lost ID again. They did have one with a key, but mom couldn’t find they key.

I don’t really understand the reason behind the behavior to hide things, but I know that I’ve seen it in too many clients.

What have you done that has been successful?

If you haven’t already, I hope you take the time to get the important documents, account details, and assets organized so you can minimize any further loss or misplacement. You can download a free copy covering what to save and what you should shred. The hiding habit usually includes a hoarding habit. Magazines and mail start to pile up … so I hope this will help you sort through the piles you might be also facing. Revisited. 

Here are a few of the stories from my journey:

Where is my Gold Necklace?

Where are you?

Where are my car keys?


How much of me is me?

teacupsWhen we moved mom into the new community, they warned us about her teacup collection. They were worried that residents would be attracted to the cups and saucers. My mom has a lovely collection that has been in her primary living residence for at least the last two decades. I wasn’t moving mom in without them. We also left on her rings. My mom didn’t need anymore changes and we felt the symbols of her possessions were worth more than protecting them from loss.

When they called last night to tell me there has been an accident and a resident knocked one of the display shelves off the wall, I wasn’t surprised. However, I was somewhat alarmed. What was someone doing in her room at 9:45 PM? My mom is usually asleep by 7:30 PM and her PDA leaves at 8:00 PM.

When we first moved mom, my sister mentioned that I should ask for a locking door. I asked the first week and it dawned on me that I never got an answer. Today I was told they won’t put locks on doors for residents that can’t remember how to open locked doors, could my mom do that? I am not sure.

As I’m looking at her cup collection, it dawns on me that a few missing cups won’t really change the collection. She will still have something to look at. However, it makes me envision my mom as the collection. How much of her is missing now?

I recently posted my internal struggle with how to manage mom forward and consider the options in front of us. The slogan “If I’m not me, I don’t want to be” rattles in my brain. I don’t think we have the right options, but I really don’t know how you would measure “me-ness.”

My mom doesn’t recognize me on most days now, but she is pleasant when I visit. She would prefer to nap and eat cake, but I can’t really fault her for that.

I know a day will come when I visit my mom and no teacups are left. I will cross that bridge when I come to it and enjoy the collection that is left for me to visit. Foreshadowed.