When I worked in dementia care one of the residents, Phyllis was forever coming up to me and saying she needed to go to the store. When I asked her what she needed it was always the same, “I need toilet paper.”
And she was serious because she would have her purse with her ready to go and ask me to call a taxi. This was multiple times a day because she couldn’t remember what she asked earlier.
The only thing that worked was telling her “Oh, but, you have plenty of toilet paper. Let me walk back to your room and show you.”
And sure enough, she would see the stack of toilet paper we kept for her in the closet and say. ”Oh my, I didn’t see this.”
Afterward, she was always grateful that she didn’t need to bother going to go the store.
However, it didn’t end there.
In order to make sure she didn’t fall right back into the same obsession, I had to have a plan.
I would say, well since you aren’t going shopping you won’t need your purse. Where would you like to put it? After she would lie in on a chair I would have her walk out with me and give her a project to work on for me.
“I need to make some flower arrangements for the tables. Can you put some flowers in these vases for me?” It would keep her busy until the next group activity or meal. I had a box of silk flowers and vases just for this purpose.
The mind often plays tricks on people with dementia as brain cells degenerate. People with early stages of dementia may exhibit strange obsessive-compulsive behaviors, such as locking doors over and over or buying a can of corn every time they visit the store, even though they have a cupboard full at home.
Accept this part of their illness and go along with it.
What to do…
When we talk about this in The FREE Caregiver’s Starter Guide, it touches on the mental decline of our loved one and how we are going to work with this. The key is to be ready. If your senior is living with you, be sure to have the items, trinkets, toys (keys), or whatever they keep asking for in every room. Even toilet paper! Our caregivers understand that preparation ALWAYS outperforms frustration. So, we guide them to put the home together depending on what they need.