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Misplacing or Losing Objects | Common Signs

  • Frequently misplaces common items (e.g. glasses, brush, TV remote, keys)
  • Frequently misplaces important items or documents (e.g. money, bills, identification)
  • Wanders off with items and leaves them in uncommon places
  • Can remember using something but can't remember where they put it
  • Puts an item away for safekeeping, then can't relocate the item
  • Notices something is not in its place and wonders where it went (e.g. a vase, a clock)
  • Can't remember where things go (e.g. their proper place)
  • Puts things away in the wrong place
  • Puts things away in an odd place (e.g. eyeglasses in the freezer)
  • Always looking for something
  • Takes longer to locate missing items
  • Needs help from others to find missing items
  • Forgets what is lost while they are looking for the item
  • Hides or hoards items
Misplacing or Losing Objects | General Description

The neurological pathways that allow healthy people to remember what is lost while we look for something are complex. We must be able to hold an image of what we are trying to locate and why. We must also remember far enough into the past to have the idea of the last time we used it or where we put it. People with memory problems find this difficult. That is because some neurological pathways are damaged, causing trouble remembering the past, or having some sense of the sequence by which past events occurred. The person you care for may be able to remember using an item, but can no longer find that item. They may have forgotten where they put it, put it in an odd place by accident or have hidden it so that no one else can find it. As a result, they may require assistance locating the item. They also may need to be reminded of where the proper place for the item is located. When unable to find an item, they may believe that someone has purposely stolen or hidden it, which may lead to feelings of anger or frustration. Sometimes the person you care for may continuously and compulsively search for an item which they believe to be missing, which may not even exist.

Misplacing objects is of course also very common as people age, and some have well established, life-long histories of losing things. Often, with such people, what is different is that they have no idea where an object might be and no idea of how to efficiently go about finding it. Misplacing objects can also be a problem if itis coupled with suspiciousness, which is also common in Alzheimer's disease . Suspiciousness and misplacing can come together in a few ways to be a difficult problem. One is when the person with dementia has suspects that people might be stealing from them, and therefore hides valuable items, but can no longer remember where the item is hidden. Even worse, they may come to suspect that the item has been stolen, in that sense justifying their fears. Lacking a reasoned search strategy, they might believe that they have searched exhaustively when instead they have simply repeated a failed strategy many times. Even so they will feel suspicion and might even experience the frustration of losing and searching.

Another type of "misplacing" problem is commonly seen in the late mild to early moderate stage of dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease. This is when the person with dementia misplaces common household objects, commonly putting them in odd places. Often this happens with kitchen items, especially the dishes.

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See Also:
Symptom Library > Memory & Language > Memory of Past Events
Symptom Library > Behaviour > Delusions and Paranoia
Symptom Library > Behaviour > Irritability/ Frustration
Symptom Library > Personality Changes > Anxiety and Worry
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Last updated January 13, 2019
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