Misplacing and Alzheimer’s Disease:
Dispelling a Common Misconception
Misplacing is often listed as a warning sign of dementia and it is usually described as putting things in strange places, like a watch in a sugar bowl or an iron in the freezer. Our research shows that for most Alzheimer's patients in the mild to moderate stage, misplacing is more often about forgetting where you put things. Many of us do this, but for Alzheimer’s patients it tends to happen noticeably more often.
Why is this important? Understanding that misplacing generally means forgetting where you put things, rather than putting them in an odd place, is important if we want to give people the best information about the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
What else did we learn? When we looked at how misplacing affects patients and their care givers, we found that many patients were aware they were misplacing things and that is was disconcerting to them. We also learned that care givers were spending an average of 30 minutes per day helping patients find misplaced items. This can add to the already considerable burden of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. In addition, we learned that the most common items misplaced were glasses, purses/wallets, and clothes.
A frequent partner with misplacing is the delusion that someone had stolen or would steal from them. This coupling of symptoms occurred in about 1/3 of patient that had misplaced an object.