Reasons can be various. Some people have always been hoarders, while others seem to need to “hold on” to things or to “keep things safe”. It can be anything from an insignificant item such as a frying pan in the kitchen to daily essentials such as shoes.
The level of preventative measures you need to take really depends on the importance of the item(s) and whether it relates to your loved one’s safety and well being.
Every couple of days, my dad turns the entire house upside down looking for my mom's makeup. At first it was very frustrating for my dad, but these days he treats it as a day to go treasure hunting. Eventually he recovers mom’s makeup from the deep corners of her closet, or finds them hidden under the mattress or tucked away beneath the crevices under the sink. We can only surmise that she hides her makeup because she values them.
The degree of prevention depends on the significance of the item(s), as well as the importance of your loved one’s safety and well being. If your loved one has diabetes and he or she was hoarding away candy for secret consumption, you will have to find ways to prevent that from happening. In my mom's case, missing make up may be annoying but not harmful.
As a preventative measure, you may want to consider designating a room with a lock where you store all valuables so your loved one can’t get in. You may have to keep the car keys in a safe place where only you can get to. You may also want to create for yourself a reminder and pattern to check the trash before throwing it out. Your car key or your loved one's eye glasses may just be in there.
You just discovered that the pie that was freshly baked an hour ago sitting on the kitchen counter has suddenly disappeared. When you ask your loved one whether she has seen it, you get the familiar “ I don’t know” response.
You: “Jane, the pie that was on the table is gone. Do you have any idea where it could be?”
Loved One: ”I don’t know. May be you ate it all up.”
Remind her she was the only other person in the house and that you didn’t touch it.
Ask her to recall what she has done with the pie.
Engage her in a “treasure hunt”. Ask her to go hunting with you.
Expect this behavior to continue.
De-clutter the environment and keep it de-cluttered.
Look for a pattern for items that are being hidden, as well as the location. It will reduce your frustration over time, and reduce the time it takes to recover the item(s).
Remember that accusing your loved one may result in a drastic outcome, and should be avoided at any cost.
Give yourself time out from your loved one when your frustration level is high. Walk away and count to 200 if necessary. You need a break, even if it’s temporary.
Try to think of the humor in the situation.
One caregiver told me a story that she looked all over her house for a week in search of her
bathing suit. She even combed through that week’s trash to no avail. She suspects that her 87 year old
mother-in-law hid the bathing suit, and holds a fashion show in her room by herself sporting the outfit.
While she was telling me this story, we both laughed out loud visualizing in our minds what that would look like. How funny is that?