When Bob was well into Alzheimer's and we still lived together, he spent most of his time in the garden which gave him great pleasure. But when it rained and he could only venture as far as the verandah, anxiety would take over and he'd go inside to organize drawers or shelves, again and again. The contents were in constant disarray, which he could never quite manage to come to terms with, and so he often gave up, stuffing everything back into the same or another space, explicatives exploding all around him.
Packing was another compulsive activity and a sure sign of anxiety for Bob. I'd often wake in the morning to find neat piles of bathroom articles stacked for a journey on his chest of drawers or next to the sink. I've even found them tightly bound in a rolled beach towel secured with a rubber band hidden amongst his clothing - a treasury for me of all the things I’ve been missing.
Now that Bob is living in his cottage with four patient Balinese caregivers we use that compulsion to advantage. I'd read an article that rummaging is common for people with Alzheimer's and that to provide a rummage bag with items familiar to the person would bring comfort.
Our friend, Alan, and I had a wonderful time putting one together for Bob and even found a zippered bag that had 'Tool Bag' emblazoned on it's front in big letters. Bob is a 'Tool Fool' as his favorite mug states.
We chose tools that weren't sharp or a danger to Bob or the house. We chose cheap Chinese made tools so it wouldn't matter if they were broken or misplaced. This treasury consisted of a set of open-end wrenches, a tape measure, two house paint brushes, a plastic faucet, colorful key caps, a plastic measurer for diameters, and for fun, some fabric stuffed hearts.
We'll add items as we find them around the office like old locks and keys that don't work anymore. Bob just needs 'stuff'.
I was visiting him the other day and handed him the bag which he's had for several weeks now. It's like clock work: you hand the bag to Bob and he unzips it, takes everything out looking at each item and organizes it in Bob fashion, and then puts it all back in. There are new items inside like a dried weed and pen cap. He's very focused when he's with his bag and the caregivers tell me he uses it quite a bit on his own.
If you'd like to know more about organizing a rummage bag go to this article:
Let me know if you have comments or ideas about rummage bags. If the comments section of my blog isn't working you can e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org