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Early Stage Symptom: Misplacing Items

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may experience a variety of symptoms that seem like normal aging at first. As these symptoms occur more frequently, it might become apparent that something else going on. One of these symptoms is misplacing objects or losing things. We all misplace things from time to time, and generally, we can retrace our steps and find what we lost. But when losing or misplacing objects becomes more and more frequent, it starts affecting your daily life, and you’re not able to retrace your steps, these aren’t symptoms of normal aging.

It can be hard in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s to differentiate between regular forgetfulness of aging and the forgetfulness associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Get a thorough medical examination and neurological workup to get an accurate evaluation and diagnosis, since a variety of ailments can cause memory problems and memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Misplacing things as an Alzheimer’s symptom

Despite being fairly common in the general population, misplacing objects is also a commonly reported symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.1 While most people with Alzheimer’s disease simply forget where they last put an object, some people put objects in unusual places or hide objects.1,2 This isn’t an occasional forgetting where you put your keys, but a complete lack of awareness of where you may have put them, where you last had them, and where they might be. With Alzheimer’s disease, misplacing objects occurs often enough to significantly impact your everyday life and functioning.

When to see your doctor

If you’ve been misplacing things enough to cause some distress or so much so that others have noticed, call your doctor to get a complete medical exam. Forgetfulness can be a symptom of a variety of things, including various neurological disorders, side effects of medication, or adverse medication interactions. Knowing the accurate underlying cause is helpful so you can get the appropriate treatment.

Treatment

While there are no treatments that stop the course of Alzheimer’s disease, or even slow the progression, there are treatments that can help minimize symptoms. There are also lifestyle adaptations that can be made to help with remembering where to put objects so they aren’t misplaced. Medications that may help with memory and thinking include cholinesterase inhibitors, which help encourage communication between neurons and works on a brain chemical called acetylcholine. These medications are most effective in the early and moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease, which is why early diagnosis is so important. These medications might aid in memory, helping you to remember where you placed various objects and reduce the incidence of misplaced objects.

Behavioral cues and environment modifications are also used to help with remembering where to put things. Get rid of clutter to make it easier to see your space. If you tend to lose your keys, keep a bowl by the door with a clear label on it saying that keys go there as a reminder to place keys there when you get home. Create a calm environment and know all of the triggers, and then try to avoid them. If, for example, loud noises make you nervous and unfocused, keep the volume low on the television or radio; if you don’t see well in low-lit spaces, make sure your living area is well-lit. Talk with a doctor and a loved one about different ways your routine and lifestyle can be adapted to help cut down on misplacing objects and boost memory.3

Written by: Jaime Rochelle Herndon | Last reviewed: June 2019
  1. Hamilton L, Fay S, Rockwood K. Misplacing objects in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: A descriptive analysis from the VISTA clinical trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2009; 80(9): 960-5. Doi: 10.1136/jnnp.2008.166801. Accessed April 17, 2019.
  2. National Institute on Aging. When a Person With Alzheimer’s Rummages and Hides Things. 2017. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/when-person-alzheimers-rummages-and-hides-things Accessed April 17, 2019.
  3. Alzheimer’s Association. Treatments for Behavior. 2019. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments/treatments-for-behavior Accessed April 17, 2019.