If You Find This In Your Home, It May Be an Early Sign of Dementia

THIS STRANGE SCENARIO MAY REVEAL A DEEPER COGNITIVE PROBLEM, EXPERTS SAY.

Dementia can be hard to identify, especially since the person experiencing symptoms is usually unaware of their condition. Yet experts say that by looking for certain telltale changes, you may be able to spot early signs of dementia in yourself or others you are close to. In fact, experts suggest that there's one scenario that may tip you off to the early stages of cognitive decline—and warn that you should never dismiss it as a minor mistake if you notice it happening in your home. Read on to find out which strange situation could actually be a sign of dementia, and what to do if it happens to you.

RELATED: If You Do This When Getting Dressed, It May Be a Sign of Dementia.

If you find everyday items in unusual places, it may be an early sign of dementia.
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Those with dementia and their caretakers often report finding household items in unexpected places, with no explanation for how they got there.

"A person showing early signs of dementia may put everyday things in unusual places (for example, a loaf of bread in the washing machine, money in the oven, or washing-up liquid in the fridge)," says the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), a U.K. based health and policy network. They add that this is often because those with dementia may have difficulty recognizing familiar items.

RELATED: 98 Percent of People With Alzheimer's Develop This Symptom First, Study Says.

This may affect a patient's ability to trust others.
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Experts warn that this can deeply affect a dementia patient's relationships with others. Many dementia patients already suffer from delusions, so misplacing items within the home can cause them to believe they are the victims of theft or manipulation. This can lead to an atmosphere of suspicion, which can further isolate those with dementia.

In fact, it's common for those with dementia to accuse their caregivers or family members of stealing when things seem to go missing. "Delusions (firmly held beliefs in things that are not real) may occur in middle- to late-stage Alzheimer's. Confusion and memory loss—such as the inability to remember certain people or objects—can contribute to these untrue beliefs," says the Alzheimer's Association. "A person with Alzheimer's may believe a family member is stealing his or her possessions or that he or she is being followed by the police. This kind of suspicious delusion is sometimes referred to as paranoia," they add.

However, those with dementia are also vulnerable to theft and financial abuse.
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Though many cases of "theft" are imagined by those with dementia, it's important to remember that people who suffer from cognitive decline are in fact more vulnerable to various forms of abuse, including financial. This may occur in the form of stealing, financial manipulation, forced changes to a will, forged checks, and more.

"One of the biggest risk factors for financial abuse is having some form of cognitive impairment, whether mild or more substantial such as Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia," explains Better Health While Aging, an informational site on healthy aging and elder care. "Sometimes the person suspected of exploitation is relatively new to the older person's life, such as a new romantic interest, friend, or paid caregiver. In other cases, family members become concerned that someone in the family—such as one of the older person's children—is beginning to take financial advantage of things," the organization notes.

For this reason, if someone you know who is suffering from dementia has shared concerns about theft or other forms of financial exploitation, you should follow up and attempt to rule it out.

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You can safeguard yourself by making a plan early.
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This can all become complicated quickly, so experts say that you should protect yourself against potential forms of financial abuse at the first signs of cognitive decline—and ideally before. This may involve speaking with a lawyer who can help you protect your will and assign a trustee to manage your financial affairs.

You should also have a conversation with someone you trust about recognizing the signs of financial abuse on your behalf, should you someday no longer have that ability. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, these may include having unpaid bills despite earning adequate income, sudden transfers of assets, checks being written out to "cash," unexplained disappearances of cash or other items of value, unauthorized charges, termination of utilities, and more.

And of course, if you do notice that things around the house are appearing in odd places or disappearing entirely, be sure to speak with your doctor about a dementia screening. While there is currently no cure for dementia, there are several interventions that can improve quality of life, and slow its progression.

RELATED: Notice This in the Late Afternoon? Get Checked for Dementia, Says Mayo Clinic.

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