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Mom’s sorting brought joy, but now I cry
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 6:23 PM
Joined: 7/6/2020
Posts: 21

Hello Everyone, 

When Mom first began sorting it was various trinkets in a jar in her bedroom or going through two old pocketbooks kept near her bed (containing old papers, programs from events and morning church services) I was happy. She found an activity she liked and would take joy showing me how she sorted all the buttons, coins, hairpins etc together. It kept Mom entertained while I was busy around the house. 

Now mom’s sorting happens during the day and night when she should be sleeping. It has become normal to wake up anytime in the early hours to go to the restroom and find mom’s bedroom light on. Inside she has her bowl of trinkets out on the bed sorting or looking through an old pocketbook. Most of the time I say “it is time to go to bed” and put the things away without fuss. However, there are times she gets upset and I have  to leave her alone and come back later. One time I found Mom up at 10:30am (not her usual time to get up) sorting. She looked so tired. As soon as I got her in the bed she fell asleep. 

The bathroom light is on when mom’s bedroom light is on. My guess is, she goes to the restroom and when she returns to her bedroom at some point sorting begins. I don’t know when it starts or how long she has been sorting when I discover she is up.

Of course, all of this has Mom sleeping late in the day.  Mom usually was up at 12pm, but now she gets up at 2pm with her nighttime activity. As a result mom’s day starts later and ends later in the night.

The sorting is like an obsession. 

Mom will know if the pocketbooks are removed. Also, I am afraid if I remove the bowl with the trinkets she might start looking around the bedroom for the bowl- defeating the purpose. 

When I see mom sorting, I say to myself “this is not my mother,  I am losing my mother and I don’t want her to leave” and go to a quiet place and cry. This  disease is so painful.

Is anyone familiar with this behavior and what can I do to stop it so she can sleep.

Thanks for any suggestions and allowing me to express how painful this journey is.


Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 7:13 PM
Joined: 12/12/2020
Posts: 211

From what I've read from other caregivers, this obsessive sorting behavior is pretty common. My DH spent a lot of time early in his decline sorting through old keepsakes, trinkets, and just plain old junk that he'd collected (he's a bit of a hoarder). It did not interrupt his sleep patterns, however. He's doing a lot less of it these days, so I'm assuming it's a phase thing. It wouldn't hurt to speak to her doctor. Perhaps, he/she can suggest a medication that might modify the behavior. I can imagine you're not getting good rest being on high alert for her middle of the night activities. Sleep deprivation is very bad juju for the caregiver. One other thing - my DH's sorting obsession went hand in hand with putting important stuff in "safe places" - never to be found again. If you haven't already done so, I'd suggest collecting important things like the contents of wallets, jewelry, and heirloom stuff in a lock box so it can't be lost or hidden.
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 8:34 PM
Joined: 5/9/2022
Posts: 39

Hi Smyles,

This is common. My mom was a very OCD housekeeper. She was always cleaning. She cannot do it anymore,  but now she obsessively watches news or game shows. She also quilts, but that makes her mad because she cannot remember what she was doing half of the time, so she starts obsessively watching game shows or news again. She worked on this quilt all day...she had been working on this quilt for almost 8 months now.

She focuses on weird things too, like the other day she HAD to shop vac the front porch...I do not know why. We live in a hot, dry, desert where mesquite and palo verde trees shed a lot. And then there is the tree in the back that is constantly shedding its leaves...I did tell her this. She did not listen. 

While I was at work, she took her trusty shop vacuum and vacuumed the entire front porch. The thing weighs maybe five pounds but she cannot lift it. She dragged it, aaaaaand vacuumed. With the leaves and debris in there it weighed five pounds and eight ounces, it was literally a quarter full...yeah...she needed me to dump it, because she could not lift it. Exactly eight hours later. The porch was full of leaves and yellow blossoms from the trees again. And not only was she not able to move after vacuuming a porch that is 20 something feet by 7 feet, she had an allergy attack.

But, after all that, she could not understand why the porch was a mess again. 

In your case, maybe get her a shelf where she can organize things and see a bookcase? Or have the doctor prescribe a sleep aid?

Also, I did not get along with my all. I remember one time where she was actually nice to me with heart. Since I started caring for her, we actually get along better. 

I am so sorry you are watching your mom fall apart. My heart goes to you. But I can say with certainty that at least when her time comes you will be at peace with it and you can be the rock for someone else. This is a time of emotional conditioning and strengthening. You are showing the world how good your mom was to you and you are carrying on her legacy. 

Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 8:42 PM
Joined: 5/9/2022
Posts: 39

That is very smart Jmlarue....I wish someone had told us that before mom lost her social security card.
Posted: Monday, May 16, 2022 7:59 AM
Joined: 5/11/2022
Posts: 6

Until a couple months ago my mom did things like that too. She'd constantly be digging in her underwear drawer beside the bed or rearranging the stuff on my parents' headboard. It kept my dad up and he would just leave her to it and he was exhausted the whole time, not to mention she was too! 

My sis and I eventually noticed that this was happening, not hard since we all live together, and we started insisting telling mom it's bedtime and helping her to bed and relax and stayed with her until she fell asleep. They finally got rest from that!

Now we enforce more strict sleep schedule for mom. Previously they went to bed whenever or as late as 11pm, which brought more disruptive rummaging from mom and/or falls. Mom now goes to bed as close to 8pm as possible, sooner if she wants it. Her late night rummaging has stopped (hopefully for a long time) and she's less tired during the day and we haven't had any falls since then. 

You can try doing a bedtime routine to help her body understand it's time to go to bed. Lots of tips online have helped me with my own sleep and has worked thus far with mom. In particular, calm music for about 15 to 30 minutes has helped mom the most whenever I'm the one assisting her to bed.

Most likely you'll have to go through trial and error until you find something that works. Good luck! In the meantime, maybe ask other family, friends, or temporarily higher someone to watch your mom until the routine works so you can get some sleep and be able to care for her more fully. 


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