Care Home locks Mum's Wardrobe to stop her packing

Discussion in 'ARCHIVE FORUM: Support discussions' started by Chas1962, Sep 13, 2010.

  1. Chas1962

    Chas1962 Registered User

    Feb 18, 2010

    It has been a long time since I've been on this forum and this may be a common theme.

    Mum is now living in a care home, prior to going there she was a free spirit and was out of her own flat all day every day (mostly). When we had to get her into supervised care (for her own safety) she didn't take to it well because she wanted to leave and consequently hasn't settled (IMHO).

    She was forever emptying her wardrobe and drawers and putting the clothes in plastic bags ready to leave. We were told as an experiment they were going to lock her wardrobe to prevent the packing, but give her access in the morning to select the clothes she wanted. However, this has now gone on for a few months and Mum isn't happy, I have queried it only to be told they've done it to every resident which I find hard to believe.

    There is another home nearby which my wife visited because they had a big launch of a new wing specialising in Dementia care, we were looking for somewhere with nice grounds for Mum to enjoy as current home is a bit dark and short of gardens etc. However, when my wife mentioned the practice of locking the wardrobes they said it shouldn't happen.

    I would be extremely grateful for advice on what to do as the locked wardrobe is causing as much anxiety as her packing did when she couldn't leave. It must be very depressing for her.

    Thank you..Chas 1962
  2. susana53

    susana53 Registered User

    I've been a carer in care homes and no way should anyone's wardrobes be locked. What harm does it do if she does pack her clothes every day? If she's happy doing it I can't see a problem.
    I've known this happen with residents and more often than not, it gradually became less and less. We never interfered with their packing and never made a fuss about it.
    I hope you can get this sorted out. There must be a law surely, to do with human rights, to have access to your own belongings, no matter how inconvenient it is to the staff.
  3. Jane3006

    Jane3006 Registered User

    Jan 31, 2010
    My mum is in a care home and she packs bags all day and night and no one locks her wardrobe, I wonder if the care act, or deprivation of liberty act would answer the question as to whether they are allowed to do this. I know I would not be happy about this. Sorry I cant really be of any help on this, I will never understand why people are treated so (in my opinion) poorly just for being ill and has been said alreay 'what harm is it doing?'
  4. BeckyJan

    BeckyJan Registered User

    Nov 28, 2005
    I feel a simple solution is to have just 1 or 2 items of clothing in the wardrobe, then just to pack those should be no great trouble to anyone.
  5. Tender Face

    Tender Face Account Closed

    Mar 14, 2006
    NW England
    On the one hand, I feel very uncomfortable about this .... however – if wardrobes were locked to prevent other ‘magpie’ residents accessing mum’s belongings would that be different?:confused:

    I had an issue with mum ‘sorting’ clothes both in hospital and a NH .... confess to getting a tad frustrated at times that beautifully laundered pieces were repeatedly scrumpled like a bag of rags ... as ‘damage limitation’ I took to her having a selection of clothes available always – but ferried ‘supplies’ from wardrobes at home. Is that an option for anyone in the family – or indeed does the home’s laundry have capacity to store alternative clothes? Is it about clothes getting crumpled and needing to be re-laundered or staff needing to take time to unpack again?

    I know in hospital mum repeatedly ‘sorted clothes’ as a means of activity (rather than ‘packing’) and if this were the case perhaps the CH could be asked to provide mum with something meaningful to do by means of not only distraction but as a source of stimulation for her? (Might be more rewarding for the staff too? ;))

    Please let us know how you get on with this,

    Love, Karen, x
  6. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    #6 Grannie G, Sep 13, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2010
  7. sistermillicent

    sistermillicent Registered User

    Jan 30, 2009
    When looking after my mum for a week in a rented house while my parents moved it was clear straight away that mum needed clothes to sort out, preferably in a chest of drawers so I let her do mine, she didn't know whose they were. Everything of hers bar the clothes she stood up in was in the wash, long story.

    One night I came up to bed (we were sharing a double) and found her in bed in all my clothes! nothing I could do but let her sleep in them. That was one weird week I can tell you.

    One of the first changes my dad had to make to the new place was to put a chest of drawers in her bedroom so that she has something to sort out every day whenever she feels like it.

    She packs sometimes but it all gets put back in the drawers by my dad and it doesn;t matter if it is a bit creased or in the wrong place

    I think it is cruel for the home to take away this activity from your mum, thank you for pointing it out, it is something I will bear in mind when looking at care homes in the future (the day is coming I think)
  8. nogginthenog

    nogginthenog Registered User

    Dec 8, 2009
    My MIL was initially placed as an emergency in a care home where the residents room doors were kept locked once they had come out in a morning. The only "reason" being that otherwise stuff was scattered round the home and went missing. This included 2 occasions when we visited and she wanted accesss to her room and the member of staff with the key had "gone into the village" ! We insisted that her door be kept unlocked

    She has been in another home for over a year - where they were quite horrified that we even asked if they would lock residents out of their rooms . Interestingly almost none of her stuff has gone missing ( compared to the first home where she lost lots )

    The key question is - when something like locking the wardrobe is done, is it for the benefit of the individual ( e.g. to break a cycle of behaviour) , or is to make life easier for the care workers. If it's not in the persons best interest and you are unhappy then ask the home to open it - if you don't get a response then try make the suggestion in writing, or discussing with the social worker if you have one.
  9. Sandy

    Sandy Registered User

    Mar 23, 2005
    Hi Chas,

    It does sound as if this was a misguided attempt to remove the means to pack and and someone at the home thought rather hopefully that might have made your mum feel more settled. I think that this might have been wishful thinking on the home's part and also possibly an attempt to reduce the work required to put things back in the wardrobe.

    Many people with dementia do pack things, in a repetitive fashion, but at least it is their choice and it is an activity that is self-directed.

    The real issue is once the packing is done, can they be persuaded via distraction or white-lies, to put-off leaving for another day or is it a build-up to a real confrontation about leaving.

    From reading TP, it seems clear to me that many people with dementia do not give up on obsessions so easily as they really mean something to them, deep down.

    Have the home tried to find a positive activity that could take the place of the packing, that might satisfy your mum in a similar way? Some homes give residents little 'jobs' to do, like folding tea towels which might push some of the same buttons as packing.

    Did the other home say how they would handle the matter?

    It might be worth keeping the other home in mind, but it is also worth noting that new units can have some serious teething problems in the early days/weeks/months.

    Take care,
  10. ella24

    ella24 Registered User

    Nov 9, 2008
    South Coast UK

    we removed all bags (including washbags, plastic bags) and suitcases so that gran wasnt packing them, however she still sorts and resorts her drawers and wardrobe - even though she often now remembers that she is staying. Another example of sorting is that she also counts money (coins) in her purse.

    Gran's CH dont lock doors or wardrobes, and to be honest, my gran packs with such vehemency and strength that if they did lock her wardrobe she would break the door or lock.

    It seems cruel to lock the wardrobe - and to me is a deprivation of liberty - if someone wants to change clothes during the day, why shouldnt they? - the CH should be managing the situation better - who is it harming? If the CH are providing enough stimulation, then that could be why she is sorting/packing.

    I would discuss with a manager in a non confrontational way.
  11. thatwoman

    thatwoman Registered User

    Mar 25, 2009
    Hi Chas,
    my Dad used to pack constantly. He used to say he was going home, even though he was in his own home of 50 years! There was nothing we could do to stop him, but it did no harm. Now he's in a nursing home and he doesn't do it at all. The home has made a bus stop with a bench, indoors but overlooking the garden, and those residents who do pack to go home can "wait for the bus". Staff bring them picnics to eat while they're waiting, and when the bus doesn't turn up they seem happy to give up until tomorrow. The only time residents have anything locked away is if they have something breakable. I would be concerned about the attitude of staff, but that is something only you can know.
    Good luck,
  12. Canadian Joanne

    Canadian Joanne Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 8, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    What a wonderful idea that is. I hope whoever thought it up has received the proper recognition. It sounds like something that could be used in many other homes.
  13. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    That is so creative! I'm just so please that someone could look outside the box and work out a way to deal with this.
  14. Lost Perci

    Lost Perci Registered User

    Mar 31, 2010

    The course I did on Deprivation of Liberty (run by a Barrister specialising in this area of law) was very clear that stopping people leaving, denying access to their own possessions or blocking access to other people were all Deprivation of Liberty and require a court order.

    I would have a good chat with a social worker, they should have all had training in DoL if they work in elderly care or mental health.

    I'm very disturbed at the number of Care Homes I've seen where they lock the front door at all times. I'm damn sure they haven't applied for a DoL order from a court for every resident :(

    Glad to see at least one home is creating practical and inventive solutions to the problem of leavers though!

  15. sistermillicent

    sistermillicent Registered User

    Jan 30, 2009
    #15 sistermillicent, Sep 15, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2010
    I love the idea of the bus stop, I wonder whether it would work at home?

    I would be very unhappy at the thought of my mum not being secure.
  16. Linda60

    Linda60 Registered User

    Oct 29, 2009
    How reassuring to read these posts. I took Mum to a care home last Friday. it was a long journey for her but she is now very near me. I went to call in yesterday and was told she had joined in activities and was settling well. I then went to her room, she wasn't there but everything was packed. As she hadn't seen me I ran away so she couldn't ask me to take her home! I spoke to staff and they said not to worry they would unpack.Realising that packing is more common than I thought I hope I can cope with it next time.
  17. roseplum

    roseplum Registered User

    Mar 4, 2010
    Where I work, we have residents that do the same, pack their bags up to ten times every day to go home. If there are no bags, they will ask for bags so they can pack.

    I personally don't think it's right to lock the wardrobe to stop this behavior. Instead we try to distract from this. We let them pack/unpack as much as they like. If they are happy doing this, fine.
    I ask them for help with MY packing, and provide a bunch of towels and napkins, and they gladly help me "pack" my things. It temporarily takes their mind off why they were packing in the first place.
  18. serena

    serena Registered User

    Jul 17, 2010
    #18 serena, Sep 17, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2010

    I find the locking wardrobes issue disturbing too. My Mum sorts and moves clothes from Wardrobe to cupboards, in her case this seems to be more a sorting than packing activity.

    As my Mum's old home is literally over the road from her new care home, she looks at her old house regularly from various vantage points; fire doors, main windows etc but I have managed some distraction tactics by providing masses of puzzle books (simple ones) which takes her mind off her past attachments.

    In the last few weeks have got her interested in preparing some Birthday and early Xmas cards(!), with Staples wonderful stickers (butterflies,animals, flowers, smiley faces etc)applied to plain card blanks.
    Although not able to concentrate for long, she is amassing a volume of cards, residents have birthdays all the time, so proving quite a good new hobby amongst her other activities (for the moment!).

    Incidentally I love the Bus stop idea, inspired!

    Good luck

    Love and Light, Serena
  19. Chas1962

    Chas1962 Registered User

    Feb 18, 2010
    Reply to comments on Locked Wardrobe in Care Home


    Unfortunately, I've had a very busy week at work and have just found time to log on tonight to see far more responses than I expected....Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.

    I'm going to read them through carefully and decide how to tackle the problem.

    Many Thanks
  20. WendyJ

    WendyJ Registered User

    Jul 29, 2009
    When my friend had to go into a care home, she also packed her belongings up every day and waited for me to take her home. But it gradually diminished.

    What helped was taking lots of things from her flat for her to sort. I took her desk and all its contents, the contents of drawers - you know the sort of miscellaneous things that we collect over the years just in case it comes in handy - her sewing box, books, photograph albums - a whole lot of useless but fiddly things. She now spends a lot of time moving things from chest of drawers to cupboard to shelves to desk etc etc and it gives her a sense of "doing" something familiar.

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