Alzheimer`s Disease/irrational

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Question
My stepmother has been diagnosed in the early stages of Alzheimer disease. Although we got along well for many years,about 6 months ago she began making irratonal accusations against me. For example has accused me of coming into the house when they are gone (a three hour drive each way ) and stealing knick knacks. She has accused me of taking my Dad's military souvinirs, when he gave them to me years ago. she accused me yesterday of trying to "sell the house out from under" her and my dad. How do I deal with this kind of thing? I could ignore it, or I could try to reason with her. For example, I could point out that I couldn't sell the house even if  wanted to and would gain no benefit from leaving them homeless. My dad is in denial about the whole thing, so he is not much help.

Thanks

Jo

Answer
Hello Jo:  I'm very sorry to hear of your stepmother's accusations against you--I'm sure it's very upsetting to you.  If she has an actual diagnosis of AD, then your father must pull his head out of the sand and start to make some plans for her care because she will not get better.  Everyone around her will be affected and will have an effect on her, so all of you need to know how to interact better with her.
First, you should know that this type of personality change can be common in AD.  Even though she is in the "early stage," it may not be possible to try to reorient her by telling her that she has AD and that is making her suspicious.  It MAY work only if everyone around you backs it up, but it would probably only be temporary since she would forget.  You may want to stay away for a couple of months since it does help to stay out of sight.  Know that as her brain damage progresses, she will likely stop this paranoia, but it's impossible to say when or if that might happen.  You could also try admitting "guilt" and apologizing to her:  "I'm so sorry Mom about those knicknacks--I had truly thought you had given those to me--I promise I will bring them back here next week--I would never intentionally take something you had not given to me."  The hope with this is that she will be mollified by your confession, and then will forget about it.  The goal with her is to try to keep her happy, healthy, and safe while always treating her with dignity.  That cannot be accomplished by arguing with her and trying to make her see your reality.  
I highly recommend that you and your family purchase my book "Love, Laughter, & Mayhem - Caregiver Survival Manual For Living With A Person With Dementia."  You will find many, many tips in there about how to interact with her in ways that help accomplish your goal.  I also recommend that your father join a caregiver support group so he has some knowledge of what is coming, as well as some support for it.  He must not stand back and allow her to accuse people around her of stealing--he needs to learn how to lovingly and gently navigate around her beliefs.  Sometimes, if the paranoia is persistent, or worsening, a low dose of a medication can help take the edge off, but it should only be a last resort.  
I wish you much luck Jo as you try to deal with your stepmom as well as your father's denial.  Cindy

Alzheimer`s Disease

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Cindy Keith, RN, BS, Certified Dementia Practitioner

Expertise

As a nurse and dementia consultant, I can answer most questions on all types of dementia. If I cannot answer your question, I will attempt to find someone who can. My passion is to help caregivers of people with dementia, which in turn helps all those wonderful elders with dementia live better lives. When caregivers are better educated, they are able to better care for themselves and their loved ones, so education is key to decreased stress levels and healthier, happier families.

Experience

I have worked as a nurse in various disciplines of nursing for over 20 years, most of which was with the elderly. I was a health care coordinator in a dementia dedicated assisted living facility for 4 years before I started my own business (M.I.N.D. in Memory Care) as a dementia consultant six years ago. As a dementia consultant, I help families nationwide through phone conference calls as they struggle to care for their loved ones with dementia.

Organizations
Alzheimer's Foundation of America Geriatric Interest Network Sigma Theta Tau International

Publications
Published "Love, Laughter, & Mayhem - Caregiver Survival Manual For Living With A Person With Dementia" which is a collection of stories about people with dementia I have known, loved and worked with. Every story has a lesson to teach and this book gently teaches family caregivers lessons about how to better care for their loved one, as well as themselves during their caregiving journey. Published "Love, Laughter, & Mayhem In Eldercare Facilities: The Master Key For Dementia Training" Created "Bringing Nurturing To Memory Care" staff dementia training video Created Ebook: "Hair Stylist's Helpful Tips For Working With People With Alzheimer's & Other Dementias"

Education/Credentials
Registered Nurse with Bachelor's degree in Nursing; Certified Dementia Practitioner; Author of 2 books and an ebook

Awards and Honors
Sigma Theta Tau National Honor Society of Nursing

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