Alzheimer`s Disease/stepmother may have AD

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Question
My step mother seems to be in the early stages of dementia, although there has been no diagnosis. One symptom is that she is making irrational accusations against me. How should I deal with this?

She and my dad have been married almost 20 years, after the deaths of their fist spouses. She and I got along really well most of that time, and I was thrilled that my dad found someone to be happy with. Now she is accusing me of things like stealing from them or trying to "sell the house out from under" them. My dad's mind is OK but he is physically frail and just not up to dealing with this.

Should I  ignore it? Try to reason with her (For example ask why I would do something like that)? Or is there something else I should be doing? I know she needs to go in for a full evaluation, but I live 200 miles away and have little influence over things like that.

Thanks,

Jo

Answer
Hello Jo:
First, I apologize for the delay in answering your inquiry--I just now received it for some reason.  
This is a tough spot for you to be in and you may not be able to affect much change.  You are correct in that she does need an evaluation, or a full work-up for dementia.  I would suggest that you speak privately with your dad and tell him you are concerned, and that it may not be dementia at all, but it may be something that can easily be fixed.  She must be seen by a geriatrician or a neurologist who can decide what the issues are.  The doctor must be informed of the personality changes since she would likely deny that.  Does she have children you can enlist to help?  
When she accuses you of something like trying to sell the house, you may try something like this (in a very calm voice):  "I'm really sorry you feel that way and I would like to set your mind at ease about this.  I would like to mail you a statement/promise/legal document stating that I will not be a party to any sale or transfer of your house.  Would that help convince you that I am completely serious about this?"  If she agrees, then go ahead and send her that statement.  Always try to be calm and not argue with her since she totally believes she is right and will only get upset which will upset your father.  If she continues with the accusations, then try to limit any time you spend talking with her.  I would suggest you continue to converse with your dad, and/or write him notes, and always be sure to include your regards/love for her.  She is exhibiting paranoia and that is a very difficult thing to overcome.  If she does have dementia, in time, she will forget those paranoid thoughts.  
I wish you much luck Jo as you try to handle these issues with your mother-in-law.  I know it is a difficult road to follow.  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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