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What's the diplomatic way to handle wild accusations by a parent with Alzheimer's?

19 answers | Last updated: Apr 01, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

A kind neighbor checks in daily on my mother, a widow who has Alzheimer's. Ever since my mom accused her of stealing, this woman is ready to call it quits. Mom's accusations are getting more and more wild. She says things like, "You ate my dessert!" and "I know you took my purse." How can I keep the peace -- and her neighbor's help?


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Susan Frick is a social worker at the Rush University Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago.
87% helpful
Susan Frick answered...

Reassure the neighbor that you know full well she's not doing any of those things, and thank her for her valuable help. Remind her that this behavior is common among See also:
How can I keep my father, who has dementia, from losing things?

See all 181 questions about Home Safety
people with Alzheimer's, and ask her to try not to take it personally. If the behavior only happens occasionally, it signals that your mom could be feeling stressed or anxious. She's probably forgetting things and losing items and, in her stress, blaming her helper.

Even though you know her purse wasn't stolen, it feels very real to her, and arguing with her won't convince her that it didn't happen. Explain to the neighbor that your mother doesn't understand that she has said something inappropriate or inaccurate.

When you speak with your mother, support what she's feeling by saying something like:

  • "I'm so sorry your purse is gone. We'll hunt it down."
  • "That's terrible. Let me tell you about a time someone took my purse."
  • "What was in your purse?"
  • "Where do you usually keep your purse?"

If the accusations occur frequently, look at whether she accuses only this neighbor, and consider getting someone else to look in on her. You might also ask your mom's physician about ways to help her feel more secure and safe. Medications are a last resort, but you may be able to modify her living situation to make her feel more relaxed. I think being home alone could be really hard on your mother. It might help if she went to a daycare center or if she had a home health aide come in and assist her. She may do better with more support from other people.


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9% helpful
Orien2 answered...

I'd say it's time to take the neighbor to dinner or something you know a nice time give her something she likes like flowers or chocolates. The main thing is let's find your whatever and here drink this soda it must be about here some place even this has not worked at times. Reason sometimes doesn't work so what you need to do is to go and pray or when all else fails drink a beer. The wild accusations are just like a temper tantrum tell your neighbor that if she has kids. Just step out a minute or so. If reason doesn't work. Or suggest watching a movie on the disk machine. Or listen to music on the ghetto blaster. IAlcohol works on the crazy person just get her drunk and she'll be less of a bother. :) It's true. I'd say all care givers should be given tranq guns with demerol filled darts and it really is a shame the men in white coats with the nets retired. Alcohol honestly helps with sundowning. The panic that typically happens when the day ends. Get the old person drunk. suggest this to you neighbor to just give the woman several drinks of alcohol. Alcohol is a solutuon but only if it is given to the right people.

I'd say give the elder enough booze to make them relax and then they get so drunk they do not care what's missing. Also memory boards help. Dry erase boards so then you write the day and date on them also any instructions or needs on them. Iteneraries help to which list everything that care givers or patients need to remember on a daily basis. Assign a place to put everything keep to a normal schedule stress and change should be kept to a minimum. Warn the senior prior to doctors visits and write it on the memory board get her to pick the clothing she wants the night before each day so it can be hung up or made presentable. So that means they are still a person and they still can make choices they'll make fewer accusations if there is less stress and they know where and when they are.


75% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

Orien2 is surely kidding about getting the person drunk. If so, it's in REALLY bad taste. Alzheimers is not funny. Otherwise, some very good points (leave out the booze altogether!)


70% helpful
texas tornado answered...

WOW! Give somebody who has memory loss alcohol, really???? If you're afraid she'll wander off SOBER, imagine the damage she can do drunk. Prayers yes, alcohol no. Yes, I definitely hope she was kidding (booo!!!) about getting her drunk. Most people with Alzheimers also take other medications, and mixed with the alcohol could be deadly! SHAME! One other thing....Demerol-filled darts?????? WHAT THE HECK???? Don't even know where to start with THAT statement.


89% helpful
cyberdeck answered...

This is your family and your responsibility. That neighbor is doing you and your mother a favor beyond kind.

Those accusations are abusive to the person on the receiving end, it is not like a child doing it. It is an adult. As an unpaid caregiver for my mother, struggling with siblings who are putting every stumbling block in the way, my own mothers abusive language is exhausting and disheartening.

I know from extensive experience that PAID aides will leave and their agency will cancel your contract when abuse like this starts. So be prepared for having to take responsibility either for her care or for putting her in a nursing home.


92% helpful
bmw answered...

My 89 year old mother, who lives with me, has very mild dementia. However, I see her mood swings changing, and it can be very difficult and challenging. I am only human, and because of her lack of memory she accuses me of lying. Sometimes I lose it and explain she is just not remembering. This only makes her worse. I say hang in there, and we have to remember how our mothers took care of us, now the role is reversing and rather than put her in a nursing home (where it is not needed and she would be miserable), coping is just an every day way of life. I love my mother dearly and she is my best friend, but some days it sure can be difficult.


75% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

I have no helpful answer but I can certainly understand your situation. My husband informed me that he saw me in the back of our church making out with one of the elders. That is so embarrassing and unthinkable I can't go to church any more. I can't leave him alone and I am afraid to take him with me because he would make a scene. I miss my church very much. I have found a couple TV preachers that I watch on Sunday morning but that is not the same as fellowship with other Christians.


75% helpful
buddy's mom answered...

obviously Orien2 was joking. I have found it helps to have a sense of humor. My mother is in the moderate to severe stage. She has been living with us for 4 years now and It even helps if I joke with her somtimes. Try to keep things light once in a while. It is wonderful for everyone to smile and laugh.


67% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

I'm sure Orien2 was joking (whether anyone else think its tactless or not) Being a caregiver means having a thick skin and a sense of humor. My 100 year old mother has been with us for 5 years and she is is moderate to late stage, with sundowners and hallucinations. My biggest problem is dealing with the siblings. Be sure to join a support group. Knowing someone else is dealing with the same problems does help.


100% helpful
Cajeanl answered...

To "anonymous caregiver"...maybe some men from your church could (and should) take turns spending that time with your hubby and free you up to attend! My husband and I take turns attending so one of us is always with my mom...better than not attending at all! Best of luck!


67% helpful
Smartgirl answered...

With my Mom, I find that changing place or topic is fairly easy to do. In other words, I'm sorry that she ate your pie, let's go look in the kitchen and see if anything else looks good to you. If not, we'll go buy something. By the time you look for pie, she won't remember in most cases. Join her journey and pretend that you are in an improv comedy. To do this, you must assume what she is saying is true and not focus on your own feelings. She says Martians just appeared, you say ok, that means we should probably stay inside with the doors locked. What do you think they will do?

Also, please don't let something that a person with Alzheimer's says keep you out of church. Talk to your preacher or another church leader and ask for their help. Tell them the problem. I seriously doubt if anyone took your husbands comment seriously and you can always put hubby on the prayer list for Alzheimer's, dementia or memory loss, whichever is less disturbing to him. That way most people will know.


75% helpful
AnotherVoice answered...

An aside for those rare non-Christian, non-religious folks out there....

No offense, but pray all you want, it won't change the fact that your loved one has dementia/Alzheimer's, and it won't give you the tools you really need to care for said loved one. I know people grasp at straws as a last resort, and if that straw of religion comforts you, fine. But it is no help to your loved one to hide beneath a (false) security blanket of platitudes and pity; you need to read up on all the latest information, keep an open dialog with doctors and caregivers, and develop a thick skin and a broad sense of humor.

Joining a support group is a great idea, but don't just glom onto the first one you encounter; many of them are just pity parties masquerading as support groups. People in these groups are all too eager to pity you and thus pray for you. Remember that pity is not a kind-hearted thing, but a judgment on you and your loved one/family. Real help comes not from bowing one's head - "tsk-tsk, how bad for that family; we are so much better off; it makes me feel so sorry for them, so I'll pray" - it comes from active support and helpful dialog. There are support groups out there that are not religious - it may take a bit of searching, but they are out there and they are worth finding!


weby answered...

In my situation it is different and feels very dangerous. I am a primary caregiver to someone who makes such accusations against me constantly. Her, I can deal with; I know where it is coming from. What is hard for me is a very unsupportive family who is all too ready and anxious to find such accusations against me to be true. I have resorted to reasons to keep such family members away, knowing they need to be included, and my "charge" needs to see them too. I feel this is making the situation worse. Any advice?


100% helpful
Grandmas Little Girl answered...

I am 26 years old caring for my 85 year old grandmother 12 hours a day while my parents, whom she lives with, are at work. Her dementia is very mild but during all the stress we've all been through over last few months there have been moments and even days when she makes such wild and hurtful accusations. I assure you, these days blindside us all, but I get the opportunity to sit and let her talk it out with me, and 9 times out of 10 it doesn't even make sense. She lost her husband of 61 years only 4 months ago and since then has moved thousands of miles to live with her daughter (my mom) over being in a locked Alzheimers unit in a nursing home. She's also dealing with her own siblings doing everything possible to get her back up there into that unit for who knows what reason. My point is that she is very VERY capable of making her own decisions (I'm really only here in case she falls), but during stressful moments she gets instantly worse. The best thing you can do is talk it out together and just be there, now matter how hurt you are. In her situation, I feel like sometimes she just starts crying (she is still grieving after all) and makes up wild things as excuses for the tears. I just listen to her explanation and tell her we all love her and hug her. Then, and this is the hard part, I leave the room. Eventually she quiets and either plays on her computer or plays with the dog or takes a nap. By the end of the day she's smiling again.


CA-Claire answered...

OK, so since the subject was brought up, let's get real about the alcohol. Look at the precautions on nearly any type of medication - they usually say, do not take with alcohol. This means - if you're on this medication, do not drink alcohol, rather than the oh, I'll drink water when I physically take the medication, then have a 3 martini dinner.

Alcohol is a poor mixer for seniors - their logic, balance, vision, and hearing may already be impaired, adding alcohol to the mix is like using TNT to clean your home. Home's gone, so it must be clean.

Even giving a senior a soda - think of the caffeine and HFCS/Sugar that may be in it. Give water - there are very few seniors that actually drink enough water to keep their organs functioning well.


Newshound answered...

I think a glass of wine is a good idea....:) Actually at my Dad's personal care home they had wine and cheese socials and everyone loved it. They said, the nurses, they could do so little and felt like children that this helped them feel like adults again even if only for a short time, and they didn't give them that much. If you have had a paranoid person accuse you and your family constantly, you would drink too! It's awful.....the thing is, they can't remember and try to make excuses, it's sad it's taken out on caregivers. My dad never liked my husband so his story was that I left him and had been visiting with this "other" man...He told his neighbour he even saw me having sex with him....really made my husband angry, he had a hard time separating the paranoia from a personal insult...


100% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mother is doing the same thing. She accuses me of lying, stealing and trying to take her things away from her, she has turned my brother against me and convince countless people that I am out to get her and taking her stuff, I have decided to wash my hands of her and all this heart ache, now my brother will see what I have suffered at her hands. I wish you the best of luck, but unfortunately the behaviors only become worse.


An anonymous caregiver answered...

I hear a lot of heart break & sadness. In my case, my husband, (we've been together nearly 40 years) is accusing me of having an affair. Every time I leave the house, even to go to work, there is yelling, accusations, name calling and recently grabbing & pushing. It can really be frightening. I, or no-one else can reassure him. There is an evaluation is progress but these things move so slowly. In the meantime he's alienated almost everyone who cared about him.