My mother thinks I am stealing from her what do I do?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 13, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom lives by herself in another state. During a visit we confirmed she was having memory problems. We had planned for her to move here but she has decided that I am stealing from her and will have nothing to do with me. She refuses to go to the dr. And has become very belligerent . I am so concerned what do I do?

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

When you write "mom thinks I'm stealing" from her you are presented with two situations--one, a mom who is afraid and two, because she's trying to hold on.

Sadly, when our loved ones are afraid they lash out to those who are closest to them. This is compounded by the fact that you likely can't see her as often as you'd like because she's in another state. However, if you can spend time with her, please do so without suggesting she do something.

Try to spend the time with her to (re)develop her trust and confidence in you. For example, engage her in discussion. Maybe, in a more lucid moment, she may tell you that she put some money somewhere. This might help you to uncover where else she's squirreled away cash. It is painful to be accused of stealing from one's own parent. But if you and she work together to find her cash, she'll begin to feel that you're on her side.

Over time, she'll feel more comfortable and grow to trust that you have her best interests at heart.

Second, your mom may know she's losing her abilities. She may be questioning her every move. She needs to hold onto what she has.

When you suggest she see a doctor, the idea threatens her. She may fear the worst.

If you can help her feel she'll be all right, your words and actions will help her feel stronger. You'll help her be less afraid because she'll know you'll be by her side.

Community Answers

Monica heltemes answered...

I am sure it is hard to be far away from your mom, especially when you know she is having some memory issues. As a person experiences a decline in cogntion, they see bits and pieces of situations but not the whole picture. This is what leads them to making errors and becoming suspicious or accusatory.

Also, the person starts to lose insight. This means that she is not fully aware of her memory lapses and the potential consequences of her decisions - decisions that may be poor ones. This can make her belligerant.

The difficult truth is that at some point, the person can no longer make sound decisions and may be putting themselves at risk when living alone and making poor decisions. This is when the caregiver needs to take control of the situation.

To try to smooth this process, I also suggest that you spend more time with your mother both to gain her trust and to have a better idea of the full situation. She may say no one day to a doctor appt. but another day may be in a better mood and may accept. But these are 'windows' that you would best know by spending some more time with your mom, to learn how and when you can best approach these situations.

A geriatric care manager could be invaluable in this situation, especially when you are a long distance away.

Hang in there; these are not easy situations and decisions to help facilitate. Best of luck to you and your mother.