My sister thinks other people are eating her food, how should I explain that she is the one eating it?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
Sisterdear asked...

When I take food to my sister she hides it and refrigerates the what she doen't eat, then when she takes it out for the next meal, she will not eat because she insists that someone has eaten out of it. and will not eat after someone else has eaten off of it. How can I nicely explain to her that it is SHE who is eating the food or hiding it?

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.

One of the symptoms of Alzheimer's is paranoia. As the disease progresses, loved ones exhibit various behaviors that may not make sense. One of these is hiding things. When it gets really bad they accuse their caregivers of taking their things.

It seems from your question that you have tried to explain to your sister that the leftovers are hers.

As Alzheimer's grips more parts of your sister's brain, she'll find it harder to make sense of reality as you're experiencing it. It's best just to agree with her reality and maybe even apologize. This way, she'll feel you understand and that you're on her side. After she experiences your agreement over a period of time, she may gain confidence that she can trust you. It's not easy but you're dealing with a disease that makes people do things that don't always make sense.

While you wait for her improved reaction, you may want to try the following.

Suggestion to avoid stressful interactions

Prepare several smaller portioned meals and place them in the refrigerator.

There's a chance, she may finish these smaller meals.

She may also reach in and pull out a new "untouched" meal.

If she does have leftovers in the fridge and insists the food is not hers, apologize and tell her you were confused. Yes, this may sound strange, but you must align yourself to her view.

While she eats one of your other prepared meals, put her leftovers on a different plate and place this plate in the freezer (where she may not look for it).

A day or two later, return her leftovers to the refrigerator and she may think it's a new meal.

As a caregiver, you are continually thinking of new ways to approach your sister in her world. The good news is she'll experiences some "wins"--your agreement with her perceptions of reality, which will help her feel more comfortable with what you say. The reality is, the disease will progress and with it she'll likely forget about this as an issue.

For more information: Managing Hallucinations and Delusions, Suspiciousness, and Paranoia in Someone With Alzheimer's Disease See paragraph 5.