Dementia and Paranoia Seem To Go Hand In Hand
If you can, just Imagine that everything and everyone seemed foreign to you. You do not know where you are. And you are not sure who these people around are either. On top of that, the language is also difficult to interpret. And some people seem to be agitated that you are not cooperating with what they want. But you don’t know what they want! And you are not sure if they can be trusted. How would you feel? Afraid? Paranoid?
Most likely you would be frightened. And people act differently when they are frightened. It is human nature to become angry when you are frightened. And lashing out verbally or physically is common. You may become paranoid and believe that everyone is out to “get you.” As such you try to protect yourself the best way you can.
Dementia Paranoia is Very Common.
As the world around you seems to be spinning out of control, you become more frightened. Additionally, someone with dementia may become paranoid because they confuse other events.
“Mom started telling me that Jimmy (my younger brother) was stealing from her. Luckily Jimmy had not seen Mom in months so I knew this was not true. She was convinced, however. And she wanted to take steps to make sure he could not get into her home. I couldn’t figure out why she was making these false accusations. Then one afternoon I was off work and spent the day with her. We watched a soap opera that she watched every day. And guess what? There was a lady whose son (also named Jimmy) was stealing from her. Mom had gotten the actor and the show intertwined with her real life.”
And this Dementia Paranoia is Not Uncommon.
After a full day of watching The Walton’s reruns with her MIL Pat, Kay helped Pat to bed. Her mother in law said to her. “Wasn’t it wonderful. We had the whole family together today. And everyone got along.” In her mind what she watched on television became reality.
The News and Drama Shows Should be Avoided
If you are seeing a lot of dementia paranoia in someone you love limiting televisions programs might be helpful. It certainly can’t hurt. At least be careful of the shows you watch. Shows that have a light and positive theme will be best. A few other ideas you may try include:
Don’t try to argue If Mom thinks Jimmy is stealing telling her he hasn’t been here in months will not help. Ask what he has taken and how it makes her feel. Let her know you are sorry that she is feeling this way. Knowing that someone is actually listening to her will help to calm and reassure Mom she is safe.
2. Keep a Log of the Paranoid Behavior
Does it happen at a certain time of the day? What was mom doing prior to this paranoid behavior? By keeping a log you may be able to pinpoint what could be causing this. This will allow you to change routines to avoid this unpleasantness. A lot of people with dementia experience sundowners. When the sun begins to go down in the afternoon dementia paranoia and other adverse behaviors tend to show up. If you know that this is happening you can look for ways to ease that time of day. Maybe this is a good time for an ice cream sundae? Or an aromatherapy foot or hand rub could help to calm someone experiencing sundowners. What kind of music does mom like? Have some playing in the background.
3.Step Into Her Reality
“Aunt Joyce was convinced that I used to be her office mate 20 years ago. I was only 16 at the time. But in her mind, I was the office mate. She would always confide in me about the other people in her office. When my mother would come into the room Joyce would grab her purse and tell me to hold on to mine. She said that Mom would steal my purse if I wasn’t careful. My mother would get so upset. And she would proclaim that she NEVER stole anything in her life. Aunt Joyce would just get more agitated and paranoid”
When someone with dementia paranoia believes something, you will not convince them otherwise. Stop trying. Instead, just step into their reality. Kay became the office mate. And Kay’s mother finally learned to just leave the room when accusations were made. She stopped taking it personally. And she began to finally accept the disease for what it is.
4. Ask Her How You Can Help
If mom keeps telling you the staff at her assisted living home is refusing to feed her and you know it’s not true, ask how you can help. Maybe she just wants to feel as if someone has her back. You could offer to talk to the staff. Let’s face it, everyone wants to feel as if they have been heard. Someone with dementia is no different.
“Mom tells the family I never come to visit. I am here almost every day!”
This is frustrating! Remember she is not doing this on purpose. Get a calendar and a polaroid camera. Now each time you visit take a picture of you and Mom doing something together. (eating a bowl of ice cream or something else) and tape it to the calendar. It will help Mom to remember and the family can get off your back.
Dementia can play tricks on the mind causing people to become frightened and paranoid. As such they often make false accusations. How you handle the situation will make all of the difference in your experience dealing with dementia paranoia.
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