8 Ways to Deal with False Dementia Accusations

dementia accusations

Seniors with dementia falsely accuse family of terrible things

“You stole my wallet and all my money!”
“You’re keeping me prisoner in my house!”
“You’re trying to poison me!”

Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia commonly accuse the people closest to them of theft, mistreatment, or other terrible things. While cases of true abuse do exist, oftentimes these accusations are completely untrue and are caused by delusions – strong beliefs in things that aren’t real.

It’s important to remember that your older adult isn’t creating these delusions to hurt you. Their brains are failing and the delusions and paranoia are symptoms of the disease.

We explain why this happens and share 8 ways to calm the situation and kindly deal with these dementia accusations.




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Why seniors with dementia make false dementia accusations

Their accusations may sound crazy, but the situation is very real to your older adult. Their minds are trying to make sense of the world while their cognitive abilities are declining.

People with dementia often feel anxiety, frustration, and a sense of loss. Those feelings, plus memory loss and confusion, can easily lead to paranoia. That’s why many seniors with dementia feel like people are stealing from them or mistreating them.

When they can’t find something they’ve misplaced, their brain leads them to believe that someone stole from them. When you prevent them from wandering and getting lost, they think they’re being kept prisoner.

These dementia accusations can be extremely hurtful to hear, but it’s important to remember that they’re not personal attacks against you. Their brain can’t make sense of what’s happening and has created an alternate version of reality to compensate.

 

8 ways to deal with false dementia accusations

1. Don’t take it personally
Remember that your older adult is only making these accusations because of their declining cognitive abilities. They’re trying to make sense of their reality as best they can.

Do your best to stay calm and not to take these accusations personally. Focus on reassuring them and showing that you care about how they’re feeling.

 

2. Don’t argue or use logic to convince
It’s important not to argue or use logic to convince someone with dementia that they’re wrong. You simply can’t win an argument with someone whose brain no longer processes logic properly. And arguing will only make them upset and more insistent.

Instead, let them express their ideas, feelings, and opinions. It will be easier to calm and distract them if they feel heard and validated.

 

3. Use a calm, soothing tone and positive body language
When responding to someone who is worked up over something they strongly believe, it’s essential to stay calm.

Bring the adrenaline level of the situation down by speaking in a gentle, calm tone of voice. You may also want to try reassuring them in non-verbal ways like a gentle touch or hug.

 

4. Create a calm environment
Creating a calm environment is another way to reduce the tension in the situation.

Reduce noise and commotion by turning off the TV, asking other people to leave the room, or playing slow songs or classical music at a low volume. Aromatherapy is another way to create a soothing environment.




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5. Stick to simple answers
When you respond to their accusations, keep your responses short and simple. Long explanations or reasoning may be overwhelming and cause more agitation and confusion.

 

6. Distract with a pleasant activity
The best way to stop them from obsessing about their accusation is to validate, then distract. Switch to a fun, engaging, or satisfying activity as soon as possible after sympathizing with how they feel.

Maybe it’s a good time to offer a favorite snack or drink. Or you could ask for help with a no-fail task they enjoy, like folding “laundry” (aka lots of hand towels).

 

7. Keep duplicates of frequently misplaced items
If you notice a pattern where your older adult frequently hides and then loses a certain item, consider buying multiples of that item.

For example, if they’re constantly misplacing their wallet, buy another of the same style so you can offer to help them “find” it.

 

8. Seek support and advice from people who understand
Being accused of stealing, abuse, or other terrible things can be devastating. Even if you can hide your true feelings to avoid further upsetting your older adult, it still hurts inside.

To help you cope, join a caregiver support group – either in person or online. You’ll be surprised and relieved to learn that many other people have been accused of similar untrue things. It truly helps to know you’re not the only one it’s happening to.

 

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: The Memories Project


26 Comments

  • Reply June 30, 2019

    Need ADVICE

    HELP!!! What age does Dementia usually start? My mom is 67 yrs old and since my dad passed away 10 years ago had to take over the care of both my brothers who both have primary progressive Multiple Sclerosis. My husband and I move our family of 8 to live with them as she was overwhelmed with trying to care for them in her own. But these last couple of years she has begun to worry me with strange and upsetting behavior . She will frequently misplace things and always accuse me of taking them most of the time but not directly but she makes comments hinting towards me being the one who did it. There’s been several times she’s misplaced money or her and my two disabled brothers medications and she always start crying saying she’s not safe and that someone is doing these things to her on purpose she even goes as far as praying and asking why people want to hurt her if all she want to do is take care of her family . It also never fails that if we do end up finding misplaced items weather it be money or medication she always always sais there was more in quantity than what we end up finding and either way someone end up accused of it. It’s like either way there’s no making her happy. She can’t admit to even making the tiniest of mistakes things that anyone could forget easily that are no big deal It most definitely wasn’t her mistake and she will come up with the craziest reasons why it couldn’t of been her. ( it amazes me how she’s so worried or seems like she can’t have anyone know she made a mistake) she takes certain medications that have side affects of making her really sleepy aside from the fact that her and I are up all through the night watching over my brothers because they might need to be suctioned through their tracheotomy in their throats. So yes we are both tired and sleep dreprived but the difference is that I don’t accuse her of the horrible things she without a second thought has accused me of. If she finds herself exhausted one day more than usual she thinks she’s been given something to make her sleepy . She’s made inderect accusations of someone possibly putting something in her food that then made her sleepy. To the point where she had lab work done to confirm. ( of coarse it was clear ) . I don’t know what to do anymore I don’t want to abandon her or my disabled brothers but it hurts to be the go to punching bag every time something isn’t right or she thinks something isn’t right . I’m always defending her or making excuses for her every time she acting strange because she falling asleep doing different things walking around rambling things that don’t make sense but will not lay down and get some rest no matter how many times I try to get her to do it. Some days are worse than others but it only seems to have gotten worse since first moving in to present day. I’m not sure how long I can handle this even though I know That for my family’s sake I’m willing to take being the punching bag if I have to. But I’m scared there’s gonna be a time when I’m not sure what I’m gonna do if it gets worse cuz she’s the one that is the main person or guardian for my disabled brothers I’m scared to think that I might have to explain to her that I might need to take over . I feel like she’s gonna think I wanna hurt her on purpose. I love my mom to the moon and back but I’m hurt the way she can so easily have thoughts of accusing me of such crazy and horrible things. I seek like I’m stuck in a never ending circle. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Reply August 3, 2019

      DailyCaring

      So sorry to hear about this tough situation 🙁

      It may be helpful to let your mom’s doctor know about these behavior changes and ask that they do a thorough exam. It’s possible that she has a treatable health condition that’s causing dementia-like symptoms. Or, she could have Alzheimer’s or dementia. It may also help to evaluate her medications, vitamins, and supplements to make sure that there aren’t any negative interactions that are causing problems.

      These articles may be helpful:
      — 8 Treatable Diseases That Mimic Dementia https://dailycaring.com/8-treatable-diseases-that-mimic-dementia/
      — 7 Treatable Health Conditions with Symptoms Similar to Dementia https://dailycaring.com/7-treatable-health-conditions-with-symptoms-similar-to-dementia/

      The behaviors you’ve described are common in dementia. We’ve got some articles that can help you understand why they’re happening and how to respond:
      — Responding to 4 Common Dementia Accusations: Stealing, Poisoning, Being Held Prisoner https://dailycaring.com/responding-to-4-common-dementia-accusations-stealing-poisoning-being-held-prisoner/
      — 6 Ways to Help Someone Who Doesn’t Know They’re Ill: Anosognosia in Dementia https://dailycaring.com/6-ways-to-help-someone-who-doesnt-know-theyre-ill-anosognosia-in-dementia/

    • Reply September 16, 2019

      Just me

      my dad is 73 he was always a narcisstic jerk and we never got along at all , but in the six months he is acting like the mayor of crazytown.

      He walks around nude has arguing conversations in public with himself
      He almost got his butt kicked at a buffet because he mowed down a really old lady
      He almost stepped on my two year niece’s head because he didn’t see her there He also tried to push her out of the way and wonders why they don’t want him babysitting anymore.
      Think everyone is stealing off him and gets irate The items are usually sitting next to him or in dumb places like the freezer or a book on his bookshelf.

      Thinks the tv is on when it is off . Starts fights me over my humidifier and fan being on but is so deaf it is hard to talk to him.He wakes my mom up who is 65 and still works and she gets mad at me for waking her up even if he is standing there arguing with himself.

      She said if the cops come she is going to take my dad’s side because it is my job to calm him down.I told her , I am not staying here anymore find a nurse. I am sick hearing her homophobic rants about how gays are an abomination to jesus. I am gay and she has no idea.

  • Reply May 2, 2019

    Mitchell Eidson

    My father is 93and living alone at a distance from family. He has complained of bugs biting him and is convinced that bugs are inside him and causing pain. Nothing is ever seen. Doctors have run tests and found nothing.
    What’s the next move for us and what are we in store for in the near future? Thanks
    Mitch

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