A blogger friend of mine recently wrote about the paranoia she has to deal with with her mother who is in an assisted living facility. Things were occuring like – blaming the cleaning staff for hiding certain items and that they don’t want to come and repair a leak in her bathroom. In both of these instances the staff hasn’t hid a thing and the maintenance folks have come many times to her call about said “leak.”
We all have our moments of paranoia. We’ve all had the feeling that someone at work is out to get us or that a neighbor is out to make us miserable deliberately because they play loud music. But it’s different with those who have Alzheimer’s and dementia. I am convinced that it is a combination of things with their paranoia. It’s the brain misfiring, it’s their fear of losing their mental sharpness, it’s embarrassment and probably more.
With my mother, she felt that when she locked daddy out of the house as he went outside to dump the trash that he was some terrible man who was trying to break in and attack her. When I tried to take dad to the doctor one time she accused me of trying to take him away from her. And there was the times when she would greet me warmly when I came to visit and would give me an armload of things to take home with me (her clothing, pots and pans, food) but by the time I reached the door to leave she’d snatch them back and berate me for trying to steal from her.
Sadly, it’s part and parcel of the disease and something that you as the caregiver will have to find a way to work with your loved one with. For example, initially I would try to “reason” with mom by telling her that she gave the stuff to me; clearly I wasn’t and didn’t win with this. Shortly thereafter I learned to come up with creative ways to handle her giving me things.
I would refuse by saying I had too many already or I would accept and put them down on a table in the kitchen and just act like I didn’t know how that pile got there either. Sometimes if it was something I wanted I would put the item down and then later in my visit I would ask her if I could have the item I really liked it. There was a 50/50 chance of that last method working but it was better than an ugly confrontation.
With “lost” things others have come up with ideas like “let’s clean up the house, mom” or “let’s fold up the clothing and put them away.” Of course you can always resort to having one person take the loved one somewhere while you go through the home or room to hunt down the lost item. But be careful with that method because those with dementia are very tied to their home/room and hate being away from it for too long. Mom was notorious for wanting to leave the house to pay a bill as soon as it hit the mailbox but equally she wanted to rush back home.
When it comes to being locked out, as a caregiver always remember to take your keys with you so that you can get back in if locked out. If you are helping someone like your parents as I was, then have a set of keys yourself (that in and of itself may take some doing, I was accused of wanting a key so that I could have my gang come in and rob their house) to let the person locked out back in. This drove me nuts driving for almost half an hour to let my father back into the house. Another choice is if there is a neighbor that you and your loved ones know and trust, give them a key to help let someone back in…or at least give them your phone number so that they can call you if something goes wrong and you are needed.
Paranoia happens – there are ways to deal with it.