My mother-in-law thinks the people that she lives with are stealing from her, but I find the things she says are stolen hidden somewhere in her room.

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I am seriously considering telling my mother-in-law that I will not be seeing her as much if I have to listen to the constant litany about how the people where she's living are stealing from her. Everything she says they are stealing, I can find hidden somewhere in her room. I'm hoping that she will actually 'remember' what I'm saying, since there is a possibility that she won't get to see me anymore. Or at least, not nearly as often. Her memory is terrible, but the thought is, that message will get though the fog enough to STOP the craziness of repeating the same thing 50x's a day. I'm hesitant in telling her that, cause she is a nice person and I do love her. But...I'm tired of banging my head against the wall. Any thoughts?


It never seems to work when we try to apply rational thinking to irrational behaviors. I remember that my grandmother used to repeat things over and over again to my mother. My mother, bless her, used to remind her, in a gentle tone, that they had already discussed that.

Best solution is to tune it out. Perhaps think of other more pleasant things while she is talking. That way, she gets to vent and you will not be taking the ramblings seriously.

I often have to remind myself that a senior's world gets increasingly smaller with age. And, in this culture, we tend to islolate seniors, then expect them to carry on, what we deem, normal conversations.
good luck
Hi, my Mother is in assisted living and she says the same thing...every day!! It's crazy stuff like toothbrush, used lipstick, etc. She re-arranges everything in her drawers each night. This is a result of the dementia and it is something you just have to get used to. Try reading the 36 Hour Day, it will help you understand the behaviors your Mother-in-Law is exhibiting. She truly believes people are stealing, and you can't try to explain or change her mind about it. I usually just say "I will see about it" or "I will speak to them about it", or simply change the subject. If you try to dispute what she is saying or argue, it will do no good, it will just agitate her, and as a result agitate you too. Calm is the name of the game, whatever it takes! I empathize with you and wish you the best.
If your mother-in-laws actions are recent occurrences they are a symptom of dementia. Someone should alert her primary care physician so to see if there is a medical explanation.
Early detection will make all medical problems easier to handle.
3930 helpful answers
It's her memory and frustrating as it is, she likely won't remember any better when you tell her you won't see her. She'll just feel bad and so will you. She can't find thngs so her "logic" tells her someone took it.

Distracting her and moving on are your best tools. As Lilliput
says, tuning that out and moving on to some other subject will work as well as anything. I know it's hard but she's responding to what her brain tells her.

Keep coming back and reading other's stories. You aren't alone.
Read some of the recent Q/As about parents hurling accusations about their caregivers. Some sympathetic person hears her complaints, believes her, and next thing you know you have Adult Protective Services and police involved. I know because of so many instances of actual thefts against seniors, probably unreported, that the law will bend over backwards to believe the senior, and you (or whomever) is presumed guilty. Start filming these episodes with your mom, even with your cellphone (video flipcams are so cheap right now, also!)...the accusations, then set up camera of you looking for items, then finding them. Three or four filmed episodes might help soften the blow at the accused. (This isn't to prove to your mother that she is making things up...she'll probably not realize the reality of filmed evidence.)

Obviously, she is nearing or at the point where she should not be living alone. If she's unhinged in this area, she's probably not operating at full capacity in others as well. Leaves burners on? Wanders?

And this... "I am seriously considering telling my mother-in-law that I will not be seeing her as much if I have to listen to the constant litany about how the people where she's living are stealing from her"... won't do any good. She won't remember what you said. She can't help herself. (On the other hand, I've been able to replace Mom's lintpicking OCD with some other activity, an one day she forgot her obsession with lint.)

At this point, you are at crossroads. Just read a quote in a newspaper letters-to-the-editor today:

"Character is who you are when it is inconvenient."

See all the longterm caregivers with deadbeat siblings nodding their heads... yes yes. Your mother-in-law is now someone who needs caring for, looking after...a lot, and for the rest of her life (unless meds can handle the hallucinations...or less meds, perhaps this is a drug interaction problem). You can always hope it's that simple.
Something that use to help me when I was a nurse if someone-an eldery pt. would ask a question repeadely like what time is it I would in turn ask them the question back and very often they would give the correct time. They very often lose track of time or think 5 mins is really an hour and if they can read a clock having a large one on their wall that they can see easily might help a lot.
AlzCaregiver, Is there a reason for your attitude? Set up camera of one looking for things and finding them? Anyone can make a video so what does that prove? Certainly not evidence. It is a good thing that there is A.P.S. and police because a lot of seniors do get mistreated and there are Docters and Medical Records to clear up these situations. And, Why the comment about deadbeat siblings? In their defense, there are some who live to far away, have to hold down 2 jobs just to take care of their families, have physical or mental problems, are just to weak, I could go on and on. And NO I am not your deadbeat sibling. I take care of my mother who has alzheimers/dementia. My dad is deceased. My youngest brother is schitzphranic and my other brother can`t seem to get past his shame and denial or maybe just doesn`t know what to do. Sometime I feel resentment toward him, other times I just feel sorry for him because I know he has his reasons for being the way he is. I help my youngest brother as much as I can as he has spent most of his life living with my mother and is so scared now that she is sick. Mom, Well, amongst other things she sees people that are not real, she threatens to call the police on me, she hides things and accuses me of stealing them, she tells me how bad I am, etc. etc. Sometime I feel mad, sometime sad, sometime I even cry, but she is my Mom so I bite my tongue, kiss her on the forehead, tell her I love her, walk away and take a few deep breaths and usually when I walk back to her, she has already forgotten and all is okay till the next time. I do not know what will be next but I do know that a bad attitude won`t help any. God Bless You AlzCaregiver, and Bless this website !!
I am experiencing the exact same thing with my mother, except it's with us. She always blames the kids or my husband and at times is even angry with me. She has a habit of hiding things in her rooms because of her extreme suspicious nature. She was not like this in her pre-alzheimer years, so I have to remember it's just the disease. It's extremely difficult, believe me, to keep calm because it's hard seeing your kids blamed for something they didn't do. I don't handle it well all the time, but the majority I just acknowledge how frustrating it is and that I'll help her try to figure out what's going on. She doesn't remember that I tell her that, but it puts me in a position of being someone she trusts and feels like she can talk to about it. People with alzheimers very often feel very alone with their thoughts and confusion. If they feel like everyone is out to get them, like they very often do, their final years are miserable. You can be the one person she trusts if you sympathize with her and just keep telling yourself - it's not her, it's the disease.
Hi-I think you have had some great replys to your question-I also experience this, and had to handle matters best I could. Your Mom-may hide things from others, but unfortunately she also hides them from herself. Yes she may become accusatory, but this is probably part of her illness. Have you been in contact with her physician or neurologist about this type of behavor? They may also offer some suggestions on a professional level. If possible, try NOT to 'beat yourself up' over this- it is not your fault. For many of us, the tables have been turned, as we become like the parent, and they the child. This is a great website to vent, and also to get feedback from others who have walked in your shoes. Good luck on your caregiver journey.
Perhaps you could have her help you look for them in her room.

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