My mother thinks a neighbor is breaking into her home while she sleeps. How can I get her to stop living in fear?

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My mother has become paranoid and is living in fear. She is convinced that someone is breaking into her home to make her think she is crazy such as rebuffing her floors, putting pictures on the wall, taking food from frig. She won't go to the Md. When she shows this to her children and we realize that no one is breaking in, she gets upset and says we don't believe her. We don't know what to do.

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Thank you for you helpful suggestions. I really appreciate it.
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This is part of her dementia and it is only going to get worse and more intense which is going to be even more frightening and fearful for her.

You need to get her evaluated by a MD - the best would be to have a gerontologist do this as they will be able to pinpoint what type of dementia she has. Treatment can be quite different for Alz vs Lewy Body Dementia vs. vascular dementia. My experience is that going to see a family practice MD or internist is a waste of time and may actually increase her paranoia with more medications being given. This is what happened with my mom. Her gerontology practice has been a godsend as it is a totally different viewpoint of medical care.

There are 2 tests commonly done to see where she is on dementia spectrum:
- Folstein /Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) 30 point test. Takes about 10–30 min & looks at math, memory & orientation. Is copyrighted, so not given as much.
- The Mini-Cog: a 3 part test: 1) name 3 objects then repeat back, could do this 2 – 3 times; 2. draw a clock then 3) repeat the words from earlier. This should take 3 – 5 minutes. What this checks is recall of new information, orientation to time and date, and clock drawing into a single score that can accurately determine if someone has cognitive impairment and its severity. Most gerontlogists do the MiniCog every 3 mos.

Having a baseline Folstein/MMSE or MiniCog's done & repeated is really helpful to be realistic about what careplan to take. Same with scan on brain shrinkage & what part of the brain, which most gerontolgists or neurologists will order.

On retrospect my mom had dementia related paranoia, issues with language and difficulty with familiar tasks since 2005. To this very day on a good day, she appears lucid, knows who people are, can carry on conversations, can get dressed and potty on her own most of the time, she is totally ambulatory with just a free standing cane or wheeled walker. She’s in her 90’s too. But if you talk with her past the 2 – 3 minute conversation most people do with the elderly, it is totally scary……animals who appear in the corner, gypsy children who live in the building, amputee roommate stole her TV, poison in the rice....all real to her.

With my mom, who probably has Lewy Body Dementia, people stealing or coming onto her property and misplacing things was/is a big issue. When she was living at her home, she was sure that the mailman, garbageman were going into the house and taking things. When she was in IL, she would hide stuff in flashlights, then go into a fury that she had been robbed and would call the police and file reports. Her paranoia got to the point where she called a nephew to take her to the bank so she could withdraw all her money as “they were trying to become her”. She would cut off the tops of empty Kleenex boxes and nest them within each other BUT she would hide “important” stuff within the layers. Then when she couldn’t find the $, travelers checks or family picture, she would call the police. When she went to lunch or an activity, “they” would go to her apt (when she was in IL) or to her room (at the LTC she is in now) and would use it as an office or hold meetings there because her room has the “special light”.

Mom totally believes this is happening. There is no way to convince her that it is a “false belief”. This is so common. How to deal with it really needs to be what works best for you. They aren’t going to change their incorrect perception.

My mom is on Exelon, Remeron & a vertigo Rx & in a LTC facility. I can tell a real positive difference w/Exelon as her fear is more even and not as threatening.
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I see that your profile lists your mom has having dementia. Paranoia is common in dementia, and it is often treatable. I think that is why everyone is urging seeing the doctor. Not every doctor is good at treating dementia, however, so seeing her regular doctor may be only a first step. And I agree with SCHLUEDE that the doctor needs to know what is really going on, and not just rely on what Mom is willing to tell him or her.

How long has your mother had dementia? Have you been given a more specific diagnosis, such as Alzheimer's or Vascular or Lewy Bodies? Is she seeing a specialist for this disorder?
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Set up a meeting with her doctor without her being there. Tell the doctor at that meeting exactly what is going on. Then make an appointment and go with her to the doctor. That way the doctor can be prepared. i did this with my Mom's doctor and it helped a lot. If your Mo is all cheery with the doctor and puts on a show the doctor will not be able to help. She will likely not talk to you for a while after this happens but just tell her you love her and that you are trying to look after her best interests. That you are worried as she feels people are breaking in and that she is not safe living alone anymore. if she moved into a facility where she had company people would not be able to break in as there is always someone around. Just some thoughts.
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She does go for her regular check ups but since she thinks it is really happening and does not think anything is wrong she will not mention it. And where she is not out of it and can still function in everyday society and cook, and drive she can still make her own decisions and decide for me to not go in with her. And if by some chance we do get her to the doctors and they prescribe her meds, she won't take them and probably develop in her mind that the doctors know who is breaking in. Or think that we said something and that this is the way to get her to stop bringing up the issues with us. Where she lives by herself if she is prescribed meds we won't be able to make sure she takes them regularly if at all. We have tried to get her to live with us even offering to build an in-law apartment so she can have her own space but be close to us if she needed anything and she refused. So it seems for now all we can do is listen to her think that people are breaking in and try to convince her they aren't until she gets to the point where she is deemed unsafe to live by herself by authorities.
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One of the signs of dementia is memory loss but another early one is paranoia-especially about people stealing things. I know I am dealing with these very issues with my Mom. Everyone is right. GET HER TO THE DOCTOR NOW. There are some prescriptions that will alleviate the paranoia symptoms but she needs to see a Doctor who specializes in Seniors.
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If you have done all you can for now, all we can do is keep praying for the best for her. Why is she refusing to go to the doctors? Doesn't she go even for her regular check ups?
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@Kathytj. That sounds a lot like my mother. However she does not think anything is wrong and refuses to go to the doctors. I cannot make her go, I have called her doctors office and asked what I can do and they said there is nothing I can do until she becomes a danger to herself and others. As of now she is not, she won't go to the police in fear that the people breaking in are friends with the police. We are not sure what we can do since she is not at the point of needing to be committed or anything.
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Yeah, but with my husband, logic and telling the truth don't help at all. He's convinced of his truth. Actually called the police several times I was not home. Just one more reason he's never home alone any more. Hallucinations do not give way to logic.
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Take her to the Dr. She may be having a kind of mental problem or beginning dementia. Usually dementia starts with memory problems. Is she showing any signs of that. If it gets really bad you can legally make her go to the Dr. Explain to her that her mind is playing tricks on her. Don't sugar coat it. Let her know that you understand that she does believe what she's saying, but that she is wrong. Make her understand that if this was true you would have contacted the police. If you sugar coat it for her she won't feel theres nothing wrong with her mind playing tricks. Even though she the "mother" doesn't mean she's right and she needs to know youns aren't playing around. Let her know you will use force to get her there if it has to be that way BECAUSE YOUNS LOVE HER
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