My MIL has recently begun accusing a lady in her suite (she lives alone in a AL suite) that she claims is stealing her things, wearing her clothes & jewelry, & taking her pictures off the wall. When asked if she could point this person out, she said she could and then pointed to herself in the mirror. Now she is afraid to leave her suite to go on outings or for meals because she says this lady will steal all her stuff. We have covered the mirrors but she uncovers them and the whole thing starts all over again. We've been told by the AL facility not to feed into her delusions. Is this the right thing to do? Is this a sign that she needs to move to memory care? What determines that memory care is needed?

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Thank you for this. It definitely does make me feel feel better. This is our first go-round with dementia, obviously. We can definitely remove the dresser mirror and I was thinking just today of putting some frosted type of temporary cling film on the mirrored closet doors that she "thinks" can't easily remove herself.

I was confused about not feeding into the delusions because I know you can't argue or reason with her at all so this didn't make sense. It is real to her. I always thought it was better to acknowledge them to keep her calm. I am always reassuring her. My husband has calmly pointed out to her that all of her belongings are still in her suite so the lady must be a nice lady because she isn't taking her things. It works for a little while. The staff at her facility check on her to get her to come out to her meals. They do have a porter service that we can pay a fee for where someone will come and get her and take her to her meals. They did this for free for the first 3 days that she moved in. She loves meal times there and doesn't want to miss them. Maybe enlisting this service for her might be a good thing.

Your idea of a sign on the door is a good one; hadn't thought of that. We'll be discussing things at the upcoming meeting with AL staff. I just wish MIL would settle into the place (it's been 3 months and she was really looking forward to moving there when she was all alone in her house). I'm afraid she might be one of the ones that will never adjust.

We know she's not harmful to herself or others and it is good to know that this is fairly typical dementia behaviour. We're learning and we've come to realize that there will always be a new crisis (real or not).

I thank you so much for your ideas and for taking the time to write. This information definitely helps!
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I typed a long answer to this last night, and apparently it went into a black hole in cyber space. I'm going to try again, because I think you will be able to relax a little more when you understand dementia better. (And you deserve that!)

MIL is engaging in two very common dementia behaviors.

Many persons with dementia accuse others of stealing their things. They misplace something, or forget that they gave it away/threw it out six years ago, and conclude that someone stole that item. To prevent that from happening again, they put their possessions in safe places. Then they not only forget where they put them, they don't remember that they hid them at all. Sigh. So this convinces them further that someone really is stealing. This is a very common issue in dementia, but it often doesn't last long. They move on to other challenging behavior. :)

It is also fairly common for persons with dementia to think of themselves as much younger than they are, perhaps even feeling like a child. In that case they can't believe that this fully grown man is their son or that old lady in the mirror is them. I suggest that there is absolutely no point in trying to convince her that the mirror is her own reflection. She is in her own reality now.

Can you remove the mirrors? Or cover them with a film or contact paper, etc. that would be hard for her to remove but could off later?

Your dear MIL has combined fear of loss of possessions and lack of recognition of herself and it has made her paranoid about leaving her room. Poor thing. I wonder if the staff could help you come up with something that would make her feel her possessions are safe. Maybe sign reminding her to lock her door when she leaves? A sign on the outside saying "Caution. Contagious Disease" to keep the bad guys out? I'm sure the staff has experience with this kind of thing. Get their suggestions.

I'm not sure what "not to feed into her delusions" means. The most common advice is to not argue about the delusions, comfort and reassure, and distract or redirect.

Not recognizing herself in a mirror is not likely to be cause for moving to memory care. That kind of typical and non-harmful behavior can generally be dealt with in a standard care setting. Possibly a memory care unit would have more staff to encourage MIL to come out and go to meals. But if that is what MIL needs right now, perhaps it is a service she could pay a little extra for right where she is.

My guess is that this particular set of behaviors will disappear and MIL will move on to something else.

Hang in there!
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