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My mom has always had mental illness but has gone undiagnosed for the most part. She was diagnosed as agoraphobic with separation anxiety and always had trouble going places, leaving the house or letting family members leave her sight for fear of something bad happening to them. But just as bad was the paranoia she had that either was never discussed or diagnosed correctly by a therapist or doctor. Constant fighting over my dad's "infidelity." Her proof? A female cashier at a pharmacy recognized him from a previous time he was in there and spoke to him, leading my mom to believe she was actually a girlfriend who pretended to know him from somewhere else. Or the belief that he had another wife and family when he was at work...the list goes on. She also has quite a bit of paranoia related to my brother and me. She swears we get together to talk about her and plot to take my dad's life insurance. She spends most of her time trying to figure out how to keep us from talking, which includes telling each of us lies about the other one, hoping we will be so mad at each other, we don't talk anymore. If she finds out we HAVE talked, the endless interrogations start about what the motive was, who said what, what it meant, how long was the conversation, etc. She also swears the neighbor man who helps her with yard work is stalking her. All of this was BEFORE dementia.


Now with dementia, it is a LOT worse as you can imagine. She sees a psychiatrist but has enough of her faculties about her that she refuses to give anyone else consent to talk to her doctor. Any suggestion to go with her to her appointments raises the suspicion even more that we want to have her diagnosed as "crazy" so we can get dad's life insurance. She has moved to a senior living apartment on her own but tells everyone we "put her there." She asks my brother for help around her apartment. After he helps her, she kicks him out and tells him he is trying to steal her will to have it altered, trying to get into her bank account info, etc., etc. When he leaves and doesn't come back, she swears he abandoned her and can't figure out why she doesn't hear from him. She does the same to me when I am there but I live 2 hours away so he catches it worse than I do. What's worse is she tells her neighbors we want her money and steal from her and people who don't know her tend to believe her.


This is not new behavior for her. It is much, much worse with the dementia though. I dread the phone calls. It always starts with the question of have I talked to my brother. If I have, I am bombarded with questions about motives. If not, the conversation turns to who else is doing her wrong...things that are not true. If I refuse to answer the questions, she becomes angry and slanders me to everyone. If I don't talk to her for a while, she accuses me of abandoning her and says she "feels so alone." I really am at my wit's end and don't know what to do. I don't know how much is the mental illness and how much is dementia/stress. No matter how ridiculous it all is, it is real to HER and I know she is suffering. But these phone calls keep my stomach tied up in knots.


Is there anyone I could talk to without her consent or without her knowing? She would really hit the roof if she knew I wanted to talk to her doctor. I mainly just needed to vent but also find out if anyone has any suggestions.

"The only thing you can change is your reaction to her." YES! Spot on! Very hard to do when we are tired and worn down, but true nonetheless.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Kate06
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I am very familiar with undiagnosed mental illness in a parent with dementia. Very hard to sort out the mental illness from the dementia.
Let her be as she is and go find your own therapist. They will be the best resource for you to learn the tools and methods that will help you to deal with this.
You and your brother could also do therapy together if that helps you create a strategy.
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Reply to Rabanette
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The HIPPA law prevents the doctor from sharing mom's information with you (unless she has authorized) BUT...there is no law against you arranging to talk to the doctor and to give her/him information about your mom and the problems her illness is causing.
As to others' opinions - I'm reasonable sure that the people around her know about her paranoia. The answer you can give to those who don't is: "It is very difficult to deal with her mental illness, but we try our best."  I doubt that you would be in danger because of her paranoid accusations since her psychiatrist could speak to her mental problems. I'd set boundaries dependent on how much contact I was willing to have and then...no further. And I would be on good terms with brother as in "United we stand."
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Reply to rovana
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I'd send a newsy report to the doctor even if he's not allowed to talk with you. Better you get it off your chest and somewhere it can make a difference! I would sign the letter too so the doc knows you are a concerned family member. Ignore the business about people believing her rantings all these years. If people want to believe something, they will with no evidence whatsoever. They don't matter.

The way I approached this with my mthr (missing something inside as well), was if she was abusive to me, the conversation ended. "Sorry mom, when you can talk to me as nice as you talk to the order girl at McDonald's, I'm here, but when you treat me like that, I'm busy. Call me back when you're nice again." Dementia or not, I won't take it.
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Reply to surprise
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Just answer, “I don’t know.” Or , no, I have not seen or spoken to bro, have you?”

Maybe change subject & talk about something else? The news that is going on in the world?

Can a medication help? Maybe a psychiatrist? Hugs 🤗
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Reply to CaregiverL
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You can talk to your mom's doctor to give her/him information. The doc can't GIVE you any information without mom's consent.

Mom can't change. She's always been mentally unwell and with dementia, now her brain is even MORE broken. The only thing you can change is your reaction to her.

My parents were nice folks, but suspicious, anxious and a bit paranoid. I grew up thinking that there way of thinking was "normal".

Lots of therapy, a brief course of antianxiety meds showed me a new way to live and interact with the world. It also taught me that I wasn't going to argue my mother out of her way of looking at the world. My responses to her became neutral and noncommittal when she was in " suspicion" mode.

Find yourself a therapist and set some boundaries with your mom. Her happiness is not your responsibility. Yours is!
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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