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My mother in law is accusing all of us of stealing her belongings and refuses to let us help her. She seems almost normal most of the time, but she is at times starting to have a difficult time driving, she went into church and left her car running the whole time and never realized it. My father in law passed a year ago and she had my husband and his brother put cameras with a monitor in because she swears we are breaking in and taking her things. She wants to put locks on all of the closets and bedrooms so nobody can steal from her. She says we call to check on her only so we can check to see if she is home in an effort to steal from her. She refuses to let us help her in any way and says we have to right to know anything about her medical or monetary issues. It is getting worse, at what point do we need to get legal help?

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This sounds like my late mil. She was diagnosed with dementia but said "no, i dont have that". Her sons believed her.

Until something dreadful happens ( a fall, a hospitalization) where they won't release her into her own care and you of course are NOT going to volunteer to take care of her 24/7), there's not a lot you can do. You can try to get her to see a geriatric psychiatrist for meds, but mil wouldn't take anything, either.

People like this are their own worst enemy. They do not trust or allow loved ones to help.
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Thank you for the comments and advice. We did find out that she had been told that she is in early stages of dementia, but refuses to take the medication. She is diabetic and has not been checking her levels because she has no strips and forgets to get them. She complained last night that she didn't know how to use her computer, but has forgotten that we have tried to show her and written her info down. As far as bills go, we know at this point she has been late on them, we found one check under the recliner. She has tripped her alarm so many times because she can't remember her code. She took her sons off the call list because she is convinced that we are coming in while she is gone. We have no keys and do not know her alarm code. She will not give them POA because she is convinced that we are going to put her in a nursing home. Hoarding - she has 2 big sheds and a shop that has so much stuff in them she can't possibly know what all is in them as well as a locked attic she allows nobody to see. She has apparently been going through them looking for stuff we either have never seen or she hasn't used in years - example a game board I have never heard of. If she can't find it them somebody stole it. This can't be normal...
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PD you've got a good MHA selection near you - they'd definitely be my first port of call (ho ho no pun intended) if you're looking at long term support for a couple segueing into one person with ?dementia. Former clients, plus respite care providers for mother, and best in class if you ask me.
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CM hiya and thanks peeps for your replies - I was pretty sure it was dementia - personally I thought mad cow disease!!!!!!

Well things are moving on after daughter had a full on dramatic scene with her father. They have sent him home and they are planning on chemo if the specialists agree at their meeting and that is by no means a given - he has been told he has 1-2 years tops and that is WITH chemo. Daughter now wants him home in UK and I think he sees the rationale in that due to some cultural differences in the way death is handled in different countries. Equally daughter has said (and TRUST ME I MADE HER WORD THIS VERY CAREFULLY) that if they stay in Spain she will not help repatriate his partner after his death. If however they come back to UK she will ensure that she is cared for. (SHE WILL NOT CARE FOR HER - HUGE DIFFERENCE AS WE ALL KNOW). I actually think that is much more than the witch deserves but if it is dementia talking I do have to temper that (although I suspect she had dementia long before the stroke - either that or she was always a nasty nasty cow - which is more likely)

Daughter has broached the dementia aspect to her Dad and he sees that this is a possibility so I think that will even more encourage the move back to the UK - we shall see.

Meanwhile after a full on flare up at Mum when she hit the wrong button a few days ago things have been very very quiet since then - thankfully. The docs have increased her antidepressants and it is making a difference already so fingers crossed - until the next time eh?!!
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Stroke and vascular dementia would seem to be natural partners in crime, PD. Add in the stress of the situation - even if her primary symptom of that seems to be denial - and it would all make sense, don't you think?

So that just leaves the next question: what's poor daughter supposed to do about it? Still, useful for her to bear it in mind, at least. How's she coping? How's your mum?
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Yes. This is definitely it. Sounds like my mil about two years ago.
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Yes, Jude, it does to me as well.
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Question for anyone out there. My daughter thinks that her father's partner may have the early stages of dementia. I would like your opinion - only because I think she has always been a mad cow!

She had a stroke 2 years ago which has left her unable to walk any distance and not at all unaided. She has persistently and consistently refused all attempts to exercise or do physiotherapy. Now she thinks my ex and my daughter are lying to her or trying to steal money and thinks she can travel back to UK from Spain alone to visit a daughter she hasn't spoken to for 12 years - bearing in mind she speaks no other language than English.

This does smack to me of not being able to make conscious decisions or think through a process - she cannot use a mobile phone even when the numbers are programmed into the fast number area so all she has to do is press a green button then a number.

Does that sound like dementia onset to you all....it does to me but then like I say I am biased
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Oh, if you find out that she has unpaid bills, utilities cut off, insurance cancelled (check on that), that would tend to demonstrate that she is not functioning.
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Yes, it does sound like she is very anxious and agitated. If her doctor could help with meds to treat it, maybe, she wouldn't be so resistant to help.

Still, I would proceed with getting legal advice about what the court will need to appoint a Guardian. An Elder Law attorney who is experienced in such things, will know what kind of evidence the court will require. I'd keep notes on your observations, dates, times, behavior, comments, appearance, hygiene, etc. Do you know if any other things are problematic, like paying bills, meals, hoarding, etc. Normally, the court will look at whether is is able to run her own household, manage her affairs, make appropriate health care decisions, etc. even if her memory is not too bad, if she can't function, she may be found incompetent. It varies by state, but find out what you may have to do if someone has to step in and she remains resistant.
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Oh boy, yes, it does sound as if your late FIL knew something nobody else did!

In her current paranoid state I'm not surprised MIL won't countenance giving anyone POA. Curiously, ironically, that is in fact quite a rational refusal on her part.

All I'd add to the advice is that on top of any pre-existing symptoms of dementia, your MIL sounds to have moved from the typical anxiety involved with bereavement into outright panic. It would a merciful thing to ask her doctor to consider helping her with that first, perhaps - just imagine the terror she must be experiencing.
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Yes it is a shame if fil knew there would be problems but couldn't get living trusts and POA arranged earlier - some lawyers will charge a lot but perhaps through a local senior center you can get a referral -
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Fortunately my bil uses the same doctor she does, so he has been able to talk with him. As far as POA she refused when they suggested it. They were advised yesterday to speak with a lawyer for some guidance and I think they are going to do that. But thank you for the answers they were quite helpful and any insight into this is greatly appreciated. My father in law told them before he died that they were going to have problems with their mother after he passed but unfortunately didn't tell them how. I sure wish he had, they hid this very well and it has hit us like a freight train out of nowhere. We knew she had issues but nothing like this.
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Does your husband or his brother have POA ? If something were to happen to mil then it would be difficult to handle medical or monetary issues

Unfortunately her behavior is quite common - my mom wanted locks on her bedroom door and for years accused my sister of coming into the house and stealing things - I'd spend forever hunting for keys that she hid daily - once or twice she hid the mail and bills didn't get paid -

If your mil is this protective of her privacy it will be very difficult for her to accept a caregiver into her home - does she have help now - a housekeeper or someone?

Ultimately my mom had to go to a facility because she couldn't accept strangers coming into her house
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Do you know who her doctor is? You might write her/him a letter, outlining your concerns. Without a signed HIPAA release, the doctor can't share information with you, but you can certainly let the doc know what's going on.

I hope others will have some ideas, too.
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