My Mom is paranoid and believes she has people out to get her. Any advice?

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She is still living alone but we can't even talk anymore as she's fixated. She believes there are people living in her ceiling, (one story residence with no attic) she believes that they are making drugs and pumping them in. She believes they follow her around, come into her apartment when she's asleep and move things around. She has a dog and won't leave him because she believes they mess with him when she's not there. This is all she talks about, refuses to be diagnosed by a doctor or listen to what a doctor says. She isn't on any medication, still lives alone, drives, pays her bills, etc but she says she smells the drugs all the time and it makes her dizzy and loopy. This has been going on for 10 years now. She'll be 84 this June. Because of her fixation and this is all she wants to talk about, we rarely see each other. I pop in and take her prepared food I make extra of, but it's become impossible to take her out to lunch, shopping or have her over. On top of everything else, she has NO filters and talks VERY filthy to my 24 and 25 year old adult children. When I try to step in she just goes further and further.... I'm at my wits end and I'm the only one she has here. My brother and sister live in Ca while we're in CO. Any suggestions? The manager in the HUD unit mom lives in says she can stay there until she hurts herself or others; I'm just waiting for the phone call that says shes completely lost it. She has always refused to have a 'plan' for when she can't live there anymore. I envision some agency stepping in and having her committed. Scares me to think about it, but I know it's coming.

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Spooh1 - I am dealing with the same situation with my mom, age 79. She is was recently diagnosed with paranoia and shared many of the same symptoms - people living in non-livable space above her, hearing things, even believes she “witnessed” (heard) a murder. I am her only child and the only family involved. It’s really hard because like you said, if I don’t believe the delusions she becomes very angry and if I do, she is frustrated about why I don’t help her move. She moved into assisted living earlier this year and I hoped desperately that would help, but nothing has changed. She was taken to the hospital and they released her after the mandatory 72 hours because she isn’t a threat to herself or others. But I fear she will end up kicked out of the AL residence and homeless because her subsidized public housing will be gone. It has all taken a huge toll on our relationship - my mom is also engulfed by her paranoia. I wish she would try the meds but she refuses. It’s helpful to hear others’ stories about this. All I can do is hope she will finally cave and try the meds.
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So sorry you are going through this. All I can say is lie, lie, lie to get her to a safe place that will take pets. When mom's husband died (at home and mom found him) the fire department called me on my cell because my # was posted on her fridge.

I live in AZ and Mom lived in IL. I flew up and arranged her husband's funeral and saw there was something wrong with mom. She was hearing people singing, etc, etc. Somehow I got her to a lawyer to assign me POA (health & financial).

Anyway, it has been a long road and I first put her in assisted living, which she could not do and the assisted living shipped her off to the hospital. Put her in a nursing home and she was there 2 days and they shipped her back to psych ward for med readjustment then put her in a nursing home I did not like due to her behaviors. They promised me they would not ship her back to hospital. They kept their word but she was now in Missouri and I'm in Arizona. Long story short I kidnapped her from nursing home and brought her to AZ close to me. She is now in a facility that puts her meds in her coffee and food because she refuses to take pills. If I can help in any way please let me know.
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For me, the docs mom has seen are aware of her condition but because she refuses to go back or have a full workup other than blood; we're lost. If a doc says too much, she finds another. Our best shot was with Kaiser 10 years ago when they tested her the very first time, but then they said they wouldn't put a 'label' on her, (that could be hurtful to someone's psyche) They did try the risperdal but she took it once or twice and flushed the rest down the toilet. They didn't have the 'time' to follow up with her or try to help her in any other way. This was the FIRST doctor that indicated that she shouldn't be driving and was going to send a letter to the state; well THAT never happened. I'm going to try to reconnect with her today; see if she wants to go out to lunch or something. Public is generally better than one on one. And then again, it's just lunch. I just need to gird my loins and get after it. I just don't want to fight with her anymore and I feel it's unrealistic.
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Sounds like she could have some dementia. When did she last see her doctor? When did he do a complete workup? Maybe you could go with her to her next appointment. You can also contact your local area agency on aging and ask for in home help for your mom (if she will accept help), this will put another set of eyes in the home and ease the burden on you. It's only going to be a matter of time until she is unable to live at the apartment. Does anyone have a power of attorney? If not and she is still able it may be a good idea to have her name a representative for medical and financial, she can also name an alternative should the first one not be available. Have you spoken to her about advance directives? You can work this conversation in by talking; someone in the news has a feeding tube or is on a ventilator. Ask her what would she want if she were unable to speak, would she want a feeding tube, IV's, antibiotics, CPR etc. This is an important conversation because then you will know what kind of care she would want, even if it's not written. Either way, your mom needs an assessment, the doctor would be a good place to start. She couldn't have quality of life if she is so paranoid, perhaps some mild, low dose medication would help with this symptom.
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Paranoid delusions have to be treated like the mental illness symptom they are. Anything else is not going to help or solve the problem. Sometimes playing along can be a coping mechanism, but not a solution that can go on indefinitely.

Believing you are being poisoned is irrational and you can't meet that with a rational solution. 1+1 does not equal 2 in this world. Sometimes 1+1 = giraffes. A Big Mac yesterday does not mean a Big Mac will ever work again. Unfortunately!

That paranoid belief has to be nipped to fix the not-eating problem.

My mom's paranoia waxes & wanes without her meds to control it. Some days were AWFUL. She'd be violent. Some days could be close to tolerable where she's just using the N-word and swearing at anything that moves. Saying 90% of doctors & nurses are homeless people off the street who can't read or write. Or that the facility has imported all these N-s to work for free and they are trying to kill her when they change her or put clean clothes on her. Delightful.

When mom was between her apartment and memory care, in the nursing home unit, I brought her her own drinks and snacks to have if she didn't want the standard meal. She would eat & drink it, but accuse staff of stealing it. Then she got to the point where she did not recognize it as hers, and it had been planted there to poison her. Time to bring in the Geriatric Psych for another eval!
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Can you take things in that he can keep in his room? if you can take one main meal that he enjoys it will help till they get this worted out.
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kkinsel - my mother was paranoid too, though she never stopped eating for very long, but sometimes did think her food was poisoned She was put on an antipsychotic - risperidone and that has really helped the paranoia. Review his situation with his doctor/the facility staff and ask about medication to help him with these delusions. He needs to be treated for them. Let us know what happens. (((((hugs)))))
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KKinsel. Is this a new thing? When did he eat the Big Mac? Had he been awake a while? My mom and father-in-law, when hospitalized, after waking they were confused and thought they were being poisoned, but got better after being awake for an hour or so. Maybe the food at the facility seems unfamiliar somehow.
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Has anyone ever had a parent refuse to take medication and even refuse to eat cause they say they are being poisoned? My dad will not eat anything unless one of us kids brings it to him. He is in a lock down facility but will not eat their food all he has eaten in three weeks is fruit cups, candy and ensure. Now he says the ensure is poison too. Probably because the nursing home is furnishing it now. He ate a Big Mac yesterday but that's pretty much it. I can't possibly take him food three times a day. I tried taking him stuff and leaving it in their fridge but he says they poison it too. I'm at my wits ends, any ideas?
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It used to be that you could force someone or lock someone up for perceived mental illness, or hysteria or whatever you called it.
Remember ice-pick lobotomies and electric-shock treatment?
You don't want to damn someone to that, but unfortunately it's now gone to the other extreme. If someone is imagining people live in their ceiling or whatever, a solid mental evaluation would be nice, and some kind of confinement to properly medicate could be nice, too. I used to work with someone who thought co-workers were breaking into her house and stealing ceiling tiles and that ghosts lived in her phone. She needed help. Did she get it, though? No!
Now I'm not saying a prison situation, mind you, but some people probably could do with being in a clinic for a little while and taking anti-psychotics or being sure the anti-depressants or lithium or whatever is working!
And with life expectancies growing and the population aging (especially the Baby Boomers) the problem isn't going to go away. More and more people will get dementia or Alzheimer's, unless by some chance we do find a cure. And man, I hope they do!
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