Mom has dementia and thinks someone is stealing from her. What can I do? - AgingCare.com

Mom has dementia and thinks someone is stealing from her. What can I do?

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My 88 year old mother lives in a Senior Residential facility that has independent living and assisted living. For the past 3 months, she is fixated on an individual cleaning lady who she believes is stealing from her. Mothers situation is complicated with short term memory loss and even though we have found virtually everything she has reported missing, she forgets what was found and reverts back to what she believes was stolen. She is now calling the worker a thief to her face, has reported her suspicions to her facility management. She has become very agitated over this and with her doctors support, have prescribed medication to calm her down but this is now not even working. I know and have experienced attempt to explain it could be her memory only aggravates the situation and creates more frustration. What do I tell her? Is there anything else I should be doing.

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Barry, though you've located all the "lost" items, you still might want to check into placing a camera in her home just so you can see what's happening.

I'd recommend DropCam. Very small sturdy and unobtrusive unit that allows you to "observe" via the Internet from anywhere you happen to be. It also has two-way audio (meaning, if you wanted to you could talk to her via the device), has "night vision" where you can still "observe" even if the room is totally dark, and if you want to you can even add the ability to archive the video so you can go back and review it at a later time which can be very helpful.

The unit also has the ability to send you messages via email if there has been movement or sound in the room. I had that feature turned on originally just to see how it worked, but have turned it off and instead prefer to just have the program running in the background on my computer with the sound turned down which is just as effective, IMO.

All you need is WiFi (the unit hooks up wirelessly) and a power source. Set-up is very easy and takes just a few minutes. Cost of the unit is less than $200 and there are no monthly subscription fees (unless you want to add the archival footage feature).

I've found it indispensable in monitoring what is going on with the loved one I'm caring for while I am at work or to monitor the home health care aide when she's in the home.

As far as "disclosure" everyone is aware that "there's a security system in the house" and I just leave it at that -- and don't get into the fact that most of the time I am well aware what went on at home before I even get there.

My loved one was aware of the unit when it first arrived as we played and demo'd it, but with the dementia issues I'm dealing with any/all of that has been soon forgotten. Because of the tendency for delusional or paranoid thinking, I've not mentioned the unit or it's use since. It sits on a side table in the room and looks like some sort of "small sculpture" which no one (demented or otherwise) seems to notice. And since it makes no noise (unless I choose to talk through it -- which I rarely do) it basically functions as a "silent sentinel" which allows me to keep tabs on things which provides invaluable piece of mind.
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We are by ourselves here, but I do have a lady mom has bonded with that comes in. She has been a godsend and really has a great way of dealing with mom, calming her and explaining the reality of her current situation. I'm much more direct and focused on the issues and my wife does a much better job of small girl talk with her. Big thanks to both ladies.

On her meds, she is confused on days and during the past three weeks has taken two days of meds in one. Her facility will dispense meds, but she will have to go to the desk and being a very proud lady I expect this will be a fight. I purchased an automatic pill last week, have programmed it and testing it now to make sure it's working right before introducing it next week. We are seeing a new geriatric physician later this month and will discuss all her pills / condition with him before he sees her. She's capable of telling a story if it suits her but not as good at hiding it now with a few probing questions. If it's in her best interest, a change will be made in spite of her protests. I do prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt first and try the dispenser and see if it works.

The next level of care is just a little bit further down the street and something that we have already been to. The current facility is very friendly, good food, and she likes it other than the one individual she has focused on. All her lost items have been found, often in her unusual hiding places, so I don't think there is a problem that is not mom's at this point. Moving her I believe will be more disruptive and tweaking her meds (which have their own side effects that could be adding to her problems) with the new physician seems to be the next logical step. I'd also like his input on when is the appropriate time for the next step facility.
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Barry, getting past the "fix-it" way of thinking is a huge step! A couple of questions...do you have siblings who can be on call when you travel? My brothers and I arrange not to be away at the same time or if unavoidable, leave eldest adult grandchild with all that is needed should mom's health go south. Don't put your life on hold. Second, it's unclear, is mom still doing her own meds or is the facility? Given her memory issues, you don't what she's actually taking. I see that she's on an antidepressant with some antianxiety properties (Paxil) but there are others that might do a better job. My point is that if mom "knows" that paxil is "to soothe her nerves" she may not take it regularly because she thinks her nerves are just fine. These ssri meds must be taken regularly or they don't have the desired effect.

I sometimes think that paranoia about staff stealing should be an officially designated activity in senior residences. With my mom, it was her bottle of baby shampoo. She was convinced that she was only using a drop a week and that the staff was slowly draining it.

Another thing to consider. If you are constantly responding to crises, medical issues, er visits, so that you jump every time the phone rings, it may be time to consider, in consultation with her doctors, the next level of care.You are an awesome son!
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I hear you on the vitamins! We had her on ONE multi-vitamin and she cajoled her Dr. into approving each one of these additions..... There was a lot of frustration on my part, but I gave in other than fight the issue. We are changing to the new physician later this month and a complete review of everything she is taking including vitamins is already on my list.

The security camera is a good idea, I'll have to think on this and see if there's a way to introduce it. She is in a one room efficiency and not sure how that will fly. Thank you.
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Barry, I was looking over the list of medicines that your Mom is taking and notice she is taking a lot of vitamins.... I know for myself, too many vitamins makes my stomach do cartwheels... in fact, my doctor said as long as I am eating healthy meals, I shouldn't need any vitamins at all, except for the ones that blood test show I am below average. It's something to think about and to ask your Mom's primary doctor.

Also, I found with myself, that I am hyper sensitive to the fillers that are used in pills [prescription and over-the-counter]... these fillers are used to make the pill large enough for someone to handle easily and to help bind the pill together. I have found over the years which manufacturer of said pills I can use, and which ones I cannot. My Mom [96] also has this same issue with fillers. It's something to thing about, as some fillers have their own set of side effects.

As for the alleged thefts.... would your Mom allow security cameras to be placed in her apartment? Maybe if she could see the film and notice that no one is stealing she might start focusing on something else. This sounds like something my Mom would do, think someone is stealing, because she doesn't trust anyone who isn't of her own nationality and religion... sad she thinks that way.
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Thank you all. Verizon works just about everywhere.... Not answering is a good suggestion, I've yet to do that.
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Barry, none of us can 'fix it'..... that's why we come here and share, get suggestions, support, and even laugh sometimes..... you are an awesome son... can I adopt you??? lol
You will read on here that many folks stop answering the phone every time it rings..... I'm sure you have made arrangements to be contacted in case of a REAL emergency.... if you can get over the guilt, you don't have to answer every time she calls.. it just is what it is... this doesn't mean you don't love her, doesn't mean you are abandoning her... it means you and your wife deserve to travel further than ten miles from home and know that she is being taken care of......

You are doing an awesome job caring for your mom.... but you also have a life and you being there will not change her situation..... keep us updated and hoping her new Dr can find a med that helps with her anxiety.... if you get to go somewhere, please come back and share... we travel vicariously here !!! Sending hugs !!!!!
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Thank you all for good suggestions! Yes, this is will be the long haul and I like the idea of the pictures. It could help jogg her memory.

When we talked to her last night, another woman who isn't quite as far down the dementia road told her the items she thought were stolen had been found. I know mom has been after her to go to management with her to complain and so far she hasn't. She is in her own loop of thought as Ladeem suggested, very strong willed and willing to speak her mind on this issue.

The good thing is she likes where she is, says the food is good (just too much of it so we tell her not to eat it all) and everyone is nice. It's also very close and makes it easy to pop in on her. This facility is not locked down with controlled entry or exit. I've always been one who plans ahead and am concerned that if she looses more cognitive ability, we'll have to move her again to a memory care facility. But I know you have to take one day at a time and not worry about tomorrow.
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Barry you sound like a great son. I can empathize with your mom's poor memory. My mom has the same, but without the agitation or paranoia. My mom has had a foot issue and we went to the ER (for 4 hours) and to a venous surgeon the following week. When my mom asked me the next week whether we should see someone about her foot I went home and made up a sheet that told her what we'd already done about her foot and what she needed to do to keep it healthy. I also included a picture of her in the ER, swaddled like a mummy. I've learned to write notes (using a BIG font on the computer) and I pin it to her couch, which is across from her chair so that she can see it and remember it. When she asks, I just point at the paper and have her reread it.

With your mom, I'd consider making a list of things she thought was stolen but that you found, and include a picture you take with your phone with where each item was found. Keep the list handy so you can show her with dates and pictures what she thought was lost or stolen wasn't. I'd also ask the facility to assign the woman your mom is convinced is stealing to other rooms if possible. If your mom doesn't see her, maybe her belief that this woman is stealing won't be triggered. My mom doesn't have the paranoia aspect your mom does, so I'm not sure if these suggestions will help or not. They may not.

My best advice is that you and your wife need to continue to live your lives and not stay home because of mom. This is a marathon not a sprint and you could be living with this for years. My mom is 94 and could be here for a few more years. Same with your mom. Don't give up your life to deal with her episodes. You've got siblings, bring them in to help.
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You might want a consult with a geriatric psychiatrist to manage her antidepressant and antianxiety meds. She does not seem to be getting enough of those to keep her from being agitated. More xanax is not the answer, it may be adding to the wobbliness.
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