My mother is 90 and lives alone. I am her only child and caregiver. Two weeks ago, she misplaced a photo and a letter from her bank. When I came over and found them both, she insisted that I stole them and then put them back. Since then, she has been accusing me of going through her pockets and closet, stealing her money and belongings and enlisting my daughter to help me. When my son tried to speak with her about this, she told him that I had gotten to him as well and he would steal from her, too. I have tried to explain to her that I have never done anything like that ( and never would) but she gave me a searing look and told me that I am a great liar. She has told me that I have "snapped" and am not the same person that I was. This is her behavior. She has told me not to call her and refuses to answer the phone. When I go to her home to bring her groceries, she continues to tell me I am a thief. At the same time, she wants me to take her shopping with me. I really don't want to take her anywhere or spend time with her while she is falsely accusing me of these horrible things. When I call her, visit or take her out, I never know what or whom I am going to get. Is it possible to get her to understand, and how can I handle the stress of dealing with her behavior? I have a full time, stressful job and no one left to help. I thought this would pass but it seems to be getting worse each day.

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I am afraid that it is highly unlikely you can get her to understand. She has her own reality and no amount of reasoning, arguing, or explaining is going to change it.

I know that it won't make the pain go away, but it might lessen it just a little to realize that this is a very common dementia behavior. First, misplacing objects is very common. Often these items are deliberately hidden, to keep them safe. Second, when the person with dementia cannot find the misplaced items it is extremely common to accuse someone of stealing them. Sigh.

When you hear these horrible accusations, please try to remember that it not your mother speaking ... it is that horrible, dreadful, terrible disease that has robbed her of her ability to reason.

Try very hard to continue to love her, hug her, be patient with her, take her places, and spend time with her. She did not ask for this disease and she is not enjoying it any more than you are! Try to minimize the time spent on talking of lost items. Be sympathetic, and then redirect the conversation. "Oh Mother! I am so sorry that your nice reading glasses are missing. That must be very vexing! I haven't seen them since Saturday, when you were reading your birthday cards. I will certainly keep an eye out for them. If they don't show up by Friday, let's get you another nice pair. ... I saw the moving truck across the street. Have you met your new neighbors yet?"

" I never know what or whom I am going to get." You are so right! And isn't that just heartbreaking? Dementia is at least as hard on the loved ones as on the person who has the diagnosis.

This particular behavior may or may not pass with time. Overall, the dementia is pretty well guaranteed to get worse.

Have you discussed this symptom with her doctor?
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