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My French mother-in-law moved in with us 2 and 1/2 years ago, and I am really having trouble coping with her behavior. She definitely has some form of dementia or Alzheimer's, but my husband has yet to take her to a neurologist. He calls it "old age." I am currently looking for a job and am at home quite often, so I spend a lot more time with her. There is no way that we can send her back to France or find a facility that will work for her here. She does not speak any English, is legally blind, and cannot hear anything without her hearing aid which she often neglects to wear. She insists that she hears washing machines running all night and sleeps poorly, that someone is even running a laundromat from our backyard. The hardest for me is that every time something is missing in her room, she complains non-stop that someone is stealing her personal items - it could be brushes, combs, bras, cigarettes, lighters, soap, really anything. She constantly accuses the cleaning ladies or my son or his girlfriend, . She watches the housecleaners like a hawk and will not leave her bedroom when they clean it. When her bras went missing, the rants lasted close to two months. She yells and rants, and I can can hear her all the way on the other side of the house. She misplaces things all the time (her visual impairment obviously does not help). She may recall having a full pack of cigarettes (from two or days prior) but then sees an empty pack and concludes that there is a cigarette thief. No one in my family smokes. Is this paranoia typical of someone with dementia/Alzheimer's? How do we respond? Do we agree with her that there is a thief? My husband worries that if we agree with her, then she will want us to call the police. When we do say no one stole her things, she just seems to get more worked up. It's like we are telling her that she must be crazy. I am really struggling with her living with us in our home, and having this constant air of paranoia all around us. I have my own health issues from a traumatic brain injury I suffered several years ago. It feels like my own health is declining. How also do you take care of your own sanity and well-being in this toxic environment? I feel so stuck, we can't travel or go away overnight, or plan anything for the future, I have tried to find an adult day care for MIL but after 5 minutes she wanted out. My husband is an only son, and it's hard to find caregivers who speak French. If any of you have dealt with an elderly parent who accuses others of stealing and can comment on what are the best approaches to take, I would really appreciate it!

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Dear Selma,

I'm very sorry to hear about what you are going through. I know its tough. I wonder if you can talk to your husband about hiring a caregiver to give you some respite. It is overwhelming and even in my own case, I wished so badly I had done something different because I feel like the anger and resentment will only escalate.

I think its very hard to change an elderly person's behaviour. I know its easier said than done, but most times I would try and ignore it and let it be.

If you can maybe consider talking a social worker, family therapist or counsellor. Hopefully they can offer you more resources and other options in the community.

Thinking of you.
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Hi SorrySelma
I’m sorry you are having such a rough time with your MIL and it sounds like she’s not having much fun either.
Does she have other health issues besides the dementia? Take medication?
Having poor eyesight and hearing wouid of course be very difficult to deal with on its own.
The loss of bras seems very strange. Has anyone searched her room for these items? How is her short term memory?
Does she have a primary dr?
Do other family members speak French? I assume your husband does.
Many people with and without dementia accuse others of stealing when they have lost or misplaced something. It’s not all that uncommon. My grandmother without dementia once accused me of stealing feathers from her freezer. (and I thought bras were odd).
Many elders do not want strangers in their home so that is not unusual either. The best thing is to have the same person come in instead of a different person so that MIL can get to know the housekeeper.
Dementia symptoms are sometimes caused by a UTI. This requires an antibiotic to clear up. The test can be ran at an ER, an urgent care or even with a kit from the pharmacy. If the pharmacy test is positive she would still need to see a dr for the antibiotic. UTIs can be fatal if not treated.
Old age is not a diagnosis these days. I’m sure it’s not easy to take his mom to a dr but your husband needs to get her help for all your sakes.
Look up Teepa Snow on UTube for excellent videos that will help you learn techniques to deal with dementia.
Try to calm your MIL when something is missing. Offer to help her look for the item and then suggest a treat or something to divert her attention. No, i wouldnt agree with her that something was stolen.
And please take care of yourself. Insist that your husband get his mother medical help. Something for anxiety might really help her and make your life easier too.
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