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Coping with a Senior's Dementia Delusions

by Carole Larkin, Alzheimer's & Dementia Expert
October 21, 2011

Question: My aunt who is suffering from dementia is constantly accusing me of stealing her things. It is frustrating to try to convince her otherwise. How can I cope with this in a way that is also helpful to her?

Answer: Chances are very high that she has simply misplaced the item(s) or moved their location from the “normal” location. Because she doesn’t remember moving the item, logically to her- she couldn’t have moved it, so someone else must have taken it. The person who is caring for her is the person in the house the most often and consequently is the first person blamed. So, clearly YOU’RE IT!

The most effective response would be something like this. I’m sorry aunt ___ that your ___ (item missing) is missing. How about we look for it? Sometimes a new pair of eyes can help. Then of course, you start looking for the item. That act of looking becomes an activity in and of itself. It gives you the opportunity to talk about Items you come across in your search such as a memento of times past that she can tell you a story about. You may be lucky and actually come up with the missing item, but even if you are not that lucky, you have redirected her thoughts out of the negative “I’m missing ___ and you stole it” to a more pleasant thought related to the mementos you have found together.

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Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, QDCS, EICS is a geriatric care manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

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