Paranoia and Dementia: Coping with false accusations from a family member

Criticisms and personal attacks from your family member can be really hard to take. Adult children of aging parents that are accused by a parent of stealing or lying can feel devastated.

It's important to remember that you cannot convince your parent that his fears are unfounded. Dementia creates two problems for your family member, an inability to reason and impaired short term memory.

For example, even though you can demonstate that the money was moved from his checking account to a savings account, your father may persist with the thought that the money is missing. He can no longer reason well enough to understand where the money has gone.

Impaired short term memory means your parent may not be able to remember the explanation you offer for more than a few minutes. After a complete explanation and a few minutes of peace, you find yourself back at the beginning of the conversation, explaining everything again.

When your family member makes accusations, try to remember that it is the disease speaking not your family member. Dealing with paranoia and dementia comes down to you taking good care of yourself.

Here are some suggestions:

  • If you are holding a financial power of attorney for your parent, get advice from an attorney about how to best fulfill your role and keep appropriate records. This not about convincing your parent that you are not stealing his money but rather to deal with relatives or others who may believe your parent's accusations.
  • Create and maintain an inventory of your parent's possessions for the same reason.
  • When possible have your parent participate in some way with financial matters, unless this creates more tension and accusations. You might review the bills with her or have her sign the checks.
  • When you are accused of bad behavior, try to keep your cool. You may need to leave the room or take a walk.
  • Confide in a trusted friend, family member or advisor to help you cope with your hurt and anger.
  • Don't try to use logic to calm your parent's fears, try acknowledging her underlying emotions of fear or loss of control

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