False Accusations — Paranoid Thoughts

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If Only I Can Remember By Regina Posvar

Q: Dear Regina, Will you help me with my mum? I need to know what to do at home for her. I just came to her home after neighbours called me about mummy getting lost. My dad has been caring for her for some time and she has gotten worse over time. I want to help my dad as he is very frustrated. What can we do to keep my mum safe?

A: I would need more information to tailor the suggestions to your needs but, in general, I can suggest two things to be concerned about for safety without knowing more about your mum and this is with wandering and home safety.

Keeping your mum safe is one of the most important aspects of caregiving. Some people with memory loss have a tendency to wander away from home or their caregiver. Having information on what to do to limit wandering can protect a person from getting lost.
• It is a good idea to talk to your neighbours and let them know the situation and giving them your contact information. If you can, make an ID tag for your mum to have like a bracelet or necklace that has a name and contact number.
• Keep a recent photo or videotape of your mum so it is easier for the police to help if she becomes lost.
• Keep all doors locked and consider some locks either high or low out of visual sight. If she is able to open and unlock, then change the type of lock you use. Simple changes can really make the difference.
• Put away things that can be dangerous both inside and outside the house.

Looking at your home through different eyes to identify and correct safety risks around.
• Evaluate your home for safety in regards to the locks as mentioned above. This would mean installing locks where need be and removing locks in places like the bathroom to prevent her accidentally locking herself in. Consider using childproof latches on kitchen cabinets and anywhere where cleaning supplies or chemicals are kept.
• Free clutter around the house. Remove small rugs and anything else that might contribute to a fall. Make sure the lighting is good for inside the home as well as the outside.
• Label all medication and place them in a secure cabinet. Likewise, make sure knives, lighters, matches and guns are secured and out of reach.
• Monitor kitchen use, such as turning off the stove after cooking. Consider installing an automatic shut-off switch on the stove to prevent burns or fire. Think about other things like clothes iron or anything that can be changed to auto-shut-off.

Allowing a person to remain safe and independent as long as possible helps slow down the progression with most dementias.See National Institute for aging for more information.

Q: Dear Regina, Recently my husband has been so unhappy with one of our caregivers. He has accused her of so many things and we know the accusations to not be true. I don’t want to let the caregiver go but my husband is so stubborn about her and will not allow her to touch him anymore. She is actually one of our best caregivers. I do not know what to do. What do you suggest?

A: Unfortunately, this happens a lot with dementia patients. Trying to convince them about the person is useless and unproductive. The brain has interpreted the situation and logic cannot change it. Unfortunately, it is best to change caregivers. Explain to the caregiver not to take it personally. Your husband is ill and you as primary caregiver must accept his feelings rather than the logistics. However, it is possible to bring that same caregiver back after a while. If possible, get a family member or friend to help for a month then reintroduce the same caregiver if this is possible. The other challenge is you might find that the new caregiver will go through a similar situation. In that case, communication and figuring out what causes the fear in your husband to dislike the person is key. Look for a pattern that you may be able to correct. Keeping the person they do not trust away for a while will decrease their anxiety for a while. This is where medication may help if your husband is too paranoid to function. Living in fear and not trusting people around him is not serving him any justice. Some paranoid behaviour do not cause distress and some do. This you have to assess. Figure out if there is a pattern and what can eliminate the cause. If there is no real pattern but the continuous accusations and paranoid behaviour is causing a lot of distress, then seek medical attention.

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