The paranoia and suspicion of a person with Alzheimer's can be one of the most difficult behaviors for their caregiver to handle. As the Alzheimer's develops and targets your loved ones memory, they'll gradually become more confused and perceive things they would have once though normal, in new ways. It is not only their inability to not remember certain people, places and things that causes paranoia, but also the fact that they can't remember themselves as well. This combination can create a frightening environment for your loved one and they're bound to grow paranoid and suspicions of seemingly regular activity.
People with Alzheimer's will often confront their loved ones, accusing them of theft, improper behavior or even infidelity. Many times they're getting their feelings from ones they've had in the past from different people or different times. It's also possible that they're misinterpreting what he or she is hearing or seeing. Because Alzheimer's patients confuse times, events and people, they may associate an event with the wrong person. For instance, if their ex-husband or wife once cheated on them, they may accuse their new spouse of doing the same.
The key to responding to your loved ones paranoid behavior is patience and understanding. Though it's easy to become offended by their suspicions, keep in mind that it's not personal and they're probably just as confused and hurt as you are. Listen carefully to what their saying and try to understand their reality. Don't argue or try to convince them that they're wrong, just let them know that you care about what they're feeling and are very sorry that they're feeling that way. Let your loved one express their ideas and acknowledge their opinions before offering a simple answer. Keep your response short and easy to understand.
To take their mind off of their suspicions, suggest another activity and focus on keeping them occupied. Ask them for help with a chore, play a game you know they'll enjoy or make a meal together. To avoid their suspicions in the future, buy your loved one two of each item they value and often lose. For instance, if they tend to lose their handbag or wallet, buy two that are exactly the same so that they won't be suspicious that you stole it. Paranoia and suspicion will often pass, but it's important to keep your cool and remain understanding. The more worked up your loved one gets the more paranoid they become.
Brian Willie is a Top Elder Law Attorney in Texas and California. His articles, and speaking engagements have been very popular and he is currently writing a book on the legal aspects of dealing with Alzheimer's.
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Brian T. Willie, J. D.