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How to answer to Alzheimer's accuations of stealing
An_190730 posted:
We had a gathering at my house. At this gathering, my Mother (who I would say has "moderate alzheimers") was sitting beside me. She was very noticably checking out the two rings that I wear. I even got up once and told my sister across the table from me to watch Mom. Mom had in the recent past told my sister that she saw me wearing one of her old rings. As she was looking at my rings it seemed to upset her, although she never said anything. The next day she came over (she only lives two houses down from me) and said I was wearing her old watch last night and she wanted it back. I was not wearing a watch as I never wear one. I told her I did not even have a watch on. She got mad and said "we'll see" and left. Later that day she called me about the ring I have of hers. I told her I did not have any of her rings. Today when I stopped by her house she sat and stared at my rings and kept asking to look at them. It was very obvious that it was upsetting her. What can I say to her when she thinks I took her watch or ring? I am wondering if I should just not wear jewelry when I go to see my Mom and Dad to see if that would help. What is the best answer I can give her when she questions me. Dad tries to correct her and tell her that he just showed her her old ring, but reason does not help... I know it is the disease talking, but I feel I need an answer for her other than "I don't have any of your jewerly" My Mom has always been a timid quiet loving person, not a bitter argumentative person. I don't want my appearance around her to upset her either.
Helene Bergman, LMSW responded:
Alzheimer patients, at all stages, may experience delusions and paranoia. These false ideas or opinions help them explain the world they find so confusing and overwhelming. Their reality often differs from ours so we need to be cautious when trying to reorient them to ours. Often they accuse a loved one of taking something or doing an act and become very fixed on unrealistic thoughts. It doesn't usually work to be defensive or try to explain reality. It sounds like telling your mom that you didn't have her jewelry only made her more upset.

Instead, a response that is supportive can be effective. You can apologize and say how much you loved the rings and wanted to see if they fit and give them to her at that moment. If they are valuable and dear to you, you can retrieve them later and put them away not to wear in front of her. The same with the watch....or the next item she fixates on. You could buy her the type of item she is obsessing on and see it that helps. Maybe give her a jewely box with costume jewelry. If these delusions escalate, you may need to consult her physician. She may need a low dose of an antipsychotic drug to ease her anguish. Paranoia and delusions need to be perceived as painful symptoms that require treatment.

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