How to Handle Alzheimer's Paranoia

How to Handle Alzheimer's Paranoia
Dear Debbie,
I have moved from another state to help take care of my mother who is suffering from dementia that has set in after her traumatic head injury from a car accident. My father recently collapsed from exhaustion.A new and more serious problem has recently occurred. She thinks that I took her bottle of pain medicine and gave it to an old man that she believes stays with us sometime. More background, sometimes she thinks my dad is her husband, her dad, and this old man. Anyway, she basically got desperate. She said that the bottle she has is not the same one she saw where we keep the medicine.... she says the bottle that I gave to the old man had more in the bottle, and she was going to run out. She begs me to give the bottle of pills to her. When I tell her I don't have them, she insists I do, and that I am hurting her more than she ever dreamed a child would. How could I give the old man her medicine when I know how bad she hurts? There is no other bottle of medicine. She has been very ugly to me, and said she would rather be in a nursing home than with me. She basically wished I was dead. Boy, that hurts! I told her no matter how much she hates me and wants me dead, I'll always love her and will continue caring for her until I can't any longer. She is making it hard to care for her. How do I cope?

Dear Dutiful Daughter,
I am honored that you shared all this background information and I know that it will help others who suffer silently. Researchers have established a connection between Alzheimer’s and head trauma. In fact, anything that causes the brain to take a hit, may trigger Alzheimer’s like: High blood pressure, high levels of bad cholesterol, and inflammation.

You and your family have been through a great deal. I know how you feel because when my mother was in the moderate stages of Alzheimer’s, I helped her run her business which she did not want to relinquish, yet could no longer handle. At the time I was teaching full-time and taking care of my family- going back and forth. My mother accused me of being the worst daughter in the world, the kind who would shoot her dead if I had a gun. On one level I thought it was funny, yet felt terribly hurt all at the same time! I began to wonder if I was a bad person and if my mother saw something terrible in me. However, I put it in perspective, just as I would like to suggest to you. I had to see it with Alzheimer’s eyes.

Try to avoid arguing with your mother. Try to agree with her, as disputing her perceptions and sense of truth will only agitate her and make her more suspicious. She thinks on a different plane of reality from you. Try to see with her eyes. Aim to distract her with music, photos, anything at all. Hug her a lot and kiss her. I have seen patients who are mean and difficult in nursing homes respond to a particular health care provider because of her soothing touch and voice. I was truly amazed at the calm transformation occurring within the patient because of this attendant.

Perhaps you could create a medicine bottle with some placebo pills—even small candies—just for her to hold. Discuss with your pharmacist and doctor.

As for you, you strike me as a wonderful, loving daughter. Your mother and father are truly blessed with you. Objectify the situation and the painful remarks. Your mother would never even think them. It is the disease that is talking through her. I know her words continue to sting, but you have the power to take the stinger out and step back from this picture. Be instinctual and appeal to her emotions with laughter and touch. They can help distract her.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WHLI 1100AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit:

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