Wrongly Accused? How to Respond When Dementia Induces These Delusions

caregiver consoling senior woman
Even the most devoted caregivers often face false accusations by a loved one with dementia.

It can come seemingly out of thin air: you place your loved one’s favorite tuna sandwich in front of her – light on the mayo, no onions – something which usually brings her enjoyment. But this time, she shoves the plate away and does not want to take a bite, insisting that you’ve poisoned the meal.

Or, you have provided your loved one with a meaningful activity that links her to a significant time in her past career, organizing paperwork. Without warning, she charges you with tampering with the documents so that you can steal funds from her checking account.

How do you most effectively diffuse situations such as these that result from the delusions or hallucinations that are so typical in dementia?

  1. Maintain a controlled, soothing, understanding tone. It may be instinctive to become defensive and deny the accusation, but recommended replies might include something similar to, “I see that you are feeling fearful, but I will not let anything bad happen to you. Let’s enjoy this sandwich together,” or, “Oh no, are you missing some money? Your bank is not open at the moment, but let’s go there right away tomorrow and get it straightened out.”
  2. Move into a welcomed diversion. After sharing in the senior’s concern, shift into an enjoyable subject or activity that your loved one likes, or relocate to another area. With regards to the suspected food poisoning, you could engage the individual in going into the kitchen and helping her prepare a new sandwich. After you have reassured the person that you will stop by the bank together tomorrow, a walk outside to look at the flowers and birds, or playing some favorite music, might help.
  3. Never argue or try to reason. Approaches such as these have been found to escalate agitation in someone with Alzheimer's. It may take some experimenting to develop the strategy that is best, and that approach may need to change from one day to another. The goal is to stay relaxed, patient, and empathetic, while validating the senior’s feelings and providing comfort.

The experts at Midnight Sun Home Care are highly trained and experienced in effective, creative dementia care techniques, and can help manage difficult behaviors and situations, enabling a senior loved one to experience an improved quality of life, while providing family caregivers with relief and peace of mind. Reach out to us today at (907) 677-7890 to learn more about options for Mat-Su home health care, or for services in the surrounding communities.


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