A daughter asked us about her mom with Alzheimer’s who accused her of stealing. It’s a question that gets to an unfortunate reality of Alzheimer’s disease (and other forms of dementia).
One of the common issues those with dementia have is they often misplace things. And when they do their caregivers – even if it’s a spouse, child or other loved one – often gets the blame.
It’s hard to understand this as a spouse or child. So it’s not uncommon for kids to ask why their parent is accusing them of stealing. And for them (the child or spouse) to be genuinely upset and hurt by the accusation.
… your mom simply can’t remember her actions. When things go missing she is unable to come up with a good answer for why. She believes the missing items had to have been stolen.
And since you and your siblings, as her caregivers, are the ones who are around her most of the time, in your mom’s mind, you are the ones who must be responsible.
If you’re in a situation like this, understand your mom’s (or other loved one’s) actions are just another part of their terrible disease. She is not acting out at you due to any anger or malice. She simply doesn’t understand what is going on around her and why things are the way they are.
You’ve probably never given her any reason whatsoever to not trust you in the past. But understand that, for her, the past is gone.
Thinking that her own child or spouse is stealing from her is a frightening thought for her. But she can’t help herself. Those with dementia live in their own version of reality. And it’s a version of reality they are unable to change.
If you can look on the bright side of this (and, sometimes that’s all we can do) it’s that your mom is living moment to moment. And she will quickly forget about her missing belongings and about accusing you and/or others of stealing them. At least until the next time it happens. This is unfortunately part of the tragic reality of living with Alzheimer’s disease.
If you take nothing else away from this article, take this… it is critical to not take any accusations like this personally. Your loved one may not be able to understand the love and care you’re giving her. However, your good deeds will always win the day over any misunderstandings.