My mom constantly accuses my neice of stealing

tscreatesApril 14, 2009

My mom who recently has been going through dementia accuses my neice of stealing. She has not confronted my neice with this but mentions it to me everytime I have to leave her with my neice. She comes up with some story about her (my neice) stealing money when she was a very young child. The story is somewhat strange and I think she has her confused with another child that actually was a thief. I think the more she tells this story the more she believes it. Recently I told her she shouldn't be accusing her granchild of this and she should in fact be glad that she is keeping her company while I am away. So this weekend (when I was away) she insisted on giving my neice some money. Now she is saying that she is missing money and stating that my neice is a theif. I can ignore all this but at the same time I am afraid that my neice will no longer be availabe while I am away. How do I handle this without losing a very important caregiver. Maybe Mom can't help this but it's very unfair to me and my neice. I want to keep Mom living with me as long as possible but...

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First I want to say I am so sorry that your mom has dementia. You are a godsend to her, to care for her the way you are. My MIL has Alzheimer's and was accusing her neighbor of stealing from her. Before my MIL could say anything directly to the neighbor, my FIL went to the neighbor and told her that paranoia is a part of Alzheimers, and for some reason my MIL thinks she stole something from her. My FIL reassured the neighbor that we all knew this was not true, but if my MIL accused her, could she please try to understand it was a symptom of the disease, and not be offended. The neighbor was fine with this. My MIL never said anything to the neighbor (as far as we know). So perhaps if you explain to your neice what is going on, she will be able to take it in stride and see the accusation for what it is: a horrible symptom of dementia. Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 3:36PM
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Connie Kru

As hard as it is, you must remember it is the disease, not your Mother that is talking and if your niece is going to be part of the caregiving try very hard to educate her also and be very open with all the caregivers that this is happening and that only your Mom feels this way, not you.
I remember when my sister was caring for my mother, she accused her of stealing and sleeping with her husband.(my sister was married and it was her husband that mom was talking about.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 9:33PM
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How old is your niece? If she was my daughter, I probably would not let her stay with your mom. I do think that people with beginning dementia do know (kind of) what they are saying. Be firm with Mom, tell her your niece did not steal any money and if she says anything again, the niece will not be allowed the house again. Yes it is the disease, but like I stated, many people really do know what they are saying, My Dad did and what he said was not nice and when I confronted him, he said he would not do it again and he did not. If your niece is young, basically under 25, be aware this could get out and damage her reputation. There is a difference between dementia and Alzheimer's. My Dad knew pretty well what he was doing and made it very difficult for family and friends.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 6:35PM
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It's a mindset. Get used to reassuring mom every day that it didn't happen, and be prepared to say it next day.

Niece should be informed how it works.

Once you let go and accept that you can't reason or explain it to mom or say "I told you an hour ago" it will be much less stressful.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 6:33PM
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My mom used to accuse people of coming in the night and stealing from her. We (including Mom) decided we would call the theives "nightcrawlers" instead of using names. She could vent all she wanted about the nightcrawlers and no one got their feelings hurt.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 12:48PM
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My Mom thought the Meals on Wheels people were trying to steal her house, then she told meals on wheels that her kids were trying to take the house from her. She had sold the house to us 10 years before she became ill. She also said she wanted one to daughter to have the house. It just went on and on and only about her house. The house was her security.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 11:04PM
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My mother in law has dementia and lives with us. I remember once when I had taken her shopping she totally "went off" on a sales clerk. She accused her of hiding all the good stuff in the back storeroom and she insisted on going back there. She told this poor woman that she knew she was keeping it from her so she could keep it all herself. She really made a scene. I was horrified. This happened with no provacation at all from the sales clerk. I felt awful, explained the situation and begged her forgiveness. 15 minutes later, my mother in law had forgotten the whole ordeal. We had been regular customers at this shop and they knew us, but I still felt terrible. The next week I went without my MIL and they actually sent her a balloon with a card that said "we miss you and hope you feel better". Sometimes if you explain the situation, people WILL understand. My Mother in law can't help what she has become.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:24AM
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This is an unfortunate but all-too-common situation. Many elders with dementia cause these kinds of problems for caregivers. And it can be worse; some caregivers can find themselves in legal trouble, being accused of/charged with elder abuse. It's a horrible situation in which to be.

Your niece has been targeted by your mother; that is red flag behavior. Now if everyone in the family knows what is happening and agrees that your mother has dementia and that is what is causing her behavior, then the situation might not be a problem. But what if there is a relative, neighbor, friend who has his/her own personal agenda and would like your niece to find herself in trouble? A simple call to Social Services is all is takes. This kind of situation happens quite a lot, especially in very dysfunctional families.

It sounds like I'm paranoid and perhaps I am, but I've read about too many instances of good people finding themselves in hot water, appearing before the court claiming their innocence, and having to hire criminal defense attorneys just to clear their name. And the ironic thing is that the people who make these accusations usually do nothing to find out the truth of the matter. They remain vocal critics but do nothing to get the caregiver's side of the story or to help provide any caregiving responsibilities.

It seems that the more dysfunctional the family dynamic, the greater the likelihood that some legal mischief will occur. So be sure to protect your niece from any spurious accusations, even if they are from a relative with dementia. Look into consulting with a Geriatric Case Manager to find our the best possible solution to this situation. It will be well worth your time and investment to do so.

God bless,

Mary Ruff-King

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 4:10PM
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My mom, now living in a retirement home, spent 3 months at home alone after my dad passed away. During that time, she told me my sister (her daughter) had stolen money from her. Once, she called to tell me that someone had been in the house because items had been moved around upstairs and she couldn't find a quilt that my dad and she had made together. She said, "Those girls must have been here," talking about my two older sisters--who most certainly had NOT been there and wouldn't have taken anything if they had. Another time, she said that we girls must have taken her vacuum cleaner. I said, "Mom, I saw your vacuum cleaner in your laundry room when I was at your house last weekend." She said, "That's not my vacuum, I don't know how it got there. Someone took mine and left that one. You girls think you can just take whatever you want." There was no reasoning with her. My sisters know about this, and I think they were kind of hurt, but I just kept telling them that it wasn't anything personal, it's just the disease. I know this isn't an answer to your problem, but sometimes it helps to know you're not alone!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 2:15PM
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I agree with mariend. My Grandmother got very confused the last few years she was at home and the first 8or9 months she was in the NH. She kept accusing the friend that came to help with her housework of stealing everything. at first Mom tried to ease it over, then she confronted her about what evidence grandma had (none) and insisted she stop hurting the friend's reputation. the third time Mom confronted her, she said "Well, I guess I did forget." And the accusing stopped.

to some degree they do understand what they are saying in the early to middle stages.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 9:46PM
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