Suspicion and paranoia with dementia can be very common. Some of the reasons for this are the person living with dementia may not recognize a familiar person, place or thing. They could have lived in a house for 30 years but it is not the ‘home’ they have in their memory.
They may forget relationships with or names of other people. Imagine being out at the grocery store and people are using your name but you don’t recognize them. They don’t introduce themselves to you because they ‘assume’ you remember them. It would be very unnerving and make you feel as if people are watching you – why else would people you have never met know things about you. It might help to have someone go to the store with them. This will allow the person living with dementia a buffer, extra time or cues to the relationships or introductions so they know the name of the person talking with them.
Confusion can cause items to be misplaced and those items are assumed to be stolen. You always put your keys in the same place and someone has moved them. Why are they messing with you by putting the keys in the refrigerator? What else have they messed with and moved or taken from MY home?
Care partners need to stay calm and understand it is the disease that is causing the suspicion and paranoia and see if you can find a trigger. When is it happening? Who is present? Where are they? Look around the environment to see if there is a cause. For example, the person living with dementia swears there are people watching her when she is in the living room. As the day goes on and it becomes darker outside she might misinterpret the reflections of people in the room as people outside. If the window does not have curtains or blinds – please invest in them to block the reflections.
There is no one right answer to this problem. Every situation is different and sometimes you need to call for help. One resource is the Alzheimer’s Association HelpLine – it is staffed 24/7/365 days a year. You can call and talk through the issues with someone. You can also call if you are having difficulty making a decision about your loved ones care needs – sometimes speaking with an unbiased person is extremely helpful!
The helpline number is 800-272-3900.