How to Manage False Accusations Stemming From Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

caregiver consoling senior woman
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can cause a number of difficult behaviors.

It can come seemingly out of the blue: you set your loved one’s favorite tuna sandwich in front of her – light on the mayo, no onions – something that typically brings her happiness. But this time, she shoves the plate away and refuses to take a bite, insisting that you have poisoned the food.

Or, you have presented the senior with a meaningful activity that links her to an important time in her past career, organizing paperwork. Suddenly, she accuses you of tampering with the documents to steal funds from her checking account.

How might you most successfully defuse situations like these, that are caused by the delusions or hallucinations which are so frequent in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

  1. Maintain a managed, caring, understanding tone. It may be instinctive to be defensive and refute the accusation, but recommended responses might include something like, “I see that you feel frightened, but I won’t let anything bad happen to you. Let’s enjoy this sandwich together,” or, “Oh no, are you missing some money? The bank is not open at the moment, but let’s go there right away tomorrow to get it figured out.”
  2. Move into a welcomed diversion. After sharing in the older adult’s concern, shift into a pleasant subject or activity that the senior likes, or move to another area. With regards to the suspected food poisoning, you could engage the individual in going into the kitchen and helping her create a new sandwich. If you’ve assured the individual that you’ll head over to the bank together tomorrow, a walk outside to look at the flowers and birds, or playing some favorite music, could help.
  3. Never try to reason or argue. These tactics very often intensify agitation in someone with Alzheimer’s. It could take some experimenting to formulate the approach that works best, and that approach could need to change from one day to another. The goal is to stay relaxed, patient, and empathetic, validating the older adult’s feelings and providing comfort.

The caregivers at Sage Home Care, the leading providers of dementia care in Greenwich, CT and the surrounding areas, are highly trained and experienced in effective, creative dementia and Alzheimer’s disease care techniques, and can assist with managing challenging situations and behaviors, enabling a senior loved one to experience an increased quality of life, and providing family caregivers with peace of mind and relief. Call us today at 800-578-4554 to learn more, for a free in-home assessment, or to request some additional resources that will help you better care for a family member with Alzheimer’s.

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