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Missing items

Time trader

Registered User
Dec 30, 2014
I've not posted anything for a while and after having a read through the posts so far I have already put things into some kind of perspective.
I wanted to ask if anyone is accused of taking things that probably never existed and if at all it was decades ago?
As a family unit we have all been in the firing line and strangely enough, when we offer to help look in drawers and cupboards we are told quite vehemently to stop looking! When we offer explanations; have the carers put it away somewhere else? Did you break it and forget throwing it away? Did you lend it to someone? The answer is always the same.......YOU'VE STOLEN IT!!!!!!
I'm the current suspect and things have been so heated, I was actually in fear of my safety as Dad was getting very aggressive, that I have not been visiting.
Oddly enough, some of the things we do recall being in the house but clearly have been discarded through damage and wear and tear. This is stuff like non-stick pans with the coating scratched off, blunt and damaged cutlery, a grotty wooden bread board and the latest item is a fish slice!
There has also been more serious accusations but despite how hard we try to remain calm and talk things through, Dad always remains unreasonable, illogical and aggressive. Has anyone else experienced this kind of behaviour and if so how does one cope with constantly being accused when all you want to dogs keep someone safe and well cared for?

Amy in the US

Registered User
Feb 28, 2015
While I've not personally experienced this I have certainly read lots of stories from carers who have, so I am going to say this is not an unusual behaviour for dementia. (Apologies if this is incorrect, but I am assuming your dad has some sort of dementia.)

I hope someone else can offer more specific advice about this situation but I can say that generally, when dealing with a delusion (a false, fixed belief) it's better not to challenge it as that is not going to do anybody any good.

In fact, I was just at a dementia lecture last night and the speaker specifically talked about challenging delusions. Let me go get my notes.

OK, they said that a delusion is a false, fixed belief imbued with a lot of emotion. Their advice was:
-do not confront a delusion
-do not challenge the person's reality
-do respond, but be vague
-do reassure them you are taking them seriously
-do try distraction and/or redirection
-if there is a person who triggers this behaviour, the redirection is best done by someone else, someone who isn't the trigger

The example the lecturer gave was a patient who claimed someone was stealing her socks. (Appropriate to your post today!) This was not true, and the family's response, understandably, was to say, Mum, that's ridiculous, who would want to take your old, dirty socks? You've just misplaced them somewhere. The lecturer suggested a different response.

Mum: they've stolen my socks again!
Family: really? your socks?
Mum: yes, stolen my socks!
Family: tell me about your socks?
Mum responds with description of socks
Family: They sound like nice socks. I'm sorry to hear about them being missing and I will look into that for you
Mum: I can't find my socks and they keep stealing them!!!
Family: I know you're upset about your socks but I promise I will take care of it

Or something of that sort. If you're the current suspect I would, indeed stay away or at least not get involved.

The lecturer added that while the person with dementia generally doesn't remember the conversations, they do remember the feeling associated with the conversations and, by association, often the person, which is why that person will "trigger" those responses or repeated conversations. There was something technical about these feelings coming from the limbic system, which is below the level of conscious awareness, rather than the cortex, and that these conversations and accusations are not something the patient is consciously deciding to do. I'm not a neurologist so I can't explain it better than that, sorry.

I thought it might be worth typing this up in case it helps you or anyone else in any way.

I can tell you that in my personal experience, although we don't have missing items (yet), we do get a lot of phone calls from my mother about medication. (My mum is in a care home.) She will claim she was given the wrong medication, or not given her medication at all. We always let her say whatever she has to say, with a lot of "uh-huh," "I see," and "really" on our part, delivered in a calm tone, and better delivered by my husband than by me, if possible. Then we will say, we are sorry you didn't get your medicine/got the wrong one/the nurse was mean/whatever the delusion is that day. I tell you what I will do. I will call the nurse and talk to them about it. Then she usually repeats something about the medicine, and then we repeat the reassurances (we will look into it, we will take care of it sort of thing) and then that's the end of the conversation. If possible, we will try a little gentle humor to flip her mood, but you have to be careful about that (and the lecturer said NEVER try humor with a paranoid patient as it will make things worse). Sometimes we get a repeat call and do it all over. Sometimes we don't.

So I have no idea if any of that might work with your Dad, or is advisable to try, but there it is for what it's worth.

I'm afraid that unreasonable and illogical come with dementia and you won't be able to change that, no matter how much you try. Aggression and violence, I would report to the GP or, if there is immediate danger, call the police.

Of course you just want him to be safe and content. That is all any of us want for our family members. Dementia doesn't make it easy.
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Ann Mac

Registered User
Oct 17, 2013
Hi Time trader,

I have personal experience of the sort of incident you describe with my Mil. The first time she phoned me, while she was still living independently, and hinted that I was responsible for a sideboard going missing - infact, she had got rid of it herself, 17 years before. On one of the worst occasions, I was accused of stealing an 'antique', that she couldn't even describe herself and I had to stop her phoning the police to report me as a thief - that was after she moved in to live with us, and was a lot harder to handle. I agree that if you can get away with rsponding in the way that Amy suggests, its by far the best way. Unfortunately, Mil lives with us now and I am her primary carer - so sympathising gets me nowhere and nor can I avoid her when she is suffering from paranoid delusions like that. Everyone in the house has at some point been accused of stealing from her, and the items have ranged from (like the antique) completely imaginary possessions to her accusing out then 18 year old son of stealing her undies!

We have now had to resort to reacting to/dealing with that sort of accusation by firmly telling her she is mistaken, and asking her to go to her room to calm down. We refuse to discus whatever it is that she is obsession over and tell her that the accusations and insults are not acceptable. What we find is that a lot of the time (though not all) once we persuade her to leave the room and have some time by herself, she actually forgets the delusion - its as though taking her away from any feedback/response breaks the cycle.

I would rather go down the reassurance/sympathy route, but sadly, we find it rarely works with Mil. x


Registered User
Aug 29, 2007
SW London
My mother never accused me personally, but there were a lot of accusations of other people, including close family, which I found very upsetting to listen to. Reasoning with her was useless - I soon just learned to say, dear me, that's terrible, etc., I'll have to do something about that, or words to that effect. When it was actually a house (she thought her sister had 'stolen' their mother's) I would tell her I would get on to a solicitor first thing tomorrow. That would pacify her for the moment.

I don't know what I'd have done if she'd accused me personally. I guess I might have done the same as I once did when she was saying nasty things about my family (my nasty husband and daughters didn't want me coming to see her etc. - all quite the reverse of the truth) - i.e. 'If you don't stop saying such horrible things this minute, then I am going home NOW!' That did work, the one time I did it.