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Obsessed with stealing

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by AndreaP, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. AndreaP

    AndreaP Registered User

    Mum has been in her care home for 3 months and still talks about going home constantly. We have elected not to lie to her. Some think this is cruel but it's a personal ethical issue the family feels strongly about. Her memory is patchy but she does remember things that she is pleased to hear and going home would be one of them.

    She concedes the food is wonderful which is something as mum was always impossible to please unless she cooked it herself and the care, she says, is excellent. Why she would want to return home is beyond me but I think it has to do with the status of being independent. She balks at being a nursing home patient as she perceives it as insulting to her intelligence. The dementia of course impairs her judgement which she is naturally unaware of.

    The puzzling thing is how coherent and reasonable she is with the doctor. She says "I think something has happened but I can't be sure it has" which leads him to comment how self aware she is. Not so with the family to whom she declares things have occurred and is adamant and gets angry when we question it.

    The latest is the belief she is being stolen from. She has $20 with her and has taken to stuffing her bra with it and wearing it under her nightie while she sleeps. Then she forgets, wakes up and finds her purse empty. She gets irate and demands the police be called. She now believes someone enters her room and feels under her pillow and around her body trying to get her money.

    Yesterday I bought a personal safe and put it her room and stashed her money and credit cards in there. "They'll steal that safe" was her first response. "Then they'll lose their job, won't they?" I told her. She actually seemed annoyed, not relieved at the safe solution. Made me wonder if she enjoys believing the staff are after her money. It's a game to outwit them.

    I refuse to tell her the combination because I know she'd remove her purse and hide it elsewhere. I wrote a big notice in my handwriting and left it there for her to be shown saying how her money is now in the safe and only I can retrieve it.

    I'm not kidding myself of course. As I left she said "they're stealing my clothes too". We will now replace on paranoid belief with another no doubt :(:(
  2. 1mindy

    1mindy Registered User

    Jul 21, 2015
    Personal ethical issue ? I doubt many on here have spent their lives telling lies at the rate they do now. What is happening with your mother is " normal" why on earth do you think that locking her money in a safe she can see with a note from you saying she can't have her money will leave her any less distressed. You need to have another word with family members , and start to comfort her and be complicit in her beliefs no matter how unethical that may be.
  3. Katrine

    Katrine Registered User

    Jan 20, 2011
    Obsessing about money is very common. The PWD is aware that they are no longer in control of their life, and their mind. :( The things we do to provide reassurance can backfire because we have applied a logical solution, when what the person actually requires is an emotional solution. Locking her purse and credit cards (why does she have credit cards? :confused: ) in a safe and making it crystal clear that YOU have now got control of her money is not going to help your mum feel more secure, I am sorry to say.

    They do take her clothes - to wash them. From her POV someone is stealing her clothes. Or another resident is taking them (happens all the time). Or she doesn't recognise her own clothes. They won't smell the same as at home because they are being washed in a different detergent. When her clean clothes are returned to her she may think they belong to someone else.

    Yes, her life is full of what appear to be paranoid delusions. Her world doesn't make sense and it makes less sense every day. She needs constant reassurance. Simplify her environment. Remove excess amounts of clothing, credit cards and money. My MIL became much calmer when we took away her handbag and purse. She doesn't need money and it was a source of considerable stress, not comfort.

    Because your mum is intelligent and articulate, you find it especially painful to treat her as if she was a child. You remember how she used to be, and your grief is raw for her loss of independence and dignity. It is much easier for the staff to respond to her as she is now because they are not emotionally invested in her past.
  4. Amy in the US

    Amy in the US Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Whether or not you choose to lie to your mother is, of course, up to you. May I suggest that you do not always have to tell the complete truth, however, and can be selective in how you present it?

    Avoiding distress, upset, and anxiety will be beneficial for everyone. Have you seen the info on compassionate communication? I have found that very helpful and refer to it often.

    A calm and pleasant demeanor on your part will also help; my mother is very sensitive to body language and tone of voice and I've heard that from many others as well, about their relatives with dementia.

    You should also be aware that when she expresses a desire to go "home" she may, or may not, be referring to an actual place of residence. She may just be expressing a wish for things to be safe and familiar (dementia has a way of making everything scary). Perhaps you will be able to find a way to reassure her.

    I will also say that I have been told, point-blank, by my mother's neurologist NOT to contradict, correct, or confront my mother over her delusions, as he says this will only agitate and upset her. My main priority, after my mother's personal safety and general well-being (proper medications, correct medical care, nutrition, hygiene, et cetera) is for her to be as calm and able to enjoy herself as much as possible. She can't do that when she's anxious, upset, and agitated, so I am careful not to agitate her. I will lie about anything and everything to keep her calm, contented, and reasonably happy.

    I know it's very, very hard and I am sorry. There is no easy answer for any of this and we all learn as we go.
  5. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    Your goal should always be to reduce anxiety. Quite frankly, if it's between using a little white lie to calm someone down and the principle never to lie even if it causes distress, I know which one I'd call more ethical! You have to understand that logic and honesty cannot be applied in dementia world in the same way as it could in other situations. Just in case you haven't read the following article, please read it now. It might help reduce stress and anxiety in your mother.
  6. Pear trees

    Pear trees Registered User

    Jan 25, 2015
    Accusations of stealing are very common. My mum has accused the neighbours of taking her keys (round her neck all the time) and money (in purse which she NEVER lets out of her sight, sitting for hours counting the notes) and us of leaving her to starve (cupboards full of cakes and micro meals).

    I think that sometimes straight talking is more effective than any love lies and compassionate conversation and distraction techniques. Sometimes I simply say 'no they haven't taken it, you are just a dotty old lady' or worse. My mum, who has always been difficult, uncaring, unfeeling and full of harsh words for me actually responds better to this than kind words.
  7. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    My mum too went through a period of accussing people of stealing things, though thankfully this has now stopped. She also went through a stage of asking to "go home". When I asked her about "home" it turned out to be a childhood home. If you dont want to use love lies, when she asks to go home, instead of saying no, or using love lies, try saying "tell me about your home, what is it like?" and after she has told you about it, use distraction. That way you havent lied to her, or upset her, but have validated her feelings.
  8. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    SW London
    I would have liked to use straight talk with my mother re 'stealing', but she would just get angry and even more upset, and accuse me of being 'in league with' whoever it was.
    It was easier all round just to tell her I would get on to the police/a solicitor first thing in the morning.
    As for the so-often-recommended distraction, it NEVER worked - at least not for more than 30 seconds - with either my mother or my FIL, and it used to drive me bonkers when people advised it, as if I were too thick to think of anything so simple.

    We all do what works best for our own, to keep them happy, or at least not actively unhappy/fretful, if we can. And no two sufferers are the same, are they? What works for one, etc.....
  9. marionq

    marionq Registered User

    Apr 24, 2013
    That Witzend is the crux of the whole issue - what works for you. Reading the frequent posts you begin to see how people's circumstances differ even though the problems are much the same. That affects how you handle each issue. At 3.30 this morning while my husband was showering and shaving for work - yes that has started again - I was in no mood to mollycoddle him. I quite ruthlessly ordered him back to bed while lecturing him about my need for sleep. Within half an hour he was sound asleep and found it hard to get up at eight. I could not get back to sleep and so am frazzled and glad to see the back of him to the day centre.

    My guess is that those who advocate sweet talking and love lies don't see their loved ones 24 hours a day!
  10. sleepless

    sleepless Registered User

    Feb 19, 2010
    The Sweet North
    Oh yes, Witzend, I remember feeling exactly this when my late Mum had dementia. I used to tell the well-meaning but clueless people who constantly tried to fob us off with 'distract' that they could drive a double-decker bus through the wall and she would still stick to whatever it was she was ranting about. But to be fair, they only saw her when she was behaving reasonably. Hard to imagine how she could change at the drop of a hat, I probably would not have believed it if I hadn't been there.
  11. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    Guilty as charged - mum is in a CH!
    TBF, though, so is Andreas mum. And I did only say "try".........
  12. Summerheather

    Summerheather Registered User

    Feb 22, 2015
    Love lies didn't work with my Mum, I tried, but cracked after a particularly hard episode and just told my Mum that 'Nan is dead, she died of lung cancer and you nursed her' She just simply accepted it . However Mum lives with me and her sundowning is really bad some days.
  13. AndreaP

    AndreaP Registered User

    Everyone is saying that what I've done will cause her to be agitated but she's agitated anyway! The CH call me constantly to come down and reassure her money hasn't been stolen because she's having a fit in the office demanding the police be called. She insists on having $20 and a credit card and is angry that I now control her investments. Every visit she asks me why she can't have her bank book back.

    I am not depriving her of anything while her card and money ($20) sits in a safe in her room. It's there within eyesight as is the note that I will give her the code over the phone if she wants anything out of the safe. I think it's a perfectly sensible solution to someone who is agitated constantly because she hid her money and can't remember where.

    The nurses have already told me it's making their life easier because they don't know where she hides it and therefore can't refute her claims they've stolen it.

    Mum still believes she's going home at every visit and gets angry when she can't go home TODAY. So I fail to see how "love lies" would placate her if I say "next week". You clearly don't know my mother. All her life she went ballistic when she couldn't get her own way and now is no different.

    Nobody yells at her or raises their voice when we tell her "this is your home now because your memory isn't good enough for you to live safely alone". It's said kindly and with affection and empathy.

    I rather resent other's telling me I'm doing it all wrong. I'm not opposed to lying to mum if it makes her happy and I do, like when she says bikies were in her room last night. I tell her I rang the police and they're all in jail. She gets agitated about the imagined theft so how are love lies meant to control that?

    Anyway they have doubled her dose of Respiridon to see if that stops the delusions. One can but hope. Other than that the doctor thinks Valium may be the only solution.
  14. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    SW London
    I hope the increased dose will help. Or Valium, if that's what is needed, because it can't be at all nice for her and everyone else to be in such a state all the time, and you should not have to be running there constantly to placate her, or try to.

    One of the problems may be that however nicely and kindly she is told that her memory is too bad for her to live at home, she will not (or cannot) believe it. My mother firmly believed there was nothing wrong with her, even when her short term memory was practically zero and she could no longer even make herself a cup of tea. She could never remember that she could never remember anything, if that makes sense, so it was no use telling her that she was in the CH for that reason.

    I do hope things improve for you soon. All too often it seems that however we rack our brains, there are just no easy answers.
  15. AndreaP

    AndreaP Registered User

    Thanks Wizend. Mum is 91 and is aware enough to know her memory is bad. She does accept that her memory is stopping her being at home but the desire to be there is so strong that she goes on hoping. When I remind her she doesn't argue and she tells her doctor she's confused and it's getting worse. I think being master of her domain is a factor as she resents being told when to shower and when to eat and she knows the people she resides with are cognitively impaired and "talk nonsense" as she puts it.

    Being less aware might be an advantage, I'm not sure really. I think it would mean less agitation. She is on the cusp it would seem but as you say your mother is not aware and that hasn't made life easier for her or you.

    Yesterday my brother gave mum $5 to hide as this made her happy. She has nothing to spend it on but it made her feel more secure. On Sunday she said $5 was missing (we found it in her glasses case) but didn't seem too disturbed about such a small amount. Perhaps this is a solution.

    Thanks to all who responded. Every point of view is worth hearing even if I can't always agree.
  16. Amy in the US

    Amy in the US Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015
    AndreaP, I am very sorry if anything I said upset or angered you. I certainly didn't mean to suggest you are doing anything wrong or in any way causing this situation. It's not you, it's the dementia, that is to blame.

    And of course it's complicated because each person with dementia follows their own course of the disease and it's very difficult to give advice that will work with another person. What works one minute might not work the next moment, in face. All we can do is tell you what has worked for us and what we've heard others recommend. Unfortunately the rest is trial and error for you, and the errors can be disturbing for all involved.

    As with witzend's mother, my mother also could not remember/accept/grasp that there was anything wrong with her, and again, there was no explanation for "why am I here?" (in the care home) that she would accept. Fortunately, we have not heard this since she settled, but it was very, very bad at the beginning. All we were able to say to her (when telling her she'd been sick, needed her meds adjusting, had been in hospital, that the doctor had said she had to be in the care home, and everything else we could think of, had been violently rejected and it was all down to me kidnapping her and forcing her out of her home and stealing her money et cetera, ad nauseam) was something like, "I know you're upset and don't want to be here, and I'm sorry. Nobody wanted it to be like this, but this is the way things are for now." Not great, but it's what we were reduced to in the end. The short-term memory loss can be helpful sometimes, but other times it's very much a hindrance, as I imagine you've experienced.

    My mother was also very derisive about being told what to do, and when, as you report with your mother. In my mother's case, this hasn't resurfaced for a while, but who knows? She was very vocal and stroppy about this, both in the care home and in hospital before the care home. In fact, looking back, it was one of her verbal "themes" over the past couple of years.

    But I know what you mean about being less aware possibly leading to less agitation. That is exactly what happened in my mother's case. She was living alone, with no services, and was suffering from crippling anxiety. I now think that while some of it was down to her not taking her meds correctly and not eating or sleeping properly, that a great deal of the anxiety was her trying incredibly hard to manage daily life, and failing miserably, and perhaps knowing something wasn't right, but not what. In the care home, she doesn't seem to have any awareness that there is anything wrong with her at all, but that dreadful anxiety is almost gone.

    I'm sorry, I didn't mean to blather on quite so much. I just wanted to say, no offense intended and it's incredibly difficult and I'm so sorry. If you are inclined to stick around, you are most welcome here, any time. Again, apologies for any offense given and I do hope a solution to your mother's agitation can be found.

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