Delusions and Paranoia

“Someone stole my purse and all my money!” “Why am I being held a prisoner in my house?” “Why are all these people in my home?” For people with dementia, it is common that delusions and paranoia will develop at some point, usually during the middle and late stages of dementia. A person with Alzheimer’s may be suspicious of those around them, even accusing others of theft, infidelity or other terrible things. While delusional and paranoid behaviors are considered harmless, they can be deeply troubling and emotionally stressful to loving caregivers.

Delusions are false beliefs that usually involves misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. Some common delusions may be:

• People who on TV are actually in the room

• Their spouse is being unfaithful

• Being held hostage at home

• They are being spied upon

Paranoia, a form of delusion, an unrealistic fear or concern that harm is imminent or that others are out to get them.

• People are “out to get me”

• Others are mean

• The police are following me

• Others are stealing money or belongings

The Alzheimer’s Association offers several tips to apply when attempting to cope with a loved one’s delusions and paranoid behavior.

• Don’t take it personally

• Don’t argue with them

• Redirect their attention

• Offer simple answers

• Keep duplicates of certain items such as glasses or keys

Regardless of how we react to the delusions, we must remember for the person with Alzheimer’s the delusions are real.