Dealing with false accusations from a loved one affected by dementia can be emotionally challenging and disheartening. The cognitive decline associated with the condition often leads individuals to falsely accuse those closest to them. However, it’s important to remember that these accusations stem from damage occurring to the brain, not because that individual is trying to give you a hard time.
The damage caused by dementia in the brain can lead to the manifestation of false accusations. Dementia is characterized by the progressive deterioration of cognitive functions, including memory, reasoning, and perception. As the disease advances, various regions of the brain responsible for processing and interpreting information become affected.
Specifically, damage to the frontal lobe and temporal lobe can significantly impact a person’s ability to perceive reality accurately. The frontal lobe plays a crucial role in judgment, decision-making, and impulse control, while the temporal lobe is involved in memory and language processing. When these areas are affected, individuals with dementia may experience confusion, memory lapses, and a distorted perception of events and people.
False accusations can arise as a result of cognitive decline, memory loss, and misinterpretation of information.
In this article, we will explore effective strategies for responding to false accusations made by individuals with dementia, emphasizing the importance of maintaining composure, validating emotions, diverting attention, taking preventative measures, seeking support, and ultimately navigating the caregiving journey with patience and understanding. By implementing these approaches, we can foster a sense of empathy and create a more peaceful and supportive environment for both the person with dementia and their caregivers.
How to Deal With False Accusations by a Person With Dementia?
Among the many distressing aspects that can arise from symptoms of dementia is when the person living with dementia starts falsely accusing their loved ones. Even though these accusations result from a cognitive decline, they could be emotionally draining for family members and caregivers who are involved in care.
Here, we will discuss ways to deal with false accusations made by a person living with dementia.
1. Stay Calm And Practice Active Listening
Maintaining a sense of calm and practicing active listening are vital when faced with false accusations from a person with dementia. It is natural to feel defensive or tempted to refute the allegations, but it is important to remember that the accusations stem from their cognitive decline rather than any personal intent.
By staying calm, we can create a safe and supportive environment. Active listening involves giving our undivided attention, making eye contact, and expressing empathy. Instead of arguing or reasoning, responding with a soothing tone and reassurance can help alleviate their distress. By valuing their perspective and showing genuine care for their feelings, we can foster a sense of trust and understanding, promoting a more positive interaction with our loved ones.
Understand that they may be seeing the world differently from you. It’s important to value their perspective by showing them that you care about their feelings.
A great example of this would be – If they accuse you of stealing their money, remain calm while validating the emotion. When you validate the emotion, you don’t have to admit that you stole the money.
Here are some example responses:
“I understand that it’s frustrating for you to think your money is gone. Let’s check your belongings and see if we can locate it.”
“I can see that you’re upset about your money. Let’s review your finances and see if we can figure out what is going on.”
2. Validate Their Emotions
In the realm of dementia, false accusations often emerge as a coping mechanism for individuals due to the brain changes occurring. During these moments, attempting to reason or employ logic will make the situation worse.
Avoid ignoring their emotions. Instead, recognize and validate that you hear and understand their concerns. Say something like, “I understand that this is frustrating for you,” or “I can see why you might feel that way.” They may feel less anxious after receiving this affirmation.
For example, when they accuse you of stealing their keys, it could be their frustration of being unable to drive, so they try to validate the emotion, not the accusation.
3. Distract And Divert
Validating and diverting their attention could be the best way to help with the fixation related to accusations.
False allegations can sometimes be resolved by changing the subject or distracting the person with dementia with a pleasant activity. Give them something to do, put on some soothing music, or take them back to thinking about happy times in their lives.
Distracting them from the false allegations may create a more cheerful and reassuring atmosphere.
Engaging in an activity is a great example of how we can divert attention. We want to do this AFTER validating the emotion. When you involve them in an activity, tell them you’ve been really busy and could really use their help. Examples of this could include folding laundry, coloring, completing a puzzle. The type of activity depends on their current physical and cognitive abilities, and what they would be interested in. Another idea would be to reminisce on the past by looking at old pictures together. Whatever activity you choose, make sure it’s something they enjoy and it matches their current physical and cognitive abilities.
4. Keep Duplicates of Frequently Lost Items
When dealing with accusations, keeping extra stuff handy might be helpful. You may prepare for future confrontations by watching their moves and stocking up on duplicates of what you know they’ll hide or lose.
If they have trouble keeping track of their glasses, for instance, buying a second one of the same design will help you “find” it for them when they need it and alleviate frustration for both of you. By taking preventative measures like this, you may foster a feeling of safety and offer helpful, hands-on assistance with empathy to your loved one.
5. Seek Support
When you are accused of stealing, abuse, or other terrible things, and that too from your loved one, it still hurts like hell no matter how much you hide your feelings.
So, you must get expert help if you’re dealing with false accusations from a person with dementia.
If your loved one is dealing with dementia, don’t hesitate to seek help from medical experts, dementia support groups, or therapists. You will then realize that you are not alone in this journey, and you can get the support you need to better care for your loved one.
A family member may assist you in caregiving and give you a much-needed break. It will help you maintain the relationship and calm things down after the accusations.
It will surprise you that many people have gone through the same situation and will have a lot of wisdom to share. They may offer individuals living with dementia and their caregivers some essential guidance, coping mechanisms, and emotional support.
The journey of caring for someone with dementia can be tough. It requires patience and empathy on your part as a caregiver. Being accused of lying, theft, abuse, or even worse, can cause hurt and shock.
Even though this may be difficult, remaining calm and not taking the accusations to heart will help both of you.
Following the tips mentioned in this article and seeking professional advice will help deal with the false accusation by a person with dementia.
So, step back, take a break, and please know that you are never alone on this journey!