It’s perfectly normal to be mistrustful of some people, some of the time. But what do you do if a beloved parent no longer trusts you? What do you do if he thinks his neighbors of twenty years are trying to poison him?
This sounds like a worst-case scenario, and it is. Unfortunately, a percentage of people over 65 do develop signs of psychosis, which may include delusions and paranoia. And this can occur even if a parent has no history of mental illness.
Unfortunately, science understands very little about how or why psychosis can turn up, for the very first time, in someone who is very old. What we do know is that there are definite aggravating circumstances such as:
- Social isolation. It’s been said before, but social isolation is very dangerous for people over 65. Being too alone for too long can lead to paranoia, psychosis, and dementia.
- Untreated hearing or vision loss. Being unable to see and hear what people are saying makes older people afraid and vulnerable. This can lead down the path of paranoia and delusions.
- Brain deterioration, especially in the frontal and temporal brain lobes.
Rule out treatable causes
Make sure that it’s paranoia and not the truth. Old people do get taken advantage of in many ways, via mail fraud, telephone sales fraud, door to door sales fraud, etc. Look into the accusation to determine if your parent really did get abused or cheated.
A brain tumor can cause what looks like symptoms of mental illness, so a biological source needs to be ruled out. Similarly, symptoms of psychosis can coincide with Parkinson’s disease. And delusions can even be a side effect of certain medications. Paranoia and delusions are often symptoms of dementia, so an accurate diagnosis is critical.
How to cope in the moment
- Don’t contradict or try to logic them out of it. Delusions do not respond to logic, so trying to prove that a parent is wrong is not the way to go.
- Play along. This is perhaps the hardest thing for adult children to do. But, yes, at the point that a beloved parent is imagining things, you may have to just lie to them. This means pretending to live in the world of their delusions. Otherwise, they may turn their mistrust on you.
- Don’t take accusations seriously. If a parent is accusing others of stealing or taking advantage of him, it’s likely that, at some point, he will accuse you of something similar.
- Empathize with their fear. Say things like, “I’m scared too. Yes, that was very frightening.”
- Offer to help look for lost items.
- Create a distraction. Fortunately, it might be fairly easy to say, “Okay, we’ll discuss that later (or we’ll look for your hearing aids later). Would you like to make some hot chocolate?”
- Ask for help. This might sound like, “I really need your help with something. Could you remind me how to bake a chicken?”
- Hire home care. Dealing with a delusional and/or paranoid parent is extremely tiring. If at all possible, you must share the load. Hiring home care is the best and most obvious choice for many families. Home care aides have specific training and experience in dealing effectively with paranoid and delusional clients.
In conclusion, parents can become severely paranoid and delusional with little warning. It’s important not to neglect your own care and well being in trying to help them. This may not be a job you can do alone. If you have not hired home care, this would be a great time to consider it.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Elderly Care in Enterprise, AL, please contact the caring staff at Wiregrass HomeCare today. Call us at 334-539-5900.
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