Ben describes a difficult situation of accusations of theft
My dad cared for my mother, who has dementia, until he died a couple of years ago. Although mum was still pretty self-reliant and independent, she’d begun to struggle with taking her medication and got distressed very easily. After weeks of phone calls in the middle of the night “I can’t find my pills” or “why is it dark outside?” I made the decision to move her from Devon and adapted my home so that she could live with me.
It took a while for mum to settle in – understandably, as she had lived in her home for 30 years. It was a tough decision but I felt it to be the right one – mum couldn’t live by herself any longer and had reached the point where she refused to let the carers in (they were doing a check call in the morning to see that she’d taken her medication). Although mum’s neighbours were friendly and supportive, they weren’t getting any younger and I felt they had enough to cope with in their own lives.
Life ticked along pretty well for a while. Mum was still able to dress and look after herself although she needed prompting with brushing her teeth, washing her hair and general personal care tasks. We muddled along and had some very happy times, until I noticed a few changes.
I needed to go away for work and my ex wife moved in to take care of mum. They’d always had a great relationship – mum used to side with S in teasing me or nagging me to mow the lawn or decorate the bedroom. They went shopping together and would spend hours in each others’ company. S has stayed in touch with mum and often took her out for the day so I felt comfortable having her move in while I was away.
The day after my return home, when S had left, mum became very distressed and accused S of stealing her bracelet. I got a little angry with her and we searched the house. Finally I found the bracelet in the laundry basket. This accusation became a pattern over the next few months. If mum couldn’t find her shoes or her watch, toothbrush or a photo she accused me of stealing it. I tried using logic to reason with her but realized this wasn’t working.
Things came to a head when I took mum to the doctor for a check up and she told him “Ben’s taken all my jewelry – he’s given it to some woman”. Naturally I was horrified and the doctor was put in a difficult position. After all, these accusations could be true, couldn’t they? I could hardly bring myself to talk to mum on the drive home. I was angry and upset, felt betrayed that, after all I was doing for her, she could think so badly of me. Even though I’d heard from other carers that this sometimes happens, and logically I knew it to be the dementia talking, and not my mum, I felt incredibly hurt.
When I picked mum up from the day centre a few weeks later one of the staff took me aside and told me mum had accused me of taking all her money. Again, I protested my innocence, then went home and asked S to come over to do an audit of mum’s bank account so that I could prove my innocence.
For the next few weeks mum asked me time and time again why I’d taken all her money. It seemed that, no matter what I did, she didn’t believe me. If she saw a neighbour or a visitor, she would repeat the accusations again and again. I begun to feel as though the neighbours believed her and I didn’t know where to turn.
The final straw was when I walked into mum’s bedroom one morning and saw notes posted all over the walls. “Ben has taken all my money”; “Ben is a bloody lying thief – don’t trust him” and worst of all “Watch Ben when he’s in the room so that he can’t steal anything else”.
I visited the bank and asked to see the Bank Manager and explained the situation to her. She was very understanding and we went through mum’s account and transactions together. Of course everything was in order. I asked her to monitor mum’s account regularly and she was happy to oblige.
I did some research online and realized I wasn’t alone in being accused of theft by a relative with dementia – this is often mentioned by carers on forums.
Alz.Org fact sheet
Take a look at the page with links to forums where you will find support from carers if this happens to you.
A few weeks later mum began to deteriorate to the point where I could no longer care for her. It was a relief, to be honest. I had really struggled with my feelings and although I knew of course it wasn’t my lovely mum talking, it was the dementia. I had hated the thought of being accused of something so awful, especially when I was completely innocent.
Two months passed as I looked for a suitable care home for mum. She’s lived there very happily for the past year. She still accuses people of stealing things from her – sometime she accuses me, too. The staff cope well with the situation and are quick to reassure me and she is not the only resident who behaves in this way.
Dementia can be very cruel, it robs us of the person we love – gradually and over a period of time. We struggle at times to remember the person inside and the love we feel for them. We are all only human.
Although it had been a difficult and hurtful time I still love my mother very much and I know she feels the same about me. Last week I heard her tell another resident “Ben is my big and beautiful boy and he looks after me”. It made me cry.
Losing my identity - By Megan
I cared for my parents who both had dementia for nine years in all. Mum died in 2012 and dad died just a few months later. Mum had been admitted into a care home in 2010 after we realised it was impossible to continue to care for her at home. She was becoming increasingly frail, incontinent and confused and her periods of distress (mainly aggression) were difficult to manage.
We continued to look after dad at home, with the aid of some lovely carers from a domiciliary care agency who attended dad every day and gave us some valuable free time. At Christmas, a few months after mum's death, dad was taken ill with pneumonia and admitted to hospital. Naturally we were devastated. dad looked tiny in his huge hospital bed. He was confused and anxious and the staff didn't understand how to deal with his dementia. It took several weeks before we were able (after much negotiation with the hospital staff) to bring dad home. We knew he was coming home to die. We had talked about what dad wanted at the end of life stage when he was still well enough to understand and we'd promised him that he would end his days at home, in familiar surroundings, with his family around him. Our beloved daddy died two days after coming home.
Days turned into weeks, the funeral came and went and finally we cleared out dad's possessions. It took a while before I realised the source of my distress - apart from losing my lovely father, I'd lost my identity. For so very long (nine years) I'd seen myself as a carer. I'd spent my days looking after mum and dad, then visiting mum and caring for dad, and then finally, in caring for dad at home. It was a full time carer role and my first thought on waking each day was that I needed to check on dad. I never went to sleep without turning on the monitor so that I could see to dad if he needed me in the night. I'd filled my days with picking up medication, taking dad for walks, liaising with the domiciliary care agency, talking to social workers, doctors, physios and the like. I'd sung to, washed and dressed, cooked and shopped for, talked to, cuddled and reassured and cared for my parents.
And now, the days were long and empty. My chidren had grown up and left home. My friends had dropped away once I'd let them down once too often, family members never called. I found myself to be lost, without a focus, without an identity. Being a carer had become my life and consumed me, it had been me. I filled my time in clearing out cupboards, watching daytime television, reading the pile of books I'd collected over those nine years. It wasn't exciting or rewarding. Frankly, I was totally lost and bored.
One morning it hit me. I could do something else. I hadn't got any qualifications as such (apart from a few GCSEs) and hadn't worked since before my eldest child had been born. My only relevant experience was of being a carer. I realised I actually had lots of experience - in this area at least. A neighbour persuaded me to attend a careers open day where I discovered just how relevant my years of being a carer are. Eventually I joined a local agency who find Personal Assistants (PAs) for people who employ their own care staff and after a few weeks, I had a job! Actually, it's two jobs. I work for two people, each for a few hours a week. For one lady I take her shopping, do her personal care (I was given training by the local council and am working towards a Level 3 qualification at the local college), help her with gardening and anything else she wants me to do. For the other lady (who has dementia), I mainly spend time with her, making her meals, taking her out in the car, and maintaining her independence. I love what I do.
As to the future - who knows? I won't want to be a PA all my life - I'd actually like to finish my level 3 and then think about my options. I've realised I've got lots of life experience and skills to draw on, and have a better appreciation of the wide range of things I can do. For my parents, I was a carer. For the rest of my life, I am Megan