Dementia can have many symptoms, confusion and memory loss are the most common, but there can be others and paranoia is one of them and can be very challenging to care for someone experiencing this.

Paranoia is part of the issue of confusion and misinterpreting the situation, but rather than forgetting who their carer is, the person can become fearful, which in turn, when they feel threatened, can lead to aggressive behaviour.

Once the paranoid thoughts have become the settled reality for the person with dementia, they can be difficult, if not impossible to alter, so the person remains paranoid for as long as they retain those thoughts.

I have had numerous clients experience paranoia, for example, they will not eat or drink something given to them by a particular family member, because they believe that that person is trying to poison them.  This can lead to them becoming malnourished and/or dehydrated.  It can also create frustration in the carer, as they know that all they are trying to do is ensure that their loved one is cared for and it is not just a thankless task, but a refused one as well!

Paranoia triggers a lot of different feelings and emotions in both the cared for and carer and if these emotions are not supported can lead to difficult outcomes, as the carer can get angry at the rejection.

Paranoia, whilst it is a misunderstanding, is based on a fear that something negative will happen.  The best way to handle it is with significant patience and understanding.  It takes gentleness for the person to accept help, which in an atmosphere of rejection can be very difficult to do.  The carer will need help and support, as they are likely to think that they are subjected to unfair judgement, which can be very wearisome.  The situation will benefit from outside help and support, so that both the carer and cared for can have a break from the situation, which they will probably both need.  This requires the bravery to ask for help and to ensure that the new helper understands the situation, which again, can be difficult.  It is hard for a spouse or child of the family to admit that they are seen by the person with dementia is such a negative light.

The situation is very challenging, it is tiring for all parties.  But it is important to remember that this is the disease and not the person.  The annoyance and frustration of the situation needs to be directed at the disease and not the person.  Inside the brain damaged body of someone living with dementia is a person, and like all people, they deserve love, respect and belonging.  It is easy to take annoyance out on the person, rather than the disease, which is why the outside support is helpful, so that any frustration can be directed in more positive ways and the person with dementia remains loved and cared for, even if it is by a different person for a while.

If this is relevant to you, I wish you luck.  There will be good and bad days.  You will need resilience to cope with the bad days.  Treasure the good ones, they will provide you with comfort.