AARP - When Angry Loved Ones Resist Caregivers

During the worst years of my stepfather’s dementia, his wildly paranoid rants terrified and stung my mother.

In a typical scene, she called me in a panic one afternoon while I was at work because he was screaming at her. When I arrived at their apartment, he was sitting on the living room couch, stabbing at the air in her direction with an accusatory finger and bellowing incoherently that she’d somehow ruined his life.

I quickly turned on the TV and put on the Golf Channel. As the bucolic sight of rolling fairways and putting greens drew his attention, he gradually relaxed. I had momentarily defused the situation but couldn’t stop it from happening again and again over the next few months. Nor could I ever convince my mother to not take his misplaced fury personally.

Thanks for the article. It can be really hard to deal with paranoia and delusions. I found staying calm really helped. Which is hard to do when you are hearing such bizarre ideas and you don’t even know how to respond, what to say. My daughter used to get so angry if I didn’t “believe” her delusions, and I had to walk a fine line between not feeding them and not being dismissive that they were real to her. I’d just listen and say, “What matters to me is how that makes you feel.” And I’d try to identify with the feelings her paranoia and delusions provoked in her. And I’d say “that must be scary, or frustrating,” or whatever. It often defused a lot of her emotions.

A lot of these ideas have worked with my son. Especially the one about making a situation " light ". It relaxed him, calmed him down. Also would sometimes bring some of his humor back–which I miss.