One of the many heartbreaking effects of Alzheimer's and other dementias is that the person with the disease can become paranoid. You see paranoid behavior in nursing homes on a regular basis and it can be confusing to observers. Is an elder complaining about being ignored and not fed because he or she can't remember eating or is this really happening? Does the person think her bracelet was stolen simply because she put it somewhere (maybe twenty years ago) and can't find it, or was it actually stolen?
Elder abuse happens. Stealing from vulnerable elders happens. But good caregivers, whether in a nursing home, the elder's home or elsewhere, are often accused of taking things simply because the elder has misplaced the item. To say this is frustrating for the caregiver is an understatement. It can become devastating if the accusations are bitter and protracted. These accusations can cost an innocent person a job. Innocent family members may have to deal with Social Services and the court system.
Trying To Determine the Truth
My dad's wedding band disappeared during his last year in an excellent nursing home. His hands had become thin so the ring was loose. Dad was sure someone took the ring, but then he was also sure someone took his lower dental plate when that was lost. How can we know?
I was glad that I hadn't put up too much fuss over the ring, because though the dentures were not found (he likely threw them in his garbage can), the ring was found tangled in his bed spring, after he died. We'd all searched well at the time, but apparently not well enough. Even though Dad had died, I was glad to get the ring back. I was also glad I had just patiently listened to him and said I'd check, but didn't make any accusations.
One woman in the home was constantly telling anyone within earshot, especially if they were visitors, about what the staff had "stolen" that day. Frequently it was her favorite red sweater. A wonderful staff member actually went shopping and bought, out of her own limited funds, a new red sweater for this rather wealthy woman, so the woman could have two sweaters of the same type. Then, when one sweater was being laundered, the woman didn't miss it. We knew that this woman would accuse anyone she could of stealing anything, depending on what was on her mind. It was her disease and likely her feeling of helplessness. It was good the woman didn't have anything of great value with her, as she would not have been believed if something had been stolen.
Common Sense Applies
My dad's wedding ring was one thing, and his lower denture another. It's not likely someone would steal someone's dentures, unless it was another confused resident. A gold wedding band? Well, that has some value. Given my dad's dementia, his weight loss and his habits, plus the fact that as a whole, the nursing home staff was exceptional, I chose to assume that no one was stealing from him. I was glad I made that assumption after the ring was found, but yes, this is something some unscrupulous person could have stolen, so the staff was very upset when it was missing.