Many people with dementia experience false beliefs and delusions – in other words, experiencing, sensing and believing things that are untrue or not actually happening. These false beliefs will feel very real.
False beliefs and delusions are more likely in the mid to later stages of dementia. They often revolve around the belief that someone is trying to cause the person harm – for example, that someone is stealing from them or that their partner is being unfaithful.
What are false beliefs and delusions?
Anyone can have false thoughts and beliefs at times. For example, someone might believe that their friend no longer likes them when there is no evidence to support this. Most of us are able to keep these thoughts in check, but in some people with dementia, they may spiral out of control.
Trying to explain to the person that they are not true can cause distress, and you cannot change their mind by reasoning with them.
False beliefs often appear as suspicion and paranoia, where the person with dementia thinks someone is trying to mislead or harm them, for example:
• believing that someone is spying on them
• thinking that someone is stealing from them (particularly money) or has broken into their home – this may happen if they have lost or misplaced the item
• believing that their partner is being unfaithful
• thinking that someone is poisoning their food
• believing that someone – such as a work colleague – is talking about them behind their back
Delusions occur when the person experiences reality differently from other people. They may have difficulty recognising people and mistake them for someone else, or a stranger; feel that they are in an unfamiliar place even if they are somewhere they know well; or become disorientated in time, for example thinking they are living in the past.
Please view this excellent information leaflet from DementiaUK :