The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a housewife in my 50s. My mother, who is in her 80s and lives with me, has been falsely accused of theft by a friend with dementia. This has been a shocking ordeal for her.
It all started a year ago when the woman accused my mother of stealing her house key, stationery and photos. As the woman lives alone, I contacted her relative who lives far away. The relative told me the woman suffers from dementia and apologized on her behalf.
However, the relative rarely visits her. A social worker in my community is aware of her condition but only said, “We can’t do anything because her relative takes no action.”
My mother broke off her friendship with that woman. A year later, while my mother was little by little recovering from the shock caused by the accusation, the woman spread a rumor that my mother stole money from her safe. This time, my mother was distressed to the point of madness.
The woman’s dementia may be responsible for these incidents, but my mother is also struggling. My family and I can only tell her to not worry, but we’re all very frustrated. We’re not sure if we can cope if this happens again.
My mother has lived honestly. I resent that she’s been slandered as a thief in these final years of her life. Please tell us what we should do.
T, Fukuoka Prefecture
Dear Ms. T:
These days, we’re encouraged to maintain a society where those with dementia can coexist with others. But as your letter illustrates, this is often easier said than done.
Though your mother’s an experienced person in her 80s, it’s natural for her to be upset when she’s accused of theft, even though the accuser suffers from dementia, and when neighbors believe the charges. It’s understandable that you are affected by your mother’s anger and sadness, and want to find a way to fix the situation.
However, simply informing the woman’s relative if a similar incident occurs would be futile. You’d be better off contacting and seeking advice from someone at a public institution. You can ask the relative about who to approach, or if she receives services through the nursing care insurance system, you can talk to her care manager. If she receives regular care at a medical institution, you should consult with her doctor there.
It is said that people with dementia who believe they’ve been robbed often accuse people they trust. The woman likely used to rely on your mother. Please encourage your mother by reminding her that, as someone of sound mind, she should tolerate those who are less mentally capable.
Keiko Higuchi, critic