My neighbor is in her 70’s and her husband is older and ill. She is under a good deal of stress with this situation but some of the neighbors step up to help with their needs as they arise. My concern is that she is becoming increasingly paranoid about everything to do with communications…
be it mail,
e-mail or phone calls. She is convinced that someone is out to get her identity
and is brought to tears over any document / communication that she feels has
been “compromised”. Her only daughter chooses not to be involved so I
find myself spending hours helping her and putting to rest whatever fear she
has at the moment. She is fine for a week or two, then something else triggers
her and she is even worse than before. She isn’t unable care for herself and her
husband, is quite sharp about most things, but these events of paranoia are
becoming more frequent and severe. Should I address this? Any ideas on how?
Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Dearie: This sounds complicated, seems like so many different things are going on. Is she paranoid because she’s caring for her husband?
Barbara: Maybe so. It’s possible the stress and of caregiving might be contributing to the paranoia. Sometimes emotions in stressful situations can show up in unrelated ways.
Dearie: Maybe she’s right. The senior center gives us warnings all the time about identity theft. We should be careful about answering the phone, we should be careful when opening our mail in front of other people, we should be careful about who sees our medical records and be careful not to lose our credit or Medicare cards. It’s so much to be worried about.
Barbara: Well, sad to say, older adults are often the target of bad people. They think it’s easy to take advantage of someone who is older.
Dearie: I wonder if this woman is hearing too much about this. I listen and do as much as I can. I try to be careful.
Barbara: I do think you are careful, I’ve watched you. Mama, what do you think, is the idea that all old people are easy targets, does that bother you, are you offended?
Dearie: Not really, but maybe just a little bit. It’s as if we’re all the same — we don’t use common sense, or we all have dementia and can’t understand, or we don’t have the physical ability to resist someone.
Barbara: I agree with you, many old people can fend for themselves and do know how to make good decisions. But there’s nothing wrong with making people aware of the risks because having your personal information stolen can have serious consequences. But this lady is worried to a point that is unrealistic – that’s what paranoia means. From what her neighbor and friend says, nothing has happened yet. There is a lot in this situation that we don’t know: why is the daughter not involved? How much care does her husband need? How much are the neighbors doing and do they want to continue? The neighbor asks a good question – is it his responsibility to raise the issue with her?
Dearie: You know, I always want neighbors to be kindly.
Barbara: Of course you do, and so do I, but sometimes it’s too much to ask of neighbors and sometimes expert help is needed. And I think that’s the situation here.