My grandmother is 84 and in the early stages of dementia. Sometimes she becomes upset with my father for seemingly no reason, accusing him of trying to "get rid of her" or calling him a "lazy good-for-nothing" (neither of which are true). Is this a common symptom of dementia, and how should we respond when she does this? She also has a history of abusing Klonopin by taking far more than what is prescribed to her. Could her paranoia be caused by that?

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Yes, this is a common symptom of dementia. People with dementia can become irritable and agitated very quickly, and it’s exacerbated, in this case, by the fact that she probably knows she’s struggling with her memory and it makes her mad. Knowing Klonopin, I feel like it would just make her tired and numb, but I suppose it could be that. Unfortunately (as long as it’s not the Klonopin, check with a doctor) you have to just grin and bear it when she talks like that. She will probably stop talking like this at some point soon. Remember not to fight back or argue, just separate yourself and let her calm down.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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