Why does my husband, who has had Alzheimer’s for over three years, constantly accuse me of infidelity?

One of the most common types of delusions, false accusations of infidelity, are oftentimes seen in later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The affected person is feeling insecure and experiences great anxiety over things happening in his/her life that cannot be controlled, such as loss of memory, reasoning and judgment. When your husband starts with his accusatory comments, keep in mind you cannot offer rational explanations or challenge what is being said. Denying the infidelity, getting angry and/or continually arguing with him will only make the situation more stressful for both of you. Additionally, while his comments are piercing and hurtful to you, know that your husband’s delusions have nothing to do with the quality of your relationship; the disease is ravaging his brain cells.

Sometimes, the affected people’s pasts play a part in the accusations. The person with Alzheimer’s disease lives in an era of long ago, perhaps when he/she was first married, or going to college or working that first job. Accusations of infidelity can occur when a spouse has been previously married and divorced and there were unresolved issues after that break-up. These unresolved issues of the past are now part of the affected individual’s “present,” as he/she is reliving it in his/her long-term memory. This naturally compounds the problem with the current spouse.

It is difficult when a spouse is wrongly accused, but try to focus on your years together and the love you have shared. Evoke some humor during your husband’s outbursts, i.e., “sorry, you married me and I’m not leaving!” Be empathetic, assuring him that you know he is upset and telling him that you are there for him. Change the subject or move to another room. Redirect with a pleasurable activity or offer him some snacks.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.