By in Family

Gaslighting and Alzheimer's


Gaslighting is considered to be very wrong and harmful. The term comes from a film called Gaslight, made in 1944. It is a psychological thriller starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, The story is about a young woman whose husband tries to manipulate her into believing that she is insane by making it seem that she is losing or stealing things and making things up. The title comes from the flickering of the gas lights in the house, which her husband tells her she is imagining.

Need to Gaslight

People with dementia may believe things that are demonstrably untrue or make statements about things that could not possibly have happened. My sister in law has dementia and believes that airplane pilots climb down ladders into her garden or call out to her. She has one pair of boots and these have worn out but she thinks she has another pair up in her own house that she could get some time (she does not). She does not get up until late in the day and takes hours to have breakfast and get ready which does not matter, unless she needs to go somewhere, when it is very difficult to get her out of the house on time.

Needed Boots

She really needed a new pair of boots, especially in the snow and ice we had a couple of days ago but she would be difficult to take to buy a new pair. A friend got a couple of pairs of boots from a charity shop (Goodwill) and brought them back but I knew she would not wear them if I told her the truth. So I put the boots in her suitcase and then got one of the pairs out and replaced her old boots with those. She queried it, because she didn't recognise the boots, so I told her I got them from her suitcase, which was true, though I did not tell her I put them there in the first place! She has happily worn them all day and they appear to fit her well.

Dealing With Dementia Can Be Difficult

Sometimes, you just have to be creative in helping someone.

Image Credit » adapted from

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AliCanary wrote on January 31, 2023, 9:15 PM

Oh, I can relate. My grandmother, who lived with us when I was a teenager, had dementia, and she would forever be accusing me of stealing her things, from magazines to underwear! She used to love to sit on the porch and wait for the mailman, but a couple of times she got up in the middle of the night and got dressed to go sit on the porch and wait. It was very surprising that she couldn't tell the difference between night and day. You are very patient and kind to help your sister-in-law.

MegL wrote on February 1, 2023, 2:46 PM

One granddaughter also lives with me and my sil has been accusing her of taking her underwear and boots, as well as rings! Though she seems to be improving greatly now that she is getting regular meals and bedtimes. I certainly hope she doesn't go out during the night. So far, she just gets up to visit the loo but when she first arrived, she wandered the house and my granddaughter took to putting boxes behind her door to stop her coming in!