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by Abigail Van Buren

Sudden Paranoia Could Be Sign of Dementia

DEAR ABBY: I was happily married to the same woman for 51 years. "Jane" was married 42 years to the same man. We were both widowed. We hooked up and were enjoying our time together, but after about three years it all changed.

Do you believe in split personalities, the Jekyll and Hyde thing? Jane started falsely accusing me of having affairs with other women. The last two women she accused me of being involved with I don't even know. The accusations have been coming more frequently. One day she's fine; the next day she is accusing me.

Jane doesn't like vulgar language, and normally she doesn't use it. But when she's accusing me of communicating with these women, she uses words that would make a sailor blush! A researcher's first guess was the early stages of Alzheimer's. I know she is paranoid, but why? -- HATES THE CHANGE IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR HATES: A personality change such as you have described can be a symptom of Alzheimer's disease, but it can also be caused by small strokes and other dementias. Jane's paranoia could also be a symptom of a physical illness. If she has family, it is very important that you inform them about what's happening so they -- and you -- can encourage her to be evaluated physically and neurologically. If you do, it might save not only her life but also your sanity.

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