Our expert says:
Yes, you do need to arrange for her to see a psychiatrist for a proper assessment to decide what's going wrong. This sort of paranoid and confused thinking can be part of dementia, and there are some specifically paranoid types of disorder associated with old age.
Treatment can help significantly, including medication, some of which can have dramatic benefits, though some may increase the risk of heart attacks or stroke - its a dicey ethical choice, but for many of us we would ourselves choose to run such risks to be more normal and content in even a shorter late life, than to live longer in a terrified and confused state.
One needs to be re-assuring rather than challenging, but this is far from easy. This can be discussed with the psychiatrist.
As you so eloquently describe, if she was always a shy person with difficulty trusting others, this background may have made it easier to develop this more exaggerated form of those traits at this stage of life.
Havin someone like you accessable, who she has known for a long time, and may trust more than anyone else, will be very helpful, too.
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