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Homophobia in people with dementia

Discussion in 'LGBT people with dementia and carers' started by slurc, Sep 1, 2010.

  1. slurc

    slurc Registered User

    Sep 1, 2010
    Since being diagnosed with Alzheimers my father has become more and more homophobic. I first became aware of this about 18 months ago when on a visit home we bumped into a distance male relative in his 30s who regards my father as a surrogate parent. Having not seen my father for a while he greeted him with a hug and a kiss which sent my father into a violent rage. Since then there have been other incidents.

    The reason that my father's attitude is such a problem is that my teenage son is gay and I am afraid that he will turn on him. Normally my son is very open about his sexuality, but has chosen not to tell either of his grandparents. My son was hurt when my father pulled away when he kissed him recently and shown enormous restraint when something on tv for example has sent my father into one of his anti-gay rants. However I am afraid that there is going to be a horrible upset soon and I am worried. Has anyone else been in this situation? Can anyone advise me please?

  2. Onlyme

    Onlyme Registered User

    Apr 5, 2010
    I am not gay but I have seen how Mum behaves to others.

    I have found that Alzheimer's strips away any social restaints so deep buried prejudices come to the surface. People who are now in their 80's were brought up in very different times and being 'gay' meant breaking the law then. Racial, homophobic, antisemitic, unmarried mothers were all critised were as we would horrifed to hear them these days.

    I go to see Mum and she will give me some or all of these type of comments and I feel ashamed of her but have to accept that she is just voicing comments that were all around her when she was a child.

    It must be so difficult for your son to live with the time bomb. Is your father likely to suspect that one of his family might not comply to his oldfashioned idea of 'normal'.

    Best wishes to your son.
  3. miss cool

    miss cool Registered User

    Jul 20, 2010
    Hi just read your thread, i am so sorry about your son having that reaction , but no is the anser from me i love everyone regardless of coler , religen, sexuality, it makes no difforence to me, the person is the most inportent. but going back to your questune, no not all people with AD and VD are against people for what ever reason. hope this helps.

    love Miss Cool. xxxxxxxx
  4. Sandy

    Sandy Registered User

    Mar 23, 2005
    Hi slurc,

    Welcome to Talking Point (TP).

    Lemony has given you some very good advice.

    One aspect of dementia is that some people will lose their social inhibitions and this can cause them to voice thoughts that might never have been heard before.

    This link is worth reading as one example:

    Many family members have to learn-as-they-go about dementia and how it affects their loved one and develop their own coping strategies. This can include holding back information that they would have previously shared. This could relate to the death of another family members (in the present or even from many years ago) or some other financial or health matter.

    Most people feel rotten about having to adopt these deceptive techniques, but they learn through trial and error and can see the effects of 'too much information'.

    It may be hard for your son and other members of the family to accept, but this is your father's illness talking and not the person he used to be.

    Some people with dementia also lose insight into how their behaviour affects other people. So if your father upsets your son, it could all be part and parcel of the changes that Alzheimer's has inflicted on his brain.

    If it helps, see if your son can look at it this way: 50 years ago, homosexual people were stigmatised and vilified for their 'choices'. People with dementia have also been the victims of stigma and lack of understanding of their behaviour.

    Take care,
  5. Clive

    Clive Registered User

    Nov 7, 2004
    #5 Clive, Sep 1, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2010
    My mum grew up in the 1920s and was all for women being liberated. However she had been brought up by her parents, church and Guides to understand that a woman’s duty was to marry and stay at home bringing up the next generation.

    As her AD took hold she would constantly tell all her young female relations and neighbours that she could not understand how they could live with a man without getting wed ( or even not be looking for a man to marry). She would tell them in no uncertain terms that they should marry and those with children should not be out working when the children needed mum at home.

    Mum would lecture on how wrong it was to leave children with strangers, and how husbands needed a wife at home to look after them etc. Often people would take offence and tell her she was wrong and past it and should not be interfering in their lives… and worse.

    Now, with hindsight, I realise that the AD had effected mums brain in such a way that she was completely unable to remember any of the new social ideas that had entered her head from about 1940, though she could still manage to do her shopping and ask the routine questions like “is it going to rain today”, and “how’s your kids”.

    The result of this was that even her close family did not allow for the fact she was profoundly disabled (mentally with AD). Looking back I now find it quite ironical that those people who treated mum badly because of the results of her illness, could become so upset when she expressed a point of view that was mainstream when she was young, and was still very real to mum in the Alzheimer’s disease enforced 1920 to 1940 World she was now forced to exist in. As Sandy put it "People with dementia [are also] the victims of stigma and lack of understanding of their behaviour."

    I hope my experience can be of help in finding a way through your concern.



    In previous posts I have expressed the opinion that I am just a simple male, and readers will understand that I am not at ease with the modern urban way of life (spend spend spend holiday holiday holiday etc).

    Being a child of the 1940s the thought of anyone (male of female) greeting me with a hug and kiss (especially in public) is quite abhorrent. While this form of greeting may be welcome by the urban children of the 60s I find it takes willpower not to bat the person away. This is nothing to do with homophobia but simple because I do not like my personal space invading and much prefer the handshake with which I was brought up. Goodness knows what people will think of me if I am ever unfortunate enough to suffer from dementia.
  6. Helen33

    Helen33 Registered User

    Jul 20, 2008

    There could be many reasons for this behaviour and I suppose it is going to be very difficult to understand just where it originates!! I think that managing it rather than understanding it would be worth considering. This would mean asking males in particular not to hug, kiss or attempt to touch your husband. One possibility is that your husband may have been inappropriately approached in his earlier life and he might be remembering this now.

    My father was homophobic but he also would not have appreciated being hugged and kissed by males. He would have preferred a handshake as was the custom in his life.

  7. janice1

    janice1 Registered User

    Sep 22, 2009
    up north

    Hi my mum is now so openly racsist towards black people. She says dreadful things about people when they are in earshot. Prior to her illness she got along with everyone. We have had a few embarrasing moments. We know that it is part of her dementia, but all the same she puts herself at risk when she insults people.
  8. Onlyme

    Onlyme Registered User

    Apr 5, 2010
    Unfortunately a majority of staff in carer homes come from overseas. A large proportion of Mum's NH staff is of African origin which Mum hates. She really calls them some dreadful names and talks down to them. She is living in 1920/30 as was Clive's Mum and that is a pre-Windrush Britain then and a lot less tolerant.

    I agree about the hand-shake/hug issue as I am still not happy to hug people myself. I end up leaning away from them as they get in my space but that is something from my childhood.
  9. miss cool

    miss cool Registered User

    Jul 20, 2010
    HI well as for me i hug every one but i do know when someone dosent like it, but my illness maybe intorfering with my sences so i hug you enyway...

    love miss cool..
  10. TinaT

    TinaT Registered User

    Sep 27, 2006
    A girl after my own heart Miss Cool!

    I'm afraid the generation your father is whether they have dementia or not, often have the prejudices and attitudes of their generation. I hate the way my mother talks about my husband's dementia and do tell her but it makes no difference. She treats dementia as 'madness' and nothing will change that attitude, no matter how I try.

    I wonder has your son spoken to any older gay men? I'm sure they could give him chapter and verse on how it was not so very long ago. We are not going to be able to moderate the prejudices of a lifetime. I'm only thankful that your son has a better and brighter future than many men of a previous generation had.

    I've had to accept that my mother has old fashioned views which I cannot change and she doesn't have dementia to deal with, just an old fashioned ingrained at birth prejudice.

  11. slurc

    slurc Registered User

    Sep 1, 2010
    Thank-you to everyone for your useful replies. I have thought myself that Dad's attitude to being touched may be connected to some incident in the past especially as he was away at sea for many years from a young age. This might also explain the dislike of being embraced by males which is very out of character. Normally we are a very touchy feely lot and in many ways my father has become more so since being ill. (He now tells us how much he loves us on a regular basis. I am showing all the replies to my son which will help him cope with the changes in his much loved grandad.
  12. sunray

    sunray Registered User

    Sep 21, 2008
    East Coast of Australia
    lack of social sensitivity

    My husband has also expressed anti-gay sentiments. He was always socially sensitive and worked with many gay people in the nursing profession (he worked at a mental hospital) and always got on well with everyone.

    Now he is quite different. I think when the dementia takes over and short term memory problems appear a lot of newly learned behaviour disappears. The "old-fashioned" social norms, as stored from many years ago, overcome the newly learned behaviours and the "old knowledge" is what they are acting on now.

    If he starts making insensitive remarks in public I firstly try to distract him and secondly wheel him away from the situation. Our friends must think his frequent trips to the toilet are excessive but taking him to the toilet is one of my favourite excuses for removing him from a situation he is obviously not coping with.

    It is hard for young people to realise taht in dealing with a family member with dementia the changes will not necessarily be easy to deal with and the mental processes are so effected that a loved one may now be criticised in a manner that would once have been held in check by a sense of appropriateness and an awareness of social niceties.

  13. robertjohnmills

    robertjohnmills Registered User

    #13 robertjohnmills, Sep 2, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
    Accusations of homophobia by Gay man

    Dear Slurc

    I understand your position and as a Gay man with a Gay Partner with Dementia, we often suffer with a similar but reverse situation, insofar that my Partner accuses all and sundry of being homophobic. From Carers and relatives to people in the street or on the bus. And he does so very loudly and in a very ranting manner.

    It is embarassing and hurtful to those around, who often show the greatest compassion and have not a homophobic bone in their body!
    But there is nothing you can do :( Sadly the disordered thought of the mind with Dementia loses control.

    I think I would be inclined to take your son to one side and try to help him understand the Grandad is not anti him or homophobic. It is a condition where rationality is lost and in the midst of the fog that he finds himself, he looks to find security in discrimination. A very basic instinct, that we all suffer from.

    I find it helpful to examine my own bigotries and wonder what I would come out with if I had no inhibition.

    All the best,
  14. miss cool

    miss cool Registered User

    Jul 20, 2010
    HI i would just like to say . from a small child to this day i have never beem against eny person for resones of couler, religen, or way of life, i have AD and VD now , but i have no predudise in me. and i hope it stays that way.
    just felt i had to say that.

    love miss cool. xxxxxx
  15. Stitch

    Stitch Registered User

    Mar 24, 2011
    West London
    The total opposite!!

    My partner throughout his life has pretty much been a complete masoginist (and somewhat recist) except for a few rare women who he loved to bits. Now in a care home he is cared for exclusively by women and has developed a lovely relationship with them all whatever their ethnic background. It is a total relief to me to see him so chilled in this environment.:)
  16. Amy

    Amy Registered User

    Jan 4, 2006
    Thats good...pleased he is happy.
  17. Meldrew

    Meldrew Registered User

    Apr 28, 2003
    That is good to know Stitch. Perhaps his misogyny and racism were not as deep seated as others were led to believe. Sometimes, as dementia develops, we discover all sorts of things about those we know, or thought we know, well. Not always a nice surprise but in the case of your partner of many years the relief must have taken some weight off of you. Hope he continues to remain chilled.
  18. rosaliesal

    rosaliesal Registered User

    Nov 15, 2009
    Love all people

    Homosexuals and lesbians are just titles. Everyone is just a person, a real living person with a heart, feelings and worries. There is no difference that matters. It is good to hear of the happiness found because he realizes the carers also have a heart like him.:)
  19. Vanilla

    Vanilla Registered User

    May 28, 2011
    Underlying attitudes revealed

    I had a similar experience with my dad aged 80 when he developed dementia and he had forgotten that I was gay. he asked me one day it I was 'one of those queers' and why i did not get married!
    A difficult situation - you cannot row with someone with advanced dementia, there could not be a good outcome. I just said that "I was very happy as I was and had a good life". He looked distracted and then asked for a cup of tea. It was never mentioned again and he died within 3 months.
    Whether he remembered I was gay or not he always seemed glad to see me. Interestingly my two straight brothers who he doted on were so scared by his illness that I would arrive at his bedside and see them just talking to each other and ignoring him. I would then wash Dad's face and hands, put cream on the dry skin, comb his hair and share the cake I had brought him. ironic really when he doted on my brothers and said that I was always a big disappointment to him. Ho hum, if you are gay you've got to be tough to have a good life.
  20. jamieander

    jamieander Registered User

    Feb 9, 2012
    This sounds so similar Vanilla - my father is 83, and has AD & VD. He is so, so homophobic, and has known that I am gay for 11 years - it's one of those things that is not mentioned. Recently he has started asking about girlfriends etc. again (like he would do 10-15 years ago) which makes for awkward times. He gets very aggressive when we talk about gay people, so we just keep it quiet.

    There's no point upsetting him further, as you will probably have to repeat the same story a week later... better to just tread carefully I guess!
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