Romance in the Alzheimer's Home

KarenC

Registered User
Jun 2, 2005
122
Los Angeles, USA
Greetings all! I've been looking at this forum for a few days and just joined up.

For several years my father has been in a nursing home, mainly for physical debility. In the mean time, my mother's mind has deteriorated severely. For a while she was in an assisted living place, until her dementia got to the point (with aggression and other difficult behaviors) that they could not take care of her. We have now (as of March) moved her to an Alzheimer's home that specializes in dementia patients. So far we've been favorably impressed.

Over the past few years, my parents have seen each other only when we visit, about every 2 weeks. While I think it is difficult/sad for them to see each other deteriorate, and they have therefore not really wanted to see each other except when my husband and I are there, my father at least is still quite attached to my mother.

About a week ago my mother announced that she was "finding love again." Seems there is a male resident in the Alzheimer's home that she has "fallen in love with."

My first reaction was mild shock. My next reaction was -- well, I guess that's fine but I'm worried she'll say something about it to my dad and really hurt him. Then we talked to the social worker at the Alzheimer's home. Seems it is pretty serious. My mom and this gentleman have been kissing, talking about having sex, wanting to go to a room alone together, etc. The gentleman is a little lower functioning than my mom, and the social worker said he is definitely interested in my mom but less able to form attachments. The social worker pointed out the other pitfalls besides this possibly leaking out to my dad (through my mom's mouth). E.g., it's not good for my mom to get exclusively attached to one person (who could die soon); the man is less able than her to form an exclusive attachment; he has a wife; etc.

The social worker advised me to be neutral when my mom talks about it. I'm finding it very awkward to hear her enthuse about her "lover" and how great this all is.

Anyone else had a similar situation?

Thanks for listening. :)

Karen
 

Brucie

Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
12,413
near London
Hi Karen

Welcome to TP!

Wow, this is a difficult one, isn't it?

Dementia hits different parts of the brain in different people, and of course the brain controls most everything we do.

I guess we need to remember that someone with dementia feels they are living pretty much a normal life, and that it is the world about them that is changing. They often seem not to realise the limitations that the disease is imposing on them.

One of the key things we all need is companionship and often the first thing that happens when someone goes to a home is that the other residents try and take them under their [damaged] wings. The person themselves feels isolated and will attach themselves to anyone who offers a kind word or gesture.

In my wife's home, that generally means they hold hands and walk about a lot, as they are mostly well past doing anything else.

It may be that your Mom is effectively role playing - she remembers what it is like to be in a new relationship, and is going through the motions, as it were. It might be that this is all she would do - talk about it. Clearly the home needs to be aware of the situation and to ensure that she and the man are both safe, and not able to go off together.

Your Dad also needs to be protected. It is bad enough to lose one's own health. To then lose one's wife to dementia is a whole additional emotional problem. On top of that to believe she has gone and found someone else - even in her condition - would be awful.He will be concerned for her and this may affect his own situation.

Looks like you have a difficult balancing act here.

Best wishes and good luck!
 

KarenC

Registered User
Jun 2, 2005
122
Los Angeles, USA
Waiting to See

Thanks, Bruce, for your words of welcome and thoughts on the situation.

The home is well aware of the situation, and the staff are trying to do "interventions" with the gentleman as well as with my mother. I'm not sure exactly what this means, but this place seems to emphasize distracting and redirecting people when they get upset or in situations like this.

The social worker told me that she had tried talking to my mom about my dad (to kind of gently remind her of her husband), and my mom said he was dead.

My husband and I are planning to *not* get my parents together at least for the next few weeks. E.g., Saturday we will visit each of them separately, but not take Mom over to the nursing home where Dad lives. She is so bubbly right now about her "lover" that we are afraid something would bubble out that my dad would pick up on and be hurt by. As you say, that would be devastating for him. It is sad enough for him to see her mind deteriorate, but to feel rejected/replaced in her affections would, I suspect, throw him into a major depression. (There is some history here of hurt feelings as things got very rough for my parents the last few years they were living together, more or less independently, while my dad's physical health deteriorated and he got very depressed and difficult to be around.)

For now we are kind of waiting to see if the excitement of this infatuation wears off, or what direction things take.

Karen
 

Brucie

Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
12,413
near London
An intervention is most often the best way to intercept problems, but that relies upon staff watching at all times for something to happen..... not really practical, but what else is there?

Good idea to let things settle a bit before they are together again.

By any chance does this man bear any resemblance to your Dad? [yes I know that old men and babies all look pretty much the same... ;) ]
 

Norman

Registered User
Oct 9, 2003
4,348
Birmingham Hades
Hi Karen c
as Bruce says people do form attachments in homes,they are useually looking for companionship and to belong.
My Mother was in a care home, as they were then, and she had a boy friend,she was 89 at the time.
I think there were one or two romances in that home.
I am sure your best plan is to keep Mom and Dad apart for a while and hope the "romance" dies down,old people can be very fickle!!
Good luck
Norman
 

KarenC

Registered User
Jun 2, 2005
122
Los Angeles, USA
Brucie said:
By any chance does this man bear any resemblance to your Dad?
I don't know. I don't know who he is; my mom's announcement of "finding love again" first came out about a week ago. When we've visited her there previously we noticed there was a particular man she seemed to like to go up and talk to, so I'm guessing it is he, but it may not be. My mom's mind and communication abilities are not up to describing someone much, I don't think. Maybe more to the point, I'm feeling too awkward about this (and unwilling to encourage the romance) to ask her about him.

We may be introduced to the gentleman when we visit this Saturday. I've some trepidations about that ...

Karen
 

KarenC

Registered User
Jun 2, 2005
122
Los Angeles, USA
Visit Went OK

Yesterday we visited my dad at his nursing home then my mom at her Alzheimer's home, as planned, and think we did the right thing in not taking Mom to see Dad at this point.

I'm still not *sure* I know who the gentleman is, but (after we had had lunch with Mom in a private dining room and were walking her back to her room) she did go up to the same man we've seen her go up to before, talked to him, patted him on the back, etc., I wasn't feeling brave enough to ask "Is that your special friend?" immediately thereafter. This gentleman does not look much like my father; can't get much of a reading as to what is left of his personality in the very short interchanges we've had with him. (Mom introduces us as her daughter and son-in-law and we all say "hello" and "how do you do" several times.)

During lunch she did bring up the subject of her fondness for this man several times, although it was not the only thing she would talk about. She still has enough social awareness to kind of bring it out by degrees. She started out with fairly neutral comments like "There's this man of my acquaintance" before she worked up to "I plan to marry him." :eek:

This was the first time my husband had gotten any of this first hand, as opposed to hearing from me and the social worker what we've seen or what Mom has said to us. Afterwards we both agreed that we were glad we did not get my parents together; it just seems too likely that she would start talking to my dad about this man, and even if we jumped in and reframed it as "this is a friend Mom has found" my dad is perceptive enough to pick up on something if she keeps bringing it up.

So we're still in the wait-and-see what develops mode....

Karen
 

Sheila

Registered User
Oct 23, 2003
2,259
West Sussex
Dear Karen, I certainly don't envy you this one! Only thing is, as her memory fualters, so might the attachment. What is a real biggie to them this month can be completely faded next. As she gets involved with different things, hopefully she will lose her fondness for him. With my Mum, even the loss of something like her door key, completely over rode her wanting to go off to work on her bike etc. Love She. XX
 

Canadian Joanne

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 8, 2005
16,437
66
Toronto, Canada
Romance

Karen, I think Sheila is right. This will probably wear off after a while. The problem is that the while may be months.

Does your mother talk about your father at all? Does she have pictures of him in her room? She thinks he's dead - probably because with her damaged memory, she feels she hasn't seen him in years, so he must be dead. She obviously had a good marriage, because she wants to do it again. The staff will keep an eye on them, but if it's no more than handholding, why interrupt that? If it makes your mother happy at this point, that's a good thing.

The big thing to worry about is your father's feelings. Does your mother discuss this man when she's been away from the home for a bit? Try taking her for a drive for an hour or so before visiting your father. That may allow her to forget the new loverboy. The only blessing with dementia is that they can so quickly forget!

Keep us posted.
 

KarenC

Registered User
Jun 2, 2005
122
Los Angeles, USA
Mom sometimes remembers that Dad is alive, sometimes not. When she first moved to this home she was feeling very alone and depressed, and that happened to coincide with the death of Pope John Paul II, so there was lots of talk about someone dying. When we talked to her at that time, she was tearful and said that my father was dying or that he was dead.

Now for the most part I think she remembers he is alive. Saturday when we visited, we told her we'd just been to see him, and in reply she asked how he was. But you're quite right, Joanne, that from Mom's perspective it is much as though he were dead; he certainly is not a real presence in her life anymore, since she's been with him only a few hours every couple of weeks for the past few years.

She does have a picture (their 40th anniversary picture) of him in her room. Saturday we took a photo album with pictures from 20-30 years ago to kind of remind her about him. She mostly focussed on the pictures of my husband and me; I'm not sure how much any of it registered.

She seldom brings my dad up in conversation of her own accord. But away from the home she still remembers her new friend. In fact, the first I heard of it was when I took her to a doctor appointment and we had a very long wait, and I think it first came up when we'd been waiting about an hour to see the doctor. So just getting her away from her Alzheimer's home isn't enough for now to lead her to forget about this exciting development in her life. :eek:

Karen