My mother passed away almost two years ago. Soon after, I noticed my now 87-year-old dad had some cognitive problems, eventually diagnosed as vascular dementia. I have since taken away his car and he has moved to a senior facility that includes a great deal of connection and activities for high-functioning people with dementia. I have a cousin on my mother's side, a nurse, 20 years younger than dad, who has visited a few times, taken him to movies and talked endlessly with him. He has asked her to marry him many times, become quite obsessed, and seems to not understand why she won't marry him (he has told her of his substantial financial reserves, hoping to sway her with that). He has been calling me several times a day, asking how he can make her accept. And when I tell him it isn't going to happen, he says then if not her, he wants to marry someone. He says I should find him someone (not one of the old ladies living in his facility). He has expressed an interest in dancing and I have found there is dancing at a local senior center.
But should I pursue this. I don't believe that he can be well-served by getting married, nor would I trust someone who wants to marry him (without knowing her much better). Yes, I know I sound like I am trying to protect my inheritance. (I have control of his money, anyway).
But this obsession (either with my cousin or marrying someone else) doesn't seem likely to go away. I appreciate any thoughts you may have.
I assume that your Dad has moderate stage of vascular dementia. That means he really cannot marry due to incompetence. This happened to my late FIL who had moderate to severe Alzheimer's over 7 years. He wanted to find a wife big time. His late wife died in 2004. Right after that, he got a lady friend who was a long-term friend and was a widow and lost her husband too. They saw each other and jogged and ate together. They really tried but he refused to let her manage the money (she said he was sick with Alzheimer's.) Then he forgot about it and kept thinking she would marry him but she wouldn't as he got sicker. Starting 2007/2008, he got serious with home care nurse and one of the youngest caregivers. Any lady who was available, married or not, he pursued. The ladies just kept saying no and distracted him. We fired that youngest caregiver who didn't know how to stop this thing.
I personally think you should not try to fix him any real date. But you can bring him companions or bring him to join the groups in the home so he can forget about the specific lady. When my late FIL moved to the nursing home in 2010, he still pursued ladies but there were too many ladies at work, so he never proposed to any specific one again. The key is he forgot about the ladies back home except one.
I would suggest that the cousin stops seeing him since he really gets serious about it. Or she can try to keep a distance (reducing the times of visits or seeing the movies.) Try to bring in more friends, male or female, so he is occupied with activities.
The thing is you cannot ask ladies to play love game with your Dad. So distract him and help him join some groups and keep himself busy. Don't tell him he cannot get no date. Just let him see friends and perhaps he would be happy enough to see many friends.
I also personally feel that some ladies do become too close for being sympathetic but it doesn't help if he misunderstands the intention. The person with dementia is confused and he thinks the lady wants to do what he wants. So the ladies should keep a distance but be friendly. The time your Dad's cousin spent with your Dad could make him feel that she wanted him. But it was not so. She was just being sympathetic and a family.
Sometimes the resident may find another resident for romance, but it may not happen. In this case, it depends on the situation. Rarely it really reaches the point of marriage due to their disease dementia.
What a dilema for you, taking care of aging parents and the health issues that face them I lost my mom years ago and my 83 year old father decided to marry his 85 year old friend and former neighbor. Fortunately his mind is good, but even with that said, as their children we feel we should be protecting them from heartache or financial ruin. Eventually they decided not to marry since she would lose her pension, and there wouldn't be any inheritance issues with her children or my siblings when one of them should pass on.
When you mentioned he had substantial financial reserves, I was going to volunteer to marry him, then read the part where you control the money....maybe not such a great idea after all!!!! Just kidding, I hope you find a good solution because I wouldn't have a clue on how to handle that tough issue. Your father is a lucky man to have you looking after his best interests and its obvious how much you love him. That's really what its all about, showing our love while we still can. Good luck in your journey.
SonofVasc... your Dad has been diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. Perhaps high functioning but also impaired. One of the hallmark symptoms of Vascular Dementia are delusions, obsessions, and inability to think logically. Your Dad likes being married so that is what he thinks is going to make his life better. He likes the 20 year younger ladies because that is probably how he sees himself. You have to remember that what they want may not be what they need and every obsession is a phase that will pass. It is very much Dad's wishes being spoken through the disease. As impractical as it may be to you, it makes sense to him.
Having said that, you need to let him have a little hope while not facilitating what he wants... and please don't tell him never! There is a happy place between crushing his dreams and making it a reality. I have sat and talked to more than one resident in Mom's facility regarding their upcoming weddings. One lady ask me to be her Maid of Honor. We talked about my dress, her dress, the plans for the day. She finished by saying "Now I just need to find somebody to marry!" She went away happy having been heard... looking for some body to marry Another gentleman "courted" every able bodied lady in the facility. He proposed marriage to sever. A few even said yes. They walked around, holding hands, planning their future... until something happened and he was off to the next lady! You have to remember that they live in a different real of reality from that which we live in. Time has no meaning. Ten minutes may seem like years or years might seem like a day. Their ability to remember what happened yesterday is fuzzy at best and they have no concept of tomorrow. They just have this moment they are in. Looking for love is a basic human need. So if they want to get married today... how about saying "that's great Dad but you have to wait for ..(whatever).." I am a firm believer in validating how they feel in the moment, giving them some hope to hang on to, and defer and distract.
Beyond that, I truly don't think that the facility would let Dad get married without you being informed. I am sure they are aware of his courting. Again, having hope is different from getting married.
Thank you all for your informed replies. It is good to know that this has happened before and places like my dad's are used to it. This evening, at both of their requests, my dad and my cousin were on the phone with me in the room with dad. He read her poetry, said I love you in many ways, kept finding logical responses to her attempts to gently reject his proposals. I think she is being overly gentle, afraid to hurt his feelings, but it is amazing how obsessed, driven, and analytical in finding a smidgen of hope in every response. The two hour call ended with no firm resolution. My dad still has hope, but I figure it is between the two of them. I just get to listen to him obsess about it (as I might have done (no 'might' about it) as a lovelorn teenager). I guess I just have to live with it and sooner or later a new obsession will appear.
Exactly SonofVasc. Bless your cousin for being gentle with him. Your Dad is gaining pleasure in the moment by maintaining that hope. That is a lot of what this disease is about... joy in the moment.... without jeopardizing health and safety. One thing I did learn, especially with Vascular Dementia, they lose much but not their intelligence. The memory is impaired, the ability to use good judgement and logic within the realms of reality is impaired, but what they come up with sometimes is brilliant. It is warped to their reality but none the less brilliant! Dad doesn't need a firm resolution. Hope for him is enough! Hope it continues to make Dad smile because if Dad is happy, everybody is happy
The demented person will never accept the answer no. So the key is distraction. The cousin can play along if she wants to but sometimes some ladies don't want to so it is up to them. However, in our case, my late FIL was so serious about it that we had to do something to separate them.
He or we never said "NO" to his fictions of romance, but sometimes it bothered us so much. The other thing is when it comes to sexual harassment sometimes the lady wondered why? If you are too close, don't blame him for touching you!
To me, the hope does not lie with the one specific person and it is wrong. The hope lies with the social groups with the possibility that he may find one, but he doesn't need to fix on just one particular lady.
Usually it is the fact that it bothers "US" more than it does "THEM". We still have the ability to follow social norms. They have lost that ability. Yes, you do need to watch out for what we consider sexual harassment, but it is our job to distract and divert without reprimanding or crushing their hopes. Sometimes it is necessary to separate the focus of their affection if it goes too far. Yet, there are rare cases that it goes that far. In all my experience I have only seen one case where it crossed the boundaries. This particular individual was young (early 60's) and had just lost his wife. He saw his wife in every female face he saw and did not remember that his wife had died. He was not looking for love but to take his wife to bed In another case, the couple status made them both happy. All they did was hold hands and smile at each other. One family decided it was inappropriate and moved their loved one. Both grieved for the lost love and become very unhappy people. So it's on a case by case basis. We have to keep watch and look at the situation through their eyes... then make decision based on what is good for them.
It is not about us. It is about the hired help. We could not spend time helping him all the time to get this "love affair" right. We needed to take care of the ladies if things go wrong. The ladies were all married or had boyfriends.
Yes everyone has different boundary. From my personal experience, I don't like playing lover's game that consists of cheating or misleading.
a little flirting is fine.
In the demented world it is different but I just cannot play with the rules of playing fake.
However, if it is really a true romance, I have nothing against it.
It's not fake to the patient with dementia. Their feelings are real and valid... no matter how far out of our real of reality. It is about their feelings and not about how we feel about it or about how the hired help feels about it. It is about the person with dementia and how they feel about it. It may not fit into our idea of social norms.
Dementia patients may not remember that they are married. They may have no clue that the person they are looking at is not their wife. They may not comprehend that what they are doing is considered cheating. They are in a world that is not our world.. and only looking for love. This is a basic human need that we all look for. They just don't have the ability to follow our social rules.
It's not playing games to those with dementia. We have to respect their feelings and needs... as I said within the realms of safety and health... and not try to impose our feelings and needs on them. Validating their feelings, giving them hope, and then distracting when necessary is not playing fake. It is understanding that they live in a world that is unlike ours, accepting their world as their world, and trying to guide them in their world rather than trying to drag them back into our world. They do not exist in our world and trying to drag them back to our world will only create more confusion for them.
Sometimes we need to preserve their dignity. e.g., the lady he picked was totally out of his thing. Certainly he didn't know it and he had changed. But we need to make sure the ladies he pursued were not too far off. Sometimes the caregiver may want to take his money and cheat on him for getting some profit. So we also need to watch out for their motives. You certainly want to make sure the boundary is within the dignity as well. This is not "fake" to him, but in reality it doesn't work because romance is a 2-way street. Lots of his lady friends disappeared for not wanting to deal with this embarrassment.