The Problem with Dad’s Girlfriend

My 91-year-old (in a few weeks anyway – he says he is not 91 yet) has a girlfriend at his independent living place. This normally would be okay, as she is a lovely, educated person and provides companionship for my dad.

But she is not normal, and that is the problem. She has dementia, and that’s why I had an issue with Dad’s choice from the beginning. My mom had dementia and Dad covered for her for years before doctors and I caught up to it. Dad is oddly attracted to dementia patients and he doesn’t even mind occasional bizarre behavior associated with it. He can really pick ’em.

If you are one of the lucky ones who has never experienced this with a relative or friend, it is a progressive disease, and one that deteriorates functions in the brain and causes behavior “issues.”

“J”, Dad’s girlfriend, is currently like Disney’s Dory the fish, with short-term memory. The following example is not an exaggeration and actually happened to me not long ago. I had “J” and Dad over for dinner, and I hugged them both hello at the door and greeted them warmly. Not even 15 minutes later, “J” came up to me angry that I hadn’t hugged her and said hello yet. My children were with us and mentioned a few other instances that were a bit alarming. Every single day she cannot find her cell phone and accuses my dad of taking it and hiding it. Her outbursts of odd behavior are increasing too.

Dad is currently angry with me, and a bit depressed, because I had to put down the hammer on his late night visits with his girlfriend in his apartment. Dad is no longer allowed to bring her back there after dinner in the dining hall and she sure can’t find her way to his place on her own devices. It is an odd role reversal when you have to parent your parent and establish rules to protect them.

Dad was hospitalized for fluid in his lungs and a blood clot around Christmastime. He was released after three days back to his independent living place with some oral antibiotics and other medications. I hired caretakers to look after him.

The first week at home, we had some incidents where “J” hallucinated and reported it to people. The first instance, she told people in the place that Dad was locked in a closet with his IV and someone needed to help him. Note that Dad had no IV, no closet big enough to store him, and caretakers with him. She reported this to the front desk as well, and they were required to do a welfare check on Dad where they found him doing crossword puzzles and watching Jeopardy, as comfy as can be. His caretaker reported the event to me and I called the office, where they explained that they are required to do the welfare check even if someone mentally unstable tells them something bizarre.

That got my mind imagining what she could conjure up about my dad and possibly get him into trouble.  Physical aggression, molestation, or any number of crazy scenarios went through my mind as something she was capable of making up. I tried to get my dad as aggravated as I was over this false report, but he wasn’t buying it. Love clouds his common sense these days.

It wasn’t until the second incident later that same week that I made the edict on the no late night alone visits between the two of them.

Quite simply, “J” one day while Dad was recuperating and not eating in the dining hall, went around and told everyone that Dad had died. This caused a big ruckus in the dining hall as some women started crying and Dad’s friends were so very upset. When management got to the bottom of it, they found out “J” told them the untrue story. They had to go from person to person to explain it wasn’t true and only to believe a death occurs if management announces it.  One of the residents told Dad’s caretaker of the event and the caretaker reported it to me.

I then met with the manager, who agreed that it was unwise for Dad to be alone in his apartment, or even her apartment with her without supervision. Since the caretakers leave after the dinner hour, I had to make sure Dad and the staff there knew the new rule.

When I told Dad and both my children and I explained to him that it was for his own protection, he sulked and pouted. “Now I am depressed and lonely at night,” he said. I reminded him that he is welcome to spend breakfast, lunch, and dinner with her in the dining hall and at all the social events where other people are around.

I was against this relationship in the beginning due to her dementia, and now I have been a complete “I told you so” to my husband and children. It’s not that I don’t want Dad happy, but he is not living with us anymore and I need him safe. Sometimes I feel like my father is a petulant child, and it is just one of the things that are so difficult to navigate when the roles reverse and the daughter becomes the parent.


  • This is a tough one.

  • I feel your pain, Arlene! My grandmother, mother and aunt, all suffered with Alzheimer’s. I was the caregiver for both my aunt and mother. I had the same problem with a gentleman and my aunt at the nursing home. Not much you can do, other than alert the staff to your wishes and keep reinforcing the rules with your dad. Unfortunately, you can’t control “J”s behavior. I pray for patience for you, as you navigate this tough time!

  • My mom lived in Independent Living for 7 years. While she had many friends, including herself, that had some memory issues, there were no circulating people in her Independent Community that had dementia to the degree that your dad’s girlfriend displayed. I think you made a wise move in making sure your dad only sees her in public. I know that was difficult in the face of your dad’s anguish over your decision. But I agree that you did this to protect him. I just don’t understand why the administrators of this residence would allow people with this more advanced form of dementia, to be with others in Independent Living. Obviously it can be very detrimental to their general population.

    • In Texas, there is a marked difference between Independent Living and Assisted living, and of course, Nursing Homes. They are under no obligation to provide caretaking or insist that residents have them, however they did imply to me that when they feel it becomes unsafe for her to be there, and that may be soon, she will be evicted. If her own children keep ignoring the situation, they will have to find another place for her. We have tons of Assisted Care and Nursing Care places for dementia in Houston. They just won’t spend the money. So far, they feel she is just a nuisance and it is not unsafe. Yet, they did agree that Dad should not be alone with her.

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