I was reading a Facebook post about how a woman with dementia keeps accusing her husband of being with other women. Her daughter is very upset about this. She wrote how her 88-year-old father was never unfaithful and how hurt he is by these accusations.
However, do we really know what went on in our parents’ earlier life. He could have been unfaithful at some time, and they decided to stay together. Would they have told their children? Or it might have been a relationship before her marriage with someone else who cheated. It could have been her father who cheated on her mother. So much goes on behind closed doors in families that the children are not aware of. Unfortunately, unresolved issues or blocked emotions come to the forefront with dementia, and to a family, it seems fabricated.
I was hired to assess a woman with dementia who was making life miserable for her husband, always accusing him of cheating. He couldn’t go to the store without her going ballistic believing he was out sleeping with another woman. Turns out unbeknownst to the daughter in the far past her father had been cheating with her mother’s best friend. The affair stopped, they stayed together for the children but the issue was never resolved. Her mistrust of her husband remained buried until her emotional restraints eroded with dementia.
Another infidelity issue is when the person with dementia is in eldercare and the spouse finds another relationship. This usually happens more with men than women. I don’t judge this as no one really can know what it is like to lose a spouse to dementia especially when they no longer recognize their families. I knew of a man who used to visit his wife and bring his lady friend with him on the visits. He justified it by saying his wife didn’t recognize him anymore and she thought his girlfriend was another visitor.
In one of the facilities where I was doing resident workshops, Elaine had fallen in love with Arthur. Unfortunately, they were both still married but neither remembered. Elaine thought she was a teenager and Arthur was her first love. They would hold hands, sit together and seek each other out. The families of both were appalled and demanded the facility keep them apart. This was very stressful for both of them and Elaine used to tell me, her mother wouldn’t let her be with her boyfriend. In my opinion, they should have been able to continue together because there was no sexual activity involved and their being together made their living in a facility tolerable and kept them content. But emotionally the spouses and families wouldn’t tolerate it.
When a person no longer is aware they are married isn’t this another detachment from roles? Isn’t mother, father, daughter, spouse all roles that eventually fall away with dementia progression?
I’d love to hear opinions on how others have dealt with these issues.