Dear Family Advisor

My dad's the care home Casanova!

Last updated:

March 30, 2010

It sounds funny, but it's not. My dad was kicked out of a nearby care home after just four months. Apparently, he'd been having sex with just about every female in the place (including a worker who got fired) -- one lady fell out of bed with dad and broke her hip! He has mid-stage dementia and other health problems.

We've moved him to a different care facility, but he's at it again. I've already been called in. (How embarrassing!) The only way to calm him down is with drugs that turn him to mush.

This isn't the dad I know and love. I'm frustrated and hurt. Are drugs my only choice? Even though I know he's not himself, it's still my dad.

It's one thing when our kids embarrass us, but it can be even harder when it's our parent. Being embarrassed by your dad's sexuality in overdrive is perfectly natural -- but it's important to realize that, to a large extent, it's out of his control.

The only way I know to get through something like this is to let go a little and shut off the "daddy's girl" side of your brain. Learn to see his actions as the biological response that they are.

He didn't get to choose how his body would respond to this disease. Some people with dementia yell obscenities, others bite, spit, steal, or become paranoid. And many others -- like your dad -- act out sexually. It's as if that small area of the brain he's kept reined in all these years won't shut off as he loses self control.

Each care facility has its own guidelines for dealing with challenging behaviors. Ask the place where your dad lives what the policies are, how he's monitored, and how often he's left alone, including nights and weekends. Whatever the plan, make sure your dad isn't being shamed or punished. The bottom line is everyone's safety, but when dealing with [sex and Alzheimer's] (https://www.caring.com/blogs/caring-currents/sex-and-alzheimers ), you also want to make sure your dad's caregivers can overcome their personal feelings about sexuality to understand why he's acting the way he does and to treat him appropriately.

Most major facilities have an Alzheimer's specialist they can consult regarding extreme situations. Find someone at the care home to be your liaison and help you find the answers you need. Controlling Dad's behavior isn't going to be easy. Many of the same techniques that apply to [how to cope with the physical aggression of Alzheimer's] (https://www.caring.com/articles/cope-with-alzheimers-physical-aggression) -- such as changing the subject or distracting the person -- can help. But sometimes nothing helps except for drugs. If you can, save them for the times they're needed most, such as when transporting him to the doctor.

A bit of dark humor and snarky sarcasm might help you -- for instance, referring to your dad as a Casanova. Humor can be shocking, and that's one reason we love comedians -- they give us permission to laugh at the "bad stuff," because what else are we going to do with it? Letting off steam that way can literally save your sanity.

When my mom, who had Alzheimer's, got really bad and I'd have to clean up feces or ignore her cruel words, I'd imagine that my heart was a beautiful, shiny, silver strainer with clean fresh water washing away all the gunk and all the hurt. For some reason that image helped me through some really dark times.

Don't forget to remember stories about your dad, such as something he taught you, a fun vacation you took with him, a predicament he helped you out of. Remember interesting or funny things he used to say. At least once a week, share these remembrances with your children, a friend, or a neighbor. Consider a class in learning to write a memoir to preserve those memories. I hope you'll find a way to keep the best of your dad alive. You're right: No matter what, he's still your dad.

See Carol speak in Owensboro, Kentucky, April 8. See more details.