Dear Family Advisor

How can I deal with my mom's anger at me for urging her to move my dad to an Alzheimer's residence, where he fell in love with another woman?

Last updated: Mar 24, 2008

My mother, who took care of my father through the early and middle stages of Alzheimer's, is brokenhearted because he's fallen in love with a woman at the assisted living facility where he now lives -- and she blames me for the whole mess! In the early stages of his illness, Mom insisted she was in love with him and even hinted that they were still sexually intimate. But when she became overwhelmed with his care, I finally convinced her to move him. Now she's like a jealous teenager when she sees him with the other woman. And she says it's my fault for encouraging her to move him -- which I thought I was doing for her sake. She's no longer speaking to me. What can I do?

I'd like to address you first, and then your mother. First, take a deep breath. You didn't cause this, and you can't fix it. You might need to say this about a thousand times before it sinks in: "I am 100 percent responsible for my own life." Not hers. Not your dad's. Yours. I hope you'll consider a self-talk, or even better, writing yourself a letter. Write it as if you were writing to your dearest friend -- what would you say if she were going through this situation? Treat yourself with compassion and respect. Remind yourself that you acted from your head and your heart. You truly believed, and still believe, that your mother couldn't take care of your dad any longer. It was too much. You were trying to help -- and most likely, you did. As painful as this is for you, if you hadn't done what you did, things could be worse. Your father could have become violent, slipped out and gotten lost, burned the house down, or hurt you or her.

Alzheimer's is a cruel disease, and whether your mother knows it or not, she's angry at the disease that has robbed and betrayed her. She's angry at death -- the literal one that is to come, and the slow, tedious one that's already here. She can be mad at you because somewhere deep down she knows you're resilient enough to take it. Give her time. Care giving is about doing what's right whether our loved ones understand or not. Now for your mother. I'm going to talk to her as if she were in the room with me. You don't deserve this. This is a hard blow and you have every right to be angry. Your daughter was only trying to look out for you and your health. Alzheimer's did this, not your daughter. Alzheimer's did this, not your husband. You have to begin to let go of your marriage. I know that sounds hurtful. I've been married almost 30 years and I still can't imagine what you're going through. My mother had Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and she forgot who I was and was cruel at times. I had to let go. I grieved her -- and "us" -- long before her body left this world. When I finally admitted that, I felt freer. I could love her just as she was. I chose to keep my integrity regardless of what she did. Her brain went kaflooey. It was in no way a reflection of our love or our relationship. Alzheimer's affects the judgment part of our brain, and that's why so many who suffer with the disease do such outrageous things. But you can hold the memories of a lifetime for both of you.