How do we get my father with dementa to stop visiting our neighbor?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How do we get my father (dementia or alzheimers) to stop going over to "visit" our neighbor everyday? He puts on his coat 2 or 3 times a day wanting to go over to talk to our neighbor, who is 80 and a widower. He goes to the door and knocks. My mom tries to tell him that she is busy, but everyday he wants to go over there and talk to her (he never did this before). She's a nice lady, but I'm sure she's getting tired of seeing him at her door.

Expert Answers

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

Alzheimer patients need structured and stimulating activity during the day or they will make their own. They may want to go to 'work' or visit a neighbor since this offers them a feeling of security and comfort. In the early stages of the disease, they may make a dozen calls to a familiar number (family, doctor, friend) forgetting that they made the same call a moment before. While these types of pastimes may be safe, they can, as you mentioned, interrupt the lives of others.

The solution to this problem is to offer your dad an alternative to when he wants to pay the visit. If he is distracted or redirected to another activity, he will 'defer' the visit. "Let's first have a snack" or "I want to show you something in the newspaper" or "I challenge you to a game of cards" can sidetrack him from leaving. Of course, it will be a temporary diversion. If your mom tells him a call is coming soon and he has to wait for it, it also might divert. The ideal situation would be to identify a social setting for him to go to as he sounds like he wants to 'visit' others. Check whether there are Adult Day Care Programs or Senior Communal Programs in their area.

Your mom might want to talk to the neighbor to insure she understands why dad knocks on the door. If she is disturbed about it, she might want to put a sign on her door, "Out to Lunch".