How do you handle his fondling of his privates, sexual talk with care givers?

Annonymous caregiver asked...

Dad in his bedroom talks sexually, and masturbates. My husband has seen him fondle himself and I have walked in his room with his fly open and privates exposed. I have adult children, girl and boy, hopefully they wont see this. Any suggestions, I guess I ignore it.

Expert Answer

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

If there's one positive to this from your description, he does this in private in his own room.

Still, dealing with his fondling of his privates and sexual talk with caregivers involves three steps.

First, respect his privacy and make sure everyone knocks on his door before entering.

Whether the door is open or closed, be sure you give him some warning; otherwise, you risk facing an embarrassing sight!

Second, understand why.

If your dad has a form of dementia such as Alzheimer's, know that he is not doing this intentionally. It is a common occurrence during the early-middle stage of the disease.

My father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's began showing his privates to fellow residents and nursing home staff at age 87. We were at a fellow resident's birthday party with clergy present when he slowly began to unzip his pants. I was sitting next to him and watched, hoping that's all he'd do. Once he dug in, I gently placed my hand on his forearm and asked if he needed to use the bathroom. I was trying to be diplomatic. He looked confused. I told him we were at a birthday party with church people present. "You should wait; besides, they will be serving some really good cake in a few minutes." My late father loved sweets and behaved appropriately during the rest of the party.

It is a phase some people with dementia go through and we must, along with caregiving staff, monitor their behaviors to ensure they don't harm others. With time they'll move through this phase.

Finally, explain to your adult children the reason their grandfather is engaging in this behavior.

Certainly, this private behavior can leave unintended impressions on anyone. Explaining it to them as an unintentional consequence of cognitive impairing illness such as dementia, will help them place his behavior in context.