My 89 year old husband writes romantic letters to young women. What do I do?

8 answers | Last updated: Sep 12, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband has dementia. For the last two years he writes inappropriate love letters to women young enough to be his granddaughter. He sends jewelry, says he is going to marry them, etc. They have returned the letters & he delivers them to the workplace. What do I do? It makes me angry & hurts my feelings, even when I try to tell myself it is the disease. Please help!


Expert Answers

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.

I'm smiling as I read about your conundrum re: your husband writing love letters to young women.

Why?

A fellow caregiver encountered a similar problem in reverse. Her husband's girl friend from years ago got reconnected with her husband and instead of feeling jealous or threatened the caregiving wife thought, "Take him!"

"He has dementia." "I have to feed him, toilet him, and bathe him. If you want to take this on, he's yours."

What became a potentially threatening situation was quickly dissolved with her sense of humor. The old flame likely didn't imagine her beau had declined and was in such a condition.

The exhausted wife knew this but was open for some loving help ... wherever it came from.

Not knowing your relationship history I can't comment. For example, was he always a womanizer? If not, you can expect it is the disease.

However, you may want to curtail his efforts to these ladies--do you know them?--otherwise, his actions could open up charges you may not have the energy to deal with.

Then again, these must be special women to return his letters (I hope they return the jewelry, too.)


Community Answers

Backbutton answered...

That's cute, @ 89, God bless him--it is a form of entertainment for him, so let him be. Be amused, not annoyed.


Little al answered...

I am going through the same thing.. except his "girl friend" gets email cards with suggestive comments.. he has not seen this woman for over 35 years, she is the widow of an old Navy buddy. I explained to her what was going on with him and she has agreed to ignore his emails and not encourage him. He isn't like that with anyone else and has never been a womanizer. But it is hard to accept the changes that dementia does to the ones we love.


Annromick answered...

Your problem doesn' give some answers. Is he still working? Does he drive a car to deliver the letters and jewelry? If he is still driving I would have the DMV take his license from him (then they are the bad guys not you). With dementia he shouldn't be driving anyway. If he still wants to write the notes have him write them and offter to mail them for him. Then don't. Same with the jewelry. If he bought it then return it to the store telling the manager of your problerm. Don't forbid him to do anything, just control it. All of my AD husband's girl friends lived in his mind and all he ever did was talk about them. I guess I was lucky.


Jfrymsw answered...

I am so sorry you're having to go through this. I don't see it as "cute" or "funny". Even if it is the dementia, it's still apparent that your husband finds other .....younger...women attractive. I can see how that could be a real blow to the ego. Dealing with the "loss" of your husband to dementia is bad enough, but when that includes losing him to his fixation on younger women this has to be extra painful.

Indeed the disease is what makes it easier for him to act on his interest. Unfortunately the part of the brain that puts the "brakes on" inappropriate social behaviors, is one that is compromised in a major way by dementia/Alzheimer's.

I, too would examine how he's able to get these letters out, and see if there's any point that you can intervene before they reach the recipients. Also, just really work on those self-messages about "This is not about me. It's the disease. I don't have to like it, and I don't!" Maybe find a safe physical outlet for some release of anger/stress. When I was going through a divorce I found an old set of ceramic dishes and threw them, piece by piece, at a cement porch....shattering them all over. It felt wonderful! (Of course cleaning up the shards wasn't so great! LOL)


Backbutton answered...

Throwing dishes and such helps you, but not the patient, or the one affected. You feel ashamed, but the patient is not aware, and can't help it. When my dad was sick, already on dialysis and out of it, we had a dinner with relatives at a restaurant. After the meal, my dad started picking his teeth at the table because food particles had become lodged to his dentures, and he felt uncomfortable. I was aghast and rushed him to the rest room in his wheelchair and scolded him for being ill-mannered. I so regret it now, even 15 years after he is gone; he couldn't help himself, why couldn't I have been more understanding.


Wellspouse answered...

Take a look at the movie, Away from Her... It is a very sensitive portrayal of the situation of a husband whose wife with Alzheimer's falls in love with another man, also with AD.

It is definitely frustrating, but maybe talking to a therapist/social worker who helps families affected by AD will help you re-frame your view on what is going on -- because basically, you are not going to be able to "fix" your husband.
Practically speaking, you may be able to stop the problem by arranging for his outgoing mail to be screened by you or a third person... But mainly, your question is, how can you get over the feelings about this. Good luck. Also I suggest you check out the Well SpouseĀ® Association, http://wellspouse.org, where you can talk to other spousal caregivers, some in similar situations.


Wokeup answered...

My husband and I took care of my sweet Mom for 9 yrs. There were so many things that I regret not doing 'right'. I hated the disease so much, it had me in tears most days that my sweet Mom didn't know anyone anymore and eventually forgot who I was too. To this day my heart aches so and I miss her so much. I suffer guilt and pray daily for self forgiveness. She was NOT difficult and didn't complain about anything even on her last days on hospice. I ask myself so many times if I did the right thing having her on hospice, but we and she certainly didn't want life sustaining measures, ie, resusitation, wires and needles in her. I hope that 15 yrs later I will not feel this quilt. My prayers for all of you who suffer with aging parents who have this ugly disease. My Mom died on Dec 20, 2011. I am so grateful she no longer lives with that disease, but is made whole by our Lord and Savior. This gives me solace.