My 92-year-old mother-in-law thinks her deceased husband is having an affair. How can we put an end to this upsetting delusion?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 10, 2016
Dbb asked...

My 92 year old mother in law thinks her deceased husband is having an affair and is living with family members. Her husband passed away 2 years ago. My husband and her caregivers have explained this to her over and over. This is very upsetting to her. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Expert Answers

Deborah Cooke is a gerontologist specializing in dementia, delirium, caregiving, and senior fitness. She is a certified dementia care provider and specialist through the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Cooke currently manages several multidisciplinary programs to enhance well-being for hospitalized seniors and other vulnerable patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She also serves on the board of NewYork-Presbyterian's Patient and Family Education Advisory Committee. She has 18 years of experience working with the aging and caregiver communities.

Hi DBB. You are not alone in this. Your mother's experience is rather prevalent in the dementia population. My grandmother had the same accusations. Unfortunately, rationalizing this is not going to work.

I agree with Dr. Volicer about asking her about her husband.
* What does she love about him?
* What was her favorite vacation together?
* Even try and bring the "kids" in the picture.
* Did you and Dad have trouble agreeing on how to discipline us? * Who is your favorite child (with a wink and a nod)? * What did you and Dad think about me dating?

Try and help her focus on the positive times and remember their loving years together. You may get to a point where you aren't even talking about him anymore, but something entirely different.

I do disagree with Dr. Volicer on trying medication. I encourage you to try behavior modification and redirection as much as possible. Medication may do more harm than good.

All my best. You will be in my thoughts.

Community Answers

Ladislav volicer, md answered...

You might want to tell her some "fiblets", e.g., that he is traveling and will be home soon. Or distract her by asking her about him. If that does not work, you might want to try a low dose of Risperdal or Abilify.

Caringdenise answered...

Hi DBB, In addition to speaking with your mother-in-law's doctor, some resources on that you may find helpful include:

More information for dementia care: Dementia and Delirium Solution Center