Should I interfere in my mother's social life if she has Alzheimer's?

5 answers | Last updated: Mar 28, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

A man is courting my widowed mother, who has early Alzheimer's. He's coming on strong with flowers and gifts, and my mom says she's uncomfortable but that she doesn't know how to say no to him. It's not my business and yet, because she's ill, I feel it is. I live out of town. What can I do?

Expert Answers

Lisa Snyder is a social worker at the University of California, San Diego, Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center

It sounds like your mother is expressing concerns and you're unsure how to respond. Is this a long-standing pattern with your mother, being uncomfortable with setting limits, or is this a new issue that has come up since the onset of Alzheimer's?

If you're comfortable asking her straight out how you can help, do so. Try to figure out exactly how he's coming on strong. This may indicate the level of involvement needed.

Then help your mother come up with specific limits she can set. For example, advise her to say, "Please only call me twice a week" or "I'd like to go out, but I'd prefer just once a week" or "Please don't call me. I don't want to go out."

Can you visit your mother and meet this man in person to get a sense of the situation? Or perhaps you could call and introduce yourself to him. If he's sincerely interested in your mother, he should be fine with that.

Ask your mom whether she has felt comfortable discussing her memory loss with him. Is he supportive? People do develop relationships later in life, and it can be a positive thing. But there should be safeguards in place to make sure she isn't taken advantage of, emotionally or financially.

Because your mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it's important to have some kind of living trust with powers of attorney in place for the time when she can no longer make informed financial or healthcare decisions for herself. If she demonstrates impaired judgment, someone should also be able to make sure there isn't inappropriate activity in her financial accounts. Since it's early in the disease, your mother can make decisions now about a trust and to whom to assign powers of attorney, so she'll be less at risk of being taken advantage of by others.

Community Answers

Kathporter answered...

This is a difficult situation, I emphathize. Before I interfered in my mom's business, she had agreed to sell half of her land to a neighbor at a bargain price and was loaning money to people who owed her back rent. You have to make your peace with what you will risk to give her some dignity. I try to follow the "trust, but verify" rule. I wish now I had gotten on her bank account earlier - while she was still giving blank, signed checks to the man who worked for her. I could have seen the withdrawals for the money she was "lending" which was never paid back.

Galowa answered...




Protect your mother and protect your mother's assets. Will write more tomorrow, as it is nearly midnight, but Y E S.

A person with Alzheimer's will only become INCREASINGLY VULNERABLE AS THE RELATIONSHIP PROGRESSES. She may ALREADY BE an unwitting TARGET.

Your mother may not understand it, but she NEEDS YOUR PROTECTION.

Back tomorrow,


: )


Not myself answered...

Anonymous: Yes, yes, yes! You are your mother's last line of defense at a time when one of the first (and sometimes unnoticed) problems for the person with AD is failure of judgment. It is already past time to have financial safeguards in place for your mother. Do not pass "GO"--consult the family members who should be involved, if any, and see an eldercare and/or estate attorney for a Durable Power of Attorney. Be certain to get several notarized copies from the attorney, as some financial institutions require an "original copy". It may not be immediately necessary, but if not, it certainly soon will be. Her accounts should be reviewed, and a family member added to them (at minimum)so that regular review, on or offline, is possible.It takes an unscrupulous person only a very short time to notice or find what is kept where, and to take advantage of that knowledge. If, on the other hand, the person who is "courting" your mother is well-intentioned AND well-informed, you will be able to sleep peacefully knowing that should it become a problem, with this suitor or the next (it happens!), your mother's assets will be there for her when she needs them. Make no mistake--she WILL, eventually, need the protection. When carefully done, this can make your mother feel protected and cared for, rather than resentful and angry. Good luck to you, and watch for more posts in response to your question--this particular audience is very sympathetic and a genuinely "been there, done that" group. Your mother is fortunate to have you to look out for her.

Ron kauffman answered...

I too had to deal with a man who was sexually exploiting my mother, who also has Alzheimer's disease. At the time, mom was still living alone in her own home and had a lot of personal freedom.

I spoke to my brother and sister, both of whom live out of state, and we decided on a plan of action. Our first step was to use the Internet, which has tons of information, to check this man out. We wanted to be certain he was who he said he was, and that he didn't have a criminal record. All of that information can be had, often at no charge or for a small fee on the Internet.

Once that was done and he "checked out" we decided that our first step to protect mom from any financial exposure. That was easy - we took her credit cards away.

I also had a "Birds and Bees" discussion with mom whose first response was the predictable, "I can't get pregnant." My role was to tell her that pregnancy was the least of her worries if she was involved with a sexually active man, and that sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including HIV and Aids were risks she was dealing with if she was having unprotected sex.

It was during this time that we placed mom in an assisted living facility, but that did not curtail the situation, it only moved it to a new address. However, by explaining the problem to the facility we were able to put a lot of pressure and controls on this man.

I confronted the "gentleman" and let him know that he was not a welcome guest in mom's apartment, and I was having him blocked from entering the facility. Once he was deprived of direct and frequent access to mom, he moved on. To where or whom I have no idea.

You need to know that even if you mom has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's, as was the case in our situation, that does not give you, as the adult child the legal right to control who she sees or where she goes UNLESS you have applied for and gotten guardianship.

Having Alzheimer's does not give you the legal authority to take away mom's rights, nor does it deprive mom of her rights. In the eyes of the law, she is of legal age and free to make choices, even bad choices. All you can do is your best to protect her within the limits of the law.

It's a tough situation, and one I've lived through. Over time, mom who was very angry at my intervention, forgave and forgot. That is truly one of the strange blessings of Alzheimer's disease.