My mother has been in a memory care center for 2-1/2 years. She has recently started kissing a fellow resident even though she still recognizes my dad when he comes to visit. Most recently, she has now been found in this other man's bed twice. My dad and my sister are using humor to deal with the situation but I am heartbroken. I do realize that it is the disease and not my mom making these choices. How do you deal with these situations?

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Since your dad and sister seem to be coping well enough with it, I suppose my question is, why are you heartbroken? She is not betraying your father; honestly, she probably thinks this man IS your dad, even though she recognizes your dad when he comes to visit. I once had a resident who actually mistook another woman for her husband and got mad when anyone tried to separate them. Your mom is doing the best she can with the disease that she has, and if this man makes her happy (whoever he is to her) then that is great news! Even if it’s uncomfortable! My only concern would be if she is able to consent to intimacy, and how far along this man is in his dementia, as well. That’s the one thing I’d keep an eye on. I actually have a whole chapter about relationships and sexual health in dementia care in my book.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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