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How can I convince mom that I'm not having an affair with dad?

Answered by David Troxel

February 9, 2015

My mother is in moderate stage of Alzheimer’s. She is very angry at the family and had to be hospitalized for combativeness. At the hospital, my father couldn’t stay the night with her. Now she is claiming dad and I are have an affair. How do I get this out of her head? It has been going on a week now and we cannot reason with her. She is refusing to let us visit her at the hospital.

Next week she is being moved to a nursing home and I would like to resolve this if it is possible.

I’m so sorry you are having this painful experience. Your mother is confused and trying to figure out what is happening to her. Most persons with dementia aren’t violent, but if your mother has a delusion (common with dementia and defined as a fixed, false idea) that you are all out to get her or that you are her husband’s girlfriend, you could see how this could cause her stress and agitation.

I doubt you will be able to resolve this issue quickly or talk her out of her beliefs. Rather than argue with her when he makes an accusation you could say, “Mom, I’m so sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings. You know that I’m your daughter and the whole family loves you.” Don’t try to rebut her arguments but stay on message. Or you could try something like, “Mom you’ve been in the hospital and that has caused you to get confused.” And then let her know she is loved. If you take this more low key approach, the delusion may go away over time.

Ask the staff at the nursing home to adopt similar language and be part of a broad effort to reassure her and help her feel safe, secure and valued.

It’s never my first choice but in cases like this you and your dad might want to take a week or two off or visit her less often to let her sort through these feelings.

Is there a family member she is doing well with right now (for example her son in law). It can happen that one month a particular family is the bad guy and then it changes. Utilize family members who are in favor to visit her and help her make the transition to the nursing home. I encourage you and your dad to go to a support group. They will offer lots of support, education and understanding.

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