Father has been attending an Alzheimer’s day program for almost a year, and all of a sudden he has become upset with one of the workers at the program! He just becomes so upset when she comes anywhere near hear and wants her gone! Any help why this would happen and what can be done to help?

This is surprisingly common. I remember early in my career working at a day program in Lexington, Kentucky. There was one program participant who really didn’t like me (or many of the other men). I learned to not make eye contact with him and try to stay out of his way. The day program matched him with staff members and volunteers he did enjoy being with.

Why does someone like your father develop this behavior?

We can’t know for sure. Sometimes persons with dementia have “delusions,” defined as fixed, false ideas. Perhaps he thinks this woman is someone from his past who did him wrong.

Persons with dementia are sensitive to a person’s emotions and body language. Have you and the team at the day center discussed with this staffer any other approaches she can take with him. (Can she offer him more smiles and positive body language, compliments?) Maybe she is inadvertently triggering the behavior.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t overthink this. As we go through life we often meet people we have an immediate connection with. We also meet people we don’t really like or want to be with.

In dementia care this happens too. I hope the staffer doesn’t take it personally. With the journey of dementia, things change. She may become one of his favorites in a few months!

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