Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My father-in- law has lived with us since his wife died. His dementia
has gotten worse. He’s often nice to be around and my daughters are
very good at helping me with him. Even my husband, who normally
shrinks from anything emotionally challenging or that requires hands-
on help outside the garage, has been great. But in the last few weeks
(or maybe longer, it’s only been recently we have each broached the
subject with one another and all found it to be true), F-i- L has started
to say very inappropriate sexual bragging and history while we are
changing him. We don’t know if these are true or imaginary, but none
of us have any reaction other than Eeek, let me out of here!, especially
while we are helping him with his personal care.
More than I want to know!
Dear More than:
You need to meet as a family and to talk openly about him. You don’t
say how old your daughters are but that will matter. It will also matter
if what’s happening is “just” talking (regardless of whether it is
bragging or imagination) or whether there has been any form of
inappropriate touching. You and your husband will need to be very
very clear with your daughters about where the line is between what
they will be able to handle on their own and what’s a reason to leave
the room and ask for help. Compassion has limits.
It may be time for your F-i- L to reside elsewhere. That’s a big
sentence, and one that will seriously impact your family’s finances as
well as his quality of life. On the other hand, group homes exist with
qualified caring help exactly because there are limits to what family
can do, or should have to do. If he’ll respond to Shhhh, you are on the
stay at home side of the line, but only you can know when the time
will have come to relocate him. Start browsing now and talk to one
another candidly and with great caring. My guess is that you are not
alone, but that most people keep silent about this problem.