by Joanne Webb
Q. My mother, who has AD, is in a facility and has developed an infatuation with a male caregiver at the facility. Should I do anything about this, and if so what would you suggest?
A. In order to answer your question it is important to gather more information about your mother's situation. First, you describe the relationship with the caregiver as an "infatuation." What behaviors have you observed that lead you to this conclusion? If your mother simply enjoys the company of the caregiver and chats and jokes around with him, this is most likely appropriate and actually beneficial to your mother. However, if she is making inappropriate sexual advances, or is jealous of the time the caregiver spends with other residents, the situation could become problematic for both your mother and the caregiver. It is also important to evaluate whether the caregiver is doing anything, intentionally or unintentionally, to encourage your mother's behavior.
Since you have identified this as a concern, we recommend that you request a conference with your mother's caregivers, including the person with whom your mother has the infatuation, his supervisor, and the facility social worker or nurse. At this conference, it will be possible to identify whether this is a problem, and to develop a plan which insures that your mother receives the best and most appropriate care. For example, it may be possible to shift some responsibilities (such as bathing or dressing assistance) to a different caregiver, in order to avoid the possibility of your mother misinterpreting the situation. The caregiver who is the target of your mother's affection might limit his role in her care to a friendly chat at mealtimes. If everyone is aware of the situation, it makes it much more likely that potential problems will be identified early, and steps can be taken to ensure that the situation remains positive and under control.
Finally, since many residential care facilities experience a high level of staff turnover, if the caregiver who is the object of your mother's affections leaves his job at the facility you and other staff members may need to spend extra time with your mother until she adjusts to the loss.