How to Handle a Delicate Situation with an Elderly Gentleman

Updated on January 30, 2012
M.P. asks from Minneapolis, MN
5 answers

My husband recently started playing chess with a elderly man at my daughter's inter-generational pre-school. The pre-school is held in the same building as an Assisted Living Apartment complex and they interact daily with the kids. We were at a school function and met this wonderful man. Since have invited him to our home and family functions as well.
We were told his wife is dead, and his 2 playing partners also died with in weeks of each other, and is lonely and depressed. My husband loves chess. I hate it, as well as most of his friends. So he jumped at the chance to play.
This poor man, is very schedule oriented, he has a minor melt down if my husband is late. He was mentioning many not so savory things about his surviving family. To the point we talked to staff. They explained that he has some short term memory loss, and is slipping into Dementia. So they didn't seem very worried. We let it go.
Now for the last month he is calling my husband up asking for things. Like bread, or apples, a webcam, and other interesting items. My husband doesnt believe in catering to his needs, since they get what he wants at the complex. He will occasionally bring something... We also reported the extra asking for food to the staff in case he was not suppose to eat this. They were ok with it, but told us also not to cater to him as well.
I dont want to give up on this poor fellow. Sweet man, but he comes with his quirks. We want to be forthcoming with him and tell him why we are not bringing all that to him when he asks. He has gotten agitated the last 2 game sessions, cause my husband didnt bring band aids and some scope.
How to you approach someone in this instance? I never had family with dementia.

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answers from Charlotte on

Please don't give up on him. What you all are doing is something your child will remember when you are his age.

Dementia is a terrible thing. He will slip deeper and deeper and then chess won't be possible. But he will really love seeing your husband. The schedule issue will go away too. And don't bring him things other than the occasional treat. He can't help that he is asking for it, but you all shouldn't feel bad for not bringing things. It is an unfortunate truth that anything of value (or not) gets stolen in nursing homes. It has happened to people I know - yeah, including the camcorder with my children's pictures on it :( - so you don't want to even "loan" him something, to be honest.

One bad thing about his understanding of a schedule is that he may start calling multiple times a day and not know he already called. If that starts happening, the nursing home will have to take his phone so that he cannot call you over and over.

What a light you all are as this man descends into the dark tunnel of dementia! Bless you for it!


12 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My grandmother unfortunately has full blown dementia. In her early to mid stages, she did some bazaar things. She talked badly about many people she loved, she called us many times a day requesting things she would never need. She LOVED playing card games. Those games were one of the very last things to slip her mind. Playing card games with us (even when she didn't remember us) was a gift.

You have to understand, this man has no comprehension of what he's really doing/asking. He is probably still lucid enough, to know his mind is leaving him. What a terrible place to be in!! Be patient with this man, and understand that he doesn't realize he's asking for things he doesn't need, he doesn't realize he's being testy or mean. If he does, he doesn't understand why. He may not understand WHY you aren't bringing him things, and you will simply have to just accept that. It's a dark disease. And is hopeless. I can tell you that chess playing is a light in his life. One of the last things he will truly enjoy in his lifetime. I agree with Dawn, he may need his phone monitored or taken from his room.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

MY husband's grandma has full blown Altzheimer's. It is such a terrible thing to watch someone lose themselves. We can no longer bring the kids in as it just confuses Grandma. My own Grandpa slipped very quickly into dementia.

He will get agitated. He will lose his temper. He will call your husband different names, like Henry, Mike, Stu. He will start to forget who your hubby is and who he is himself. Anger is part of some people's progression. My grandpa even got angry with the most patient of nurses.

Read up on the symptoms and realize that you are dealing with someone who is more like a child than an adult. He can no longer make decisions for himself.

Hubby should excuse himself and say I'll come back when you're feeling better. Then leave and try again.

My sister used to read Bird books to Grandpa in his final days. He loved birds, So on rough days maybe your hubby can read to the gentleman.

And thank you. I could not be there in Grandpa's final days and my mom and sister were stretched so thin. You truly are an angel, even though he will probably not see it that way, his family will.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

One thing that worked for my Great aunt when we were losing her to dementia was for my father and aunt to ask her about the past.... it seems that (if it's just dementia and not Alzheimers) that their long term memories are great.

She would be very fluid, recall details, etc. but if they just asked her everyday how are you, what did you have for lunch questions she would get all confused, etc. Perhaps your husband can start asking him about his childhood, oR WWII ? If he turns out to be like my great aunt your hubby, IMO, will have a wonderful time hearing about how it was back then!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I would say leave it to the staff. Let them handle it, like telling him that he already has this item in his room. When he asks for something just tell him the staff said to ask them about it. That way it is off your families shoulders and back on the people who are responsible for providing the things he is asking for. If he truly wants these things he should have an account with some money for spending in it. I would think that even people on Disability have some sort of financial plan set up for personal items.

As the dementia worsens he will only become more agitated. This is one of those things. If he is doing this now it won't be long until the move him to a more restricted environment.

My ex MIL had Alzheimer disease and she had notes posted all over her room about her purse, billfold, etc...she would wake up and start going off on the staff about them stealing her purse. They would point to the note and tell her to read it. Was it my ex's hand writing, etc...then she would be able to calm down sometimes without meds to knock her out.


1 mom found this helpful
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