Q: My (normally controlled) racist, chauvinist, and demented father has become very nasty and vocal about the upcoming election--ranting and embarrassing us everywhere we go. I take care of him in our home and can’t just lock him up. What should I do?
A: That's a timely question, as the other day I heard an elderly lady in a lovely restaurant blurt out, "If the (blank-blank) Democrats get in the (blank-blank) White House, I am leaving the (blank-blank) country!" Her adult daughter just about died, smiled apologetically and quickly tried to force feed her mother to shut her up, but the hatred continued to spew forth. As the husband got his ranting mother-in-law up to remove her, I felt so bad for the daughter that I and went over to offer some support. The advice I ended up giving her, I will give to you.
Negative beliefs and thoughts like these come to the surface because dementia often destroyed the social filters that previously controlled them in public. Also, dementia distorts the thoughts, which sometimes makes them come out even worse.
The best thing you can do is to get the topic out of your father's head and stop all references that may trigger him into a tirade. Stop the newspapers and turn off the news so he isn't exposed to politics at all. Use the Comedy Channel, History Channel, Discovery, Animal Planet, etc., and sign up for Netflix for an unending stream of uplifting movies from the comedy, adventure and romance categories.
Be sure to tell your family and friends not to discuss politics in front of your father, as that may set him off. If he starts talking about politics (or anything you want to stop), excitedly distract and redirect him to something else he'd be interested in. "Hey, Dad, we got a letter from Aunt Rose—wait until you hear what's happening with her!" Teach everyone this method and to make a list of these distraction ideas ahead of time so that you can all pull one out of your hats as needed!
You can also try changing the subject by bringing up a pleasant topic from the past and capitalizing on your father's long-term memory getting him talking about it. "Dad, it is going to be your birthday soon. Say, what kinds of things did you do on your birthday when you were young?"
Carry some 4x6 file cards and a Sharpie with you so that you can write an apology to pass to people he offends in public. Have several made up to suit various situations, but basically something like: "I'm so sorry--please excuse my very sick and demented father." And maybe have a big one for the front door if new guests are coming over!
Also, be sure to discuss all this with his doctor and ask about trying an anti-depressant on your father. Most people with dementia are greatly helped with one and it may help smooth out some of his negativity and nastiness. It worked real well on my father. Did I mention I wrote a book called "Elder RAGE"?!