My dad is 84 years old with what I would say is moderate dementia. He scored a 13 on the last SLUMS test. Anyway, he’s always been a very good father to me and I thought he was a good man, but I have recently discovered he may not be and I don’t think I like him as a person very much. I repeat, I do love him. Over the last couple of years, as his caretaking needs have increased, I have spent more and more time with him. He says horrible racist, sexist, derogatory things. I knew about the racism, but I thought that was part of his past and he had changed since the birth of my biracial son 22 years ago! According to my other family his sexist and generally negative opinions of all non-white non-male people are not new, he’s been like this his entire life and I was simply never exposed to it before. So, now I have to avoid speaking to him about anything that has the potential to bring up any of these topics because it disgusts me to hear him speak that way. I have told him how I feel, reminded him of his biracial grandson and even argued with him to try and prove them wrong which is all a waste of time. So my question is… How have others Dealt with discovering that their parent is not the person they thought they were?

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Dear Bills Daughter, I know what you mean about loving your father but not liking him as a person. My father has Alzheimer's, Stage 7. I would get angry at the things that he has said about certain things, but I recognize that his brain is broken and there is no use in explaining my feelings or what I want him to do. Please don't take offense to what your father has said; he is not rationale. If he starts to say things that you don't like could you find a way to redirect the conversation or distract him to another activity? You can't change him, and it is not relevant what views he held years ago. Dementia is a horrible disease and it changes a person so drastically. If it truly bothers you perhaps limit your interaction with him. Just realize that explaining your feelings and hoping that he will change is a lost cause. Best of luck to you!
Helpful Answer (1)

It may have been part of his past upbringing and a distant part of his personality, but with dementia all of his filters are down. My mom is not racist but I now see a part of her personality that sometimes embarrasses me when I have to take her out in public. I just keep her far away enough so others may not hear to protect her dignity
Helpful Answer (2)

Hi BillsDaughter39. I think my dad has always had some racist and sexist tendencies. My dad ended up with three daughters and thinks we are incapable of handling legal or business matters. I bet if you look back and think about it, there were probably hints of these attitudes when you were younger. With dementia, I'm guessing your dad is lacking the filters he had in his earlier life. Has he embraced his biracial grandson and been a good grandpa? To me, that counts a lot. One thing I have learned with having a dad and MIL with dementia is that arguments don't work, and I tend to focus on feelings, saying something like "ouch" or "that really hurts me..."

I do love my dad too, and understand what you mean by finding it hard to like that same person you see in front of you today. We are also more mature and wiser; that helps give us added insights to comprehend the changes more readily. We also are more self-aware.

My dad was a smart businessman, super organized, always in control but he was never really present as a dad or interested in our lives. Now that he is older, and my mom passed 20 years ago this year, he has unreasonable expectations of his daughters to make his life for him.

I have played the role of his shrink for the last two decades, and our conversations focus pretty exclusively on how miserable he is. With the dementia, he has so poorly managed his finances and gets very anxious over any hiccup with paperwork. He has also been depressed for years, and he doesn't seem to find pleasure in much of anything. But he worked all the time and never developed any hobbies, which is maybe more typical of his generation. Looking back, I know now that he was depressed when I was a teenager but I just couldn't identify it clearly then.

Both he and my MIL were big time micro-managers when they were younger, but that tendency hasn't gone away. It maybe shifts to other areas of their lives... with my dad it has taken the form of hypochondria and hypervigilance of every pain he feels... with my MIL who lives with us, it is about locking doors, shutting lights, wanting to know and watching to see exactly what we are throwing out in the trash.

i think the difference is that the cool elderly people I have come across in my life still feel a strong sense of purpose. i befriended an 86-year-old woman at my gym in a strength-training class who taught English to foreigners at our local university. She was teaching (and driving there) until around 93 or so, until a series of falls. She often had the foreign students over to her home and gave them cooking lessons in American cuisine. She had a "museum" in her house filled with treasures and trinkets from dozens of countries that the students had given her in her over 35 years of teaching. Even though she has since passed, she will always be my role model of what I want to be like when I get "old."

And the fact your belief system is different from your dad's is a good thing. I would try to avoid talking with him about topics of race or gender, because it sounds like you have different world views and I'm not sure that you'll find enough in common for a meaningful discussion... and more likely than not, it will get heated! And remember their brain is not working so that can explain some personality changes too. Good luck to you!
Helpful Answer (1)

I cannot add anything more than 97yroldmom. She is spot on.
Helpful Answer (3)

Dear BillsDaughter
I remember when I was a young woman an older friend telling me that I had to grow a thicker skin. Boy I wish it were that easy.
You are dealing with many different issues in this one post. We could debate them all but the one you have to put at the top of the list is dementia.
Your father doesn’t have the ability to reason. You are holding him to a standard that isn’t realistic for him at this point and only painful for you.
Your father has lost a portion of his brains capability. His brain is broken we sometimes say. It’s not fair to judge a person good or bad. It’s especially not appropriate when you are taking a few years of their lives with a broken brain and deciding that they are good or bad as a whole. None of us are good or bad. We are humans doing the best we can with what we’ve got at the time to deal. A person who has dementia doesn’t have all that he once had.

Here’s an old corny poem that has a lot of truth to it.

There’s so much bad in the best of us
And so much good in the worst of us
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.

Stop thinking of your father as a well person much less good or bad. If he were whole you wouldn’t be his caretaker. His illness is mental. Stop expecting him to behave rationally.
If you, a person in good mental health, can’t understand that he is ill, how can you expect him to behave as a rational human? You are listening to someone tell you that your father has always been this way and you are deciding that he has been dishonest with you. That you didnt really know him. As a child he may have been taught racism. As a man he may have decided in the mature, executive functioning portion of his brain that he loved all humans. As he became incapacitated and lost the executive functioning portion of his brain, he may have reverted to a less enlightened functioning of his brain. I’m not a doctor. Just telling you what makes sense to me based on what I’ve read and what you are posting.
Your dad as you knew him is there somewhere but also is this other, harder to deal with person. In some ways it may be easier to detach from this insensitive man and detach you must to a degree to deal with the reality of the diseased brain that rules your father.
Hopefully others will have a softer more acceptable explanation of what you are dealing with.
And yes, often in life we discover that our loved ones have feet of clay.
Helpful Answer (6)

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter