Manners Matter: Grampa in Public

Dear Mary Pat,

I like to visit my grandpa at his nursing home at least once a week. He’s just up the road from me and he’s physically able to go with me on errands and go out for lunch. The only issue is that he has a little dementia and tends to blurt things out in public. He also points, to make it worse. When he yells, “Look at that woman’s hair color! or “Why is he so big?” while pointing, it’s really awkward and I don’t know what to do. He’s always been very sweet and wouldn’t say anything bad about anyone if it weren’t for his dementia. Do you think people understand? Or should I just start handing out little cards that say I’m sorry to them? His caregivers are thankfully used to it by now, but I’m not sure the public is ready to hear all he has to say.


Out of the Mouth of Gramps

Sister Bay, Wis.

Dear Out of the Mouth of Gramps,

I think most people will understand since dementia is a common enough problem. Sometimes dementia causes people to say things they certainly do not mean. You need to be compassionate with your grandpa, but also try to gently correct him at the same time. It’s totally alright to say, “Grandpa, that’s inappropriate” and then apologize to the offended person if you think he or she heard what was said. You can also ask your grandpa to apologize too and maybe he will.

It’s wonderful that you are able to take your grandpa out once a week. Perhaps you can start taking him to places where there aren’t as many people around…the park or a quieter restaurant. And if you see something catch his attention and he raises his pointer finger, maybe try to ward off the attack and distract him with a question. You can’t control everything that will come out of his mouth but you can try to deflect. I do think most people will figure out what is really going on and hopefully give your grandpa a pass.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

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