Inappropriate touching by elderly man

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have recently found out that a male relative currentlty 88 years old inappropriately touched several female teenage family members. This took place at various times from 10 to 15 years ago. Prior to this there were no known circumstances of inappropriate behavior.

Over the past 10 years this relative has exhibited increasing memory loss, decreasing cognitive ability, mobility problems, driving problems such as getting lost, incontinence issues, etc. Could this behavior have been the result of mini strokes, senility, dementia or alzheimers? We are searching answers for this change of behavior in a beloved family member.

A: Thank you for writing. I’m sure you are all deeply concerned. Unfortunately I can’t give you a specific answer on the basis of a letter. What I can tell you is that any responsible clinician would consider the strong possibility that his behavior was the result of TIAs (mini-strokes) or the onset of dementia. Both can cause loss of inhibitions and disintegration of that internal censor that keeps us all obeying the social rules. Since he has declined further in the past 10 years, chances are he will not be able to remember what happened or to explain himself.

Meanwhile, it’s very, very important to validate the now young adults’ experiences. They deserve the support of their other family members as they work to reconcile their love and concern for an elderly relative with their understandable upset over his behavior.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Oct 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Inappropriate touching by elderly man. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/10/08/inappropriate-touching-by-elderly-man/