A Caregiver Asks: Why Does Dad Keep Insisting He Must Go to Work?

“Dad happily retired ten years ago. He loved having the free time to play golf, travel with Mom, and spend time with his grandchildren. Now every day, and often throughout the night, he tries to leave the house, insisting he’s going to be late for work. We is he doing this now?”

Men often define themselves as the family breadwinner, even if their wife had a job as well. Providing well for those they love is a source of pride and a way they show their love for those dear to them. And let’s not forget the sheer number of hours he put into his career.  The routine becomes ingrained. Habits become automatic. It is no wonder his subconscious reminds him of this on a regular basis.

It is also possible that dementia has taken him back in time and he thinks he is much younger than his years and having a job is a necessity. Trying to convince him otherwise will not work. It will make him angry and suspicious of your motives raising his stress level and yours.

The next time this happens, you may want to try one of the following suggestions. It is important to help him to see that you are not the one keeping him from his job.

  1. Tell him it is the weekend or a holiday and his place of business is closed.
  2. If there is something he enjoyed doing with his time off ask him to tell you about how much fun he had or what his proudest moment was.
  3. Talk to him about special moments you shared with him when he had time off from work.
  4. If he loved celebrating one holiday more than others, show him pictures that time.
  5. Give him a project to do.
      1. If he loved working with his hands, give him a box of various sizes of screws and washers and have him sort them.
      2. If he worked with numbers give him some old bank statements to go over.
      3. If working on cars was his passion, show him videos of vintage automobiles being restored. Ask him questions about the work and how it is done.

Engaging him in memories of things he loved may lead to some very special moments for both of you.

Bobbi Carducci, CCC, CCE


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