Feb 27th, 2019

Dear Sheila: When Dementia Gives Rise to Abuse

Dear Sheila,
My dad has dementia and while my mom is his primary caregiver she also has paid caregivers coming in every day for a few hours. Mostly they help with the physical tasks like bathing, dressing and so on. But if it sounds like things are under control — they’re not! Mom tells me that when no one else is around dad screams and curses at her, accuses her of terrible things, and tells her things that I know are not true. He accused her of sleeping with the male caregiver and with his best friend (who has been dead 10 years). He told her that he never loved her. Yesterday he accused her of stealing from him. Mom knows it’s the dementia talking but she’s terribly hurt and isn’t sure she can take it much longer. I know my dad is sick, but his abusive behavior is tearing my mom apart. Is there anything we can do to make him stop or make it easier for my mom?
~All Torn Up

Dear All Torn Up,
Your mother is not alone in her pain. Intellectually she knows this is not the man she married and has lived and loved for so many years, but it is still hurtful and unbearable. There could be many factors that contribute to your father’s outburst and mean behavior, such as a UTI, pain, frustration, hunger and over stimulation. Your mother may want to track these outbursts to see if there is a time of day they occur. Is he frustrated that he cannot communicate something or unable to complete a task?

If your mother can pinpoint possible reasons, she may be able to reduce these behaviors by feeding your father or helping him complete a task or providing pain medication. Remaining calm, not engaging or arguing and leaving the room during outbursts may help calm your father.

Accepting help from friends and family or hiring a caregiver from a licensed home care agency such as Family Resource Home Care and/or an adult day program will allow your mother time away from home to enjoy outside activities, friends and to rejuvenate.

Lastly, I highly recommend your mother find a support group through a local agency. She will have others in like situations to share experiences and ways to cope with living with a loved one who is in the throes of dementia.

I am glad your mother has you as an advocate.

photo credit: PeterThoeny How many jars of honey would you like? via photopin (license)

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