Dear Family Resource,
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 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 with 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 overstimulation. 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 is 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 similar 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.
~ Family Resource