How do I handle mom's Alzheimer's-related outbursts and anger?


Q: I can’t deal with my mother’s abusive behavior and angry outbursts. She has Alzheimer’s but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to cope. What can I do?

A: Research in your area to see what resources are available to help you in your current situation. If you know that you are no longer able to deal with her behavior alone -- which is not uncommon for caregivers -- then look for alternative placement for your mother.

Adult care as well as respite opportunities will let you take some time away from caregiving to re-group and make time for the things you enjoy.

You may also want to talk to your mother's doctor about her abusive behavior and angry outbursts from a medication perspective. Does your mom have any psychological issues from her past that may be causing her behavior?

Also, educate yourself on ways to interact with your mom. For example, see's article: "Dealing with Mood and Behavior Changes in Elderly Alzheimer's Patients."

Deanna Lueckenotte is the author of "Alzheimer's Days Gone By: For Those Caring for Their Loved Ones." She plans to continue publishing books related to Alzheimer's and caregivers. She would also like to continue her education by obtaining her doctorate in geriatrics.

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You have my absolute respect because I know first hand how hard this is.
My Mom was extremely abusive when we began this journey over 5 years ago. Mean as a snake. Actually, I hate to demean the snake.
It took her about 18 months to even smile at me.
I figured out that her biggest issue was the fear of abandonment and I developed the 'safe and sound' routine. I still tell her a lot: you are safe and sound. Belly's full, clean and dry, clean clothes, chocolate pudding, etc. etc. When she would get awful I would holler back at her that no matter how big of a jackass she wanted to be I wasn't going to leave her, so knock it off. I made up my mind that I would literally just wear her out. You know the tv show Survivor? Outwit, outlast and whatever the other one is, outplay, outhouse, whatever, you take my point.
At this stage of the game, I feel as if I have tamed a feral animal. Her anger is gone but some of the fears are still there and all I can do is be there and say, you're safe and sound.. let's have some tea.

All dementias are different in the way the person reacts. What worked for me could very well not work for you, but may be worth a try. My mother and I had a sad, distant relationship because of so many stupid reasons and I would never have believed that we could have pulled this off but we have.

The other thing I kept saying to her is: we only have this moment. That's it. All we have is this. So quit being a pill.

If you think of taming a feral animal, food is involved. Kind words and a sliced apple, etc. Food goes a long way as currency for the old folks.

I know it's hard to be nice to someone who is a total jerk to you, but it might work and you might be able to have a peaceful home with an elderly person with special needs in it as opposed to the insanity and heartbreak I know you are living in now.

Good luck and please don't forget to find things in your situation that are funny. You know they're there, just go ahead and give voice to it to help keep YOU sane.

My Mom can crap her pants, try to hide the pants and after I pull it all together with the bath for Mom, pants rinsed out, load in the machine (no pun intended) bed changed out, clean pjs, etc. She'll stand at the bed with a puss on picking the 'lint' off of the clean bedspread. How dare I place a bedspread that has lint on it. That's totally worth a laugh.

Talk to you soon,
I'm comforted to know that others too are getting abused by their mother. I agree you learn to cope although it is never pleasant. My mother is so old now that she wears out easily so the tirades don't go on for hours like they used to when I was a kid. Also she can't focus and sometimes forgets why she is angry. Distraction is the best. I like the idea of the food distraction.

Although it does no good, I wonder why these people are still with us. Nature is not being very efficient. I try to remember that it will end eventually. God help us all.
I am dealing with my mother-in-law's abusive behavior. She has a history of causing family problems even before the advent of her dementia. She has disrupted our home since she moved in one year ago. She made the last year of my dad's life miserable, and now is focusing her hate on me. My father moved in with us first almost 12 years ago, and just recently passed away.
She feels safest with my husband, which I guess is understandable. I am coping by insisting on 4 hour respite stays of once per week, weekend stays once per month, and week long stays once or twice per year. I don't know if this will be enough, but it is a start. I refuse to expose myself to her abuse, which unfortunately puts more pressure on my husband. I would like to see her move out to be honest, but I won't force that decision. I can say I won't ever forget the grief she caused my father.