Dalilah Asked October 2011

What should I do if I am caring for an elderly who verbally abuses me?


Hi. Im a carer to an 76 year old man. This man is my husband, and im 35 years old. It certainly seems odd, our age gap, but we got together 15 years ago and we were very happy at the beginning. I stood by him through all his problems, i love him very much. But the past two years hes been horrible to me. I understand he might not feel as good as i did years ago but i do everything i can to make him feel great about himself.
But nothing i do now is right. Everything is wrong, i try to help him all the time, he refuses my help and then blames me for not helping.

He blames me for every little thing that happens, shouts at me inside the house, and in public. calls me names. If i retaliate he goes days without talking to me. If i dont cook him chips he says im trying to starve him, even though the doctor told him to eat healthy. He forgets things that we talked about 5 minutes ago and i feel like ive been talking to the walls. Everything is my fault now. Its getting to the point where im saying sorry and begging for forgiveness over something i have not done. Im getting so depressed and frightened. Im considering suicide.

Can someone please give me some advice on how to cope with this? I fear that if i talk to my doctor about it he wont believe me because it would be more likely a young person abusing an elderly person.

Thank you

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Oct 2011
Soverytired said it perfectly. This is not just for people who care for their elders. Many caregivers on agingcare.com are taking care of spouses, other relatives - even adult children.
Detaching with love, as mentioned, is a big step. So is counseling. One article that may help can be found at: https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/Elders-Abusing-Their-Adult-Children-Who-Are-Taking-Care-of-Them-137122.htm
Please take care of yourself in this relationship. You have your rights.
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Soverytired Oct 2011
I don't think this site is only for people with parents although it is a typical scenario, there are people here caring for spouses and children as well. I do think you will find a lot of people who understand what you are going through. One thing you will hear is detach with love and I think you can apply this whether your patient is a parent or a spouse. My primary patient is my mother and she is verbally abusive, I can do nothing right. It ranges from insidiuous comments like "you know I don't like that", "what's wrong with you anyway?" to name calling to accusations to telling me the rest of the family dislikes me including my own children. I have had to view her as someone other than my mother. She was always a sharply critical woman but she once did have the ability to show love and empathy that is now gone. So I think of her as a patient and I remind myself that my real mom is gone. I also am a little familiar with the your situation as there is a significant difference in age between me and my spouse, too. Sometimes I've said that he finished raising me as I had a less than ideal childhood. He has had some illness but we are not really in a caregiving situation yet. I can see where your situation would be heartbreaking. I did go to a therapist to sort out my relationship with my mother and it did help me immensely to narrrow in on what I was and wasn't willing to do and to understand the aging brain better. Most of the striking out is just anger over their own situation and they feel safe lashing out at you. Doesn't mean that it is okay, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt you but may help your self esteem to know that he probably still loves and appreciates you under all that and has become unable to express it or has fear that you will leave him. I am sorry you are going through this when you are so young. Read some of the articles here about detaching with love and talk to someone you trust and you know is safe to talk to. The people here are safe.
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pltrickey Oct 2011
What I noticed about my mother, who I nutured through 9years before her death , was that her compassion for others slowly left her as she was getting more feeble. Loss of control makes some elderly people strike out. Your loved one sounds like that is what he is doing to you. You are the wonderful one for being there for him. Keep telling yourself that over and over again. This is not the same person that you knew before he was robbed of his compassion and love. Just smile and be your wonderful pleasant self in his room and when you get out of hearing , compliment your self for keeping your cooland then go do something physical. It helps your body rid itself of stress. Even if it us just a walk to the end of the block, walking around the house three or four times, I always have plants to put in the ground so I would get the shovel and dig holes for the plants. It made me feel good seeing those plants thriving. Find something that you can be passionate about and have that fun chore waiting for you after caring for your person. You will have no regrets later with ways of working around those negative times. Right now you need to make yourself feel good to continue this long drawn out emotional journey. Most of us have been on this journey and have tried these suggestions and have survived. Good luck in finding those suggestions that work for you.
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Linda715 Nov 2011
If I wasn't a christian ,I would have maybe tried,my mom is 74,yrs.old I make diabetic milkshakes ,she drinks them every day but she is only 86 pounds,I cook supper for her but won't eat until 12:30,am to 2 am in the morning ,I stay up with her,worried she may fall,I can't get her to eat more then once a day,she is a diabetic and has a heart condition,my dad and mom were married 56 horrible years and we had to live in that nightmare too.My mom has attitudes that if she wants to die that no one can stop her.I am soooo over welmed,plus my brother is an alcoholic and i have to put up with that situation to it's horrible! So you are not alone! I get abused mentally,I cooked supper this afternoon in which she wouldn't eat,my brother was drunk go's into the kitchen 10:30pm fixes her scrambled eggs and she ate,I'm happy she ate,but I am to the point of just stop cooking and let her eat the meals on wheels we recieve,I cook because she said she doesn't like there food.I am hurt,my feelings,because I ask her what she wanted to eat,she normally likes hamburger,homemade i ahve to pour out so much food,I hate waisting food,people and children are starving,and I am pouring out food because she don't want to eat,she will eat lima beans,but not making it everyday.Just don't give up and throw in the towal.If it's ok,can i pray for you?Your not alone!Jesus loves you! Hang in there,ok!
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Hi Delilah,

Why would you think the doctor would believe you are guilty of elder abuse? My first suggestion is to seek out a support group for other caregivers. It will provide you with a place to vent, share and learn. One thing you will find out very quickly is that your heartbreaking situation is not as unusual. Many caretakers, regardless of their age find themselves caught between loving and caring for a loved and being at their wits end. It is good that you've reached out here. It is time for you to seek respite care for yourself, it's time to talk to your doctor or your husband's doctor. They hear about this sort of case all the time. Care taking is one of the greatest causes of burnout that exists.

It is due to this sort of burnout that often leads to elder abuse....so this situation must be address because it is a danger to both you and your husband.

As a recommendation, I belong to an online group through Yahoo Groups called Senior_Caretakers. Do a search on Yahoo Groups. The people there go through so much of this and have experienced what you are experiencing right now. They are understanding, sympathetic and well informed. You will feel so much better when you begin to do something positive for yourself once again. You need to think about you in all of this.

Also, has your husband been diagnosed for Alzheimer's? Many of the the actions he demonstrates sound very much like Alzheimer's. If that is the case, you can seek comfort from support groups specifically focused on care takers of patients with Alzheimer"s. No one can continue to live a healthy, productive life being yelled at and abused. Please don't put this off. Folks who can help are all around...you just need to let them know you're there. Blessings to you and I wish you everything good. Jenny
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planeman Oct 2011
Absolutely, do not hesitate to speak to the doctor. Your problem is actually quite common and the doctor will have seen it many times. There are prescriptive drugs to take care of this. You do not need to suffer. You sound like an admirable person who is being pushed ti the limit. There are answers as close as your nearest pharmacy but you will need a prescription.
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If you tell the truth to a professional and you are not believed, then you haven't found the right professional and you go to another one.
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Delilah, It's me, Jenny, again....have you considered enrolling your husband in adult daycare for folks with dementia or suffering from Alzheimer's. Doing this would give you a good eight hours of down time in which to regroup and restore yourself. No one can stay under constant stress all the time and it would be good for your husband too to be around others with which to interact and stay involved.

Even if you felt more comfortable having him stay for only four hours, it would still give you much needed respite from the constant jumping through hoops and having to watch every word you say and everything you do. I hope with all my heart this helps. Jenny
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ThatGrlMel Nov 2011
Hi there,
Wow, "detach from love." That's so helpful!
I think every case is different. I'm 27 and have been caring for my mom for 9 years. The person she is, is not the loving, fun mother who raised me. I think it's very important for a care taker to accept that. It took me such a long time to figure out that this is not my mom, anymore. This is a person who is suffering. I want you to make sure you take care of yourself. My friend once told me, "You have to first put the oxygen mask on yourself, before you help anyone else."
My mom has been not only abusive, but manipulative and destructive. I got fired from my job because I didn't know that. All my energy and money was pouring into her, and that's not right either. My scenario was also very financially unstable. My mom never worked, and then my dad divorced her and she became sick. I ended up calling Adult Protective Services and they sent a social worker to help me. Keep going!
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LauraO Jan 2016
I agree with, 1rarefind. You mere to get help for yourself. You can't help anyone until you help yourself.
I have been there. Had years of counseling, now I am a certified Nursing assistant. That being said, I have also been suicidal and have lost a friend to suicide. Suicide is not the answer. It is a permanent answer to a temporary situation. You need to get help for yourself. Your husband may need a skilled nursing facility to live in, while you get help for yourself. I used to live in that situation. You do needed to detach with love, and take care of you. Tell your husband that he doesn't have the right to verbally attack and abuse you and that you are going to get help for yourself and he should do the same if he wants to keep his marriage. It is amazing how much better it can be when you both get healthier.
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