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My 94-year-old dad has been diangosed with dementia. I think his doctor doesn't want to use the A word around my parents, but he is treating dad with Aricept and Namenda. Dad's dementia has been coming on for several years--at least 3 to 5 years, maybe longer. He was finally diagnosed when my sister and I took him to his doctor four months ago and asked for some answers.

My 90-year-old mom is the primary caregiver, although my sister and I have been there constantly (taking turns) for the past 4 months, as my mom was in the hospital much of that time. Now that my mom is back home, she is caught up on dad's diagnosis and treatment. However, she cannot or will not treat him like a person with dementia. She scolds him for forgetting things, she belittles him for repeating things, and she constantly replays all the things he has done wrong, such as backing the car over a bush or driving into the garage door.

When I've talked with her and tried to explain that it's his dementia that causes this behavior and he can't help it, she says oh he's never paid attention or listened to her. That's not true. He tries very hard to please her, but it's hopeless. She gives him very complicated and confusing directions, asks him complicated questions, and then gets angry when he struggles to figure out what she wants him to do.

My sister and I both live many states away from them. As I return home today, I am worried that without my sister or me being there to temper her anger and remind her how to communicate with him, she will only make things worse for him rather than give him the support, patience, and understanding he needs.

He is very sweet, cooperative,and good-natured, and wants to be helpful and useful. She recognizes some of that but constantly points out the things he can no longer do. She is really playing the martyr here. What can I do?

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My mom lagged behind my dad in progression of dementia and we also went through a phase where all she could do was yell and nag and nothing in the world could make her understand that Dad was not being willfully uncooperative. This is painful to remember let alone to admit - but it got so bad that at one point my Dad apparently threatened to shoot her, and they did still have guns aroung the house. Mom actually asked me to come up and make usre they were all unloaded, which I did. She was not ready to do anything else at that point, and because she did know that threat or abuse were not to be tolerated, and maybe because I was still too much in denial to realize exactly what was happening and did not realy even try to force the issue. Once Dad fell a couple times and she could not get him up, and she called paramedics (and of course did not even let me know) he ended up in skilled nursing and mom had about another year left in her house before she fell...long story short, she never made it back home after that, and we went a year or two before I could accept that was permanent for her as well (she probably never really did.)

This is hard stuff. Between the elderly person not wanting to lose independence, not being able to judge the situation appropriately, and the child (me) not wanting to believe things would only get worse, it is hard to see things for what they are, and even then, I am not sure when and what I would have or could have done differently when so much possible help was refused. My mom also did not want people coming in to the house; she kept saying she could not "take care of them" meaning she couldn't imagine visitors coming over and her not fixing meals for them :-). She might have been able to go back home if she had been willing to consider it, but when the home health people visit to talk about it and are politely or impolitely declined by the person served three or four times, you can't necessarily make it happen.
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I have been there, no expert, but I've been there. My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, my grandmother (who has always been a nag) was his primary caregiver. BIG MISTAKE. She would nag my grandfather to complete confusion. He started to leave the house to get away from her. First time we found him a few blocks away, the next time the police found him 5 miles away in complete confusion not remembering where he lived. Lucky for us, my uncle was out looking for him, saw the police standing with him and pulled over. Again, Lucky for us, the officer gave a warning and we brought him home. If your parents live in a rural area, he could get lost with no one around to help him. My point is, your father is in need of a caregiver who understands his problems. Your mother may mean well but she is not qualified to be your father's caregiver. We hired a caregiver, it really helped, especially when my grandmother became diagnosed with dementia shortly after. Your parents need help, whether its a caregiver or assisted living facility, they need help, but don't wait for something bad to happen before you get them assistance.
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I just can't imagine at 90 years of age I would want nor have the ability to take care of another person especially one with dementia, even if it was a husband of many years. Your mom may be be scared, in denial, resentful or beginning dementia herself as MishkaM suggested. I'm sure you and your sister are terrified to leave them when you must return home. I sure hope you can convince them to get in home help because this doesn't seem like a situation either one of them can handle. My heart goes out to your poor dad.
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Thanks for mentioning the driving, treatmenttime. While Dad still has a driver's license, we obviously don't want him to drive on public streets and roads. Our solution has been to tell him we'd rather he didn't drive and then to always be available to drive him if he needs to go someplace. He still drives up the long private driveway (they live on a farm) to pick up the mail. Backing out of the garage or returning the car to the garage has resulted in these incidents.
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Is your dad still driving? You mentioned running over a bush. Please address his having a license with his Dr., if he gets upset or confused along with the emotional assaults from your mom he could really hurt himself or others while driving. As for your mom, she has probably been railing on your sweet daddy for years, very sad situation that Adult Protective Services or Agency on Aging will be able to help with. Best of Love to you!
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Jeannegibbs, you bring up a good point about the relationship. To some extent, yes, she has always tended to be critical of his human failings. It seems though that it has gotten worse as his limitations become more pronounced and annoying to her. I think too that she feels embarrassed by his behavior.

I'm thinking about talking with a long-time family friend (former high school classmate of mine) whose mother died of Alzheimer's disease. My mom would trust her and might listen to her, perhaps more than she would a family member.

My real hope is that they will move to assisted living where he could get some professional care and the burden would be lessened on my mom. A nearby facility we have visited recently has all levels of care, including a memory care unit. Now the challenge is to guide them into wanting that for themselves rather than feeling pressured by their kids.
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Oh wow. Your poor parents!

Has Mother always been so critical of Dad? If this is simply the nature of their relationship, I don't see a lot of hope for sudden drastic improvement.

But if you think she truly doesn't understand that he cannot help his behavior, perhaps you could find someone to educate her -- someone she might take more seriously than she takes her own kids. A minister? A sister or brother or cousin of her own generation? A nurse? His doctor? If you can think of anyone to explain the facts of dementia to her, I hope you can contact them and get help with talking to her.

What she is doing is VERY hurtful to poor Dad, as you realize. Do you think that he might be better of in a dementia care unit?
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*has not *harps-darn auto correct
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Oh RuthAO, Poor Dad. I am part time care giver to my Mom who had a stroke and harps vascular dementia and my Dad has a very hard time dealing with her disability. He loses patience with her and just does not want to admit how much help she really does need- but-my Mom can be very hard to deal with. But that does not excuse my Dad's behavior. So I know how worrying it is.

Considering your Mom's age she may be experiencing her own level of dementia or age related issues. I think you may find that you or sister are going to have to take over the care for your Dad full time. This may involve Adult protective Services. I am not there yet with my Dad but he is a pretty healthy 80- Mom 75. 90 is pretty old to be dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's , sorry to say. Even if a young 90. My GIL is 97 and just this last year she has been really losing her mental abilities so I know it is possible to be with it at 90 but she only had to take care of herself at that age and went into an AL place at 94 though still doing pretty well on her own.
Please take care of your Dad. He needs you. He needs someone to step in and take over. Good luck and God bless.
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i would ask adult protective services to provide your mother with an educational film or some sort of training seminar. i think aps has many resources at their disposal. perhaps you could show your mother some pics on the computer of x-rays of shrunken diseased brains. it seems that shes misunderstanding dementia and wrongly blaming old age senility. her caregiving task isnt easy. im constantly having to remind myself that my mothers brain is deteriorating. she isnt being a deliberate pain in the ass, shes mentally ill..
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