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We finally moved my parents into my sister's home after years of trying. My mom's dementia has worsened and we convinced dad that he could no longer live independently and care for mom. He has become increasingly more abusive towards mom (one of the reasons we insisted on the move) and is now starting to physically abusing mom (pull her by the hair, grab her by the face and shake her) even with my sister and her husband right there. They have tried to talk to him but it appears to do no good. Should we call the police when he becomes abusive? We're at our wits end as to how best to handle the situation.

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We had neighbours who shared a room in the nursing home. The wife's health gradually deteriorated to the point that she was totally bed bound and asleep most of the time. He got so frustrated that he attacked her as she lay in bed helpless, he was trying to get her to wake up and get out of bed. There can be no doubt he loved her, they died within days of each other, but for her safety they had to be separated and his visits supervised.
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Wits, can you see that your dad might be behaving with mental capacity of a 4 year old? Little control over his emotions and no insight into how his actions affect others?

It's been wonderful that you've got your parents into your sister's home. But now dad needs some help. Get him to his doctor asap and explain the outbursts and abuse. He needs a workup of his mental state and possibly meds for agitation and anxiety.
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Dad has his grumpy side but, to my knowledge, has never treated mom like he is now and I do believe he "blames" mom for her dementia. She has always cared for and catered to him. Now she is just a bother to him and I think part of his behavior is an effort to get her to go lay down in bed so she isn't asking for something every five minutes. Its sad because he doesn't try to talk with her or give her any attention. Mind you, he's never been much for conversation, but now he just can't be bothered because she can't hear him and keeps repeating herself. Yet, when we've had to call 911 (because she's fallen or unable to move), he literally breaks down and cries that he is never going to see her again and remorseful for his bad behavior. There are definitely some mental issues going on.
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He probably did this when he was taking care of her on his own. Maybe, he tired of having to deal with her due to the dementia.
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About the psychiatry route. My mother was in ICU sitting up and a psychiatrist walked in. He introduced himself. She looked shocked and he said. " it wasn't my idea". He knew she wouldn't want to see a shrink. He visited with her a few minutes and ask her questions about her life. Her children. Her marriage etc. She answered his questions. He told her that she seemed to be doing very well. She dismissed that as obviously wrong as she was in ICU but later she mentioned several times that he had said she seemed like she was in good mental health to him. I think she was worried about forgetting things. At any rate he made her feel better about herself. She died about a week later.
Obviously your dad isn't doing well mentally but the right dr might be able to calm him.
Record your dad on your phone and show it to whomever you are trying to get help from. You might try asking a police officer to come tell him he can't behave that way. I agree he probably doesn't even know he's about to erupt. He's also probably under a lot of stress having to move. BUT you have to protect your mom.
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Has he always been nasty to your mom, or this new,, like since her decline? Could he be "blaming" her for her dementia?
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witsend12, being that your father is 96, it is not unusual of his generation not to want to see a psychiatry specialist.... in his era that was very hush-hush and only for people who need to go into an asylum. Glad we are no longer in that era.

I was wondering about an urinary tract infection [UTI] as elderly males can also have this condition, and such an infection can cause behavior outbursts. It's worth checking.
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Have you all talked to dad' s primary care physician about his behavior? Even if you are not on the HIPAA release ( which means the dr. can't divulge any information to you) you can TELL the doctor what is going on.

Video dad and show it to his doctor, not to dad. I would not assume that dad's behavior is any longer under his control.
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Please do not let your dad's " beliefs" dictate what happens next. He has dementia, is mentally ill, or both. Either get your mom out of their and in a safe environment and/or have dad sent for an involuntary evaluation.

It's up to you " kids" to take action, before someone else calls APS.
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Thank you all for your input. It has given me topics to discuss with my sister. My dad is not a believer in psychiatry. I don't know if it's doable but do you think it's a good idea to try and video his behavior? We've already got his yelling recorded (voice only) but haven't played it back to him. He knows he yells and calls mom names and is apologetic at times (to my sister), but admittedly can't seem to control his outbursts.
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My FIL was emotionally abusive to my MIL. My wish for her was that she would have a span of time after he passed for her to live in peace. She died one month and one day after he did. It breaks my heart to see a spouse live so much of their life with their abuser. Having said that the children could not imagine their parents separated. I think it was somehow normalized for them. In addition to the excellent advice given above have you considered taking one or the other home with you for a few days to see how they behave when separated? I used to think that my MILs dementia was a way to escape the reality of living with such an abusive person. My husband did turn his father into elder abuse. No help from them. It must be awful to witness and to know she's been living with it. I know it's really hard to take action against him. I'm really glad you are looking for alternatives.
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Witsend, clearly this is a heartbreaking situation for you and your family! Not your fault, not your dad's fault, if he is mentally impaired in someway, which I strongly suspect.

But here's the deal. By moving your parents into sister's home, they become witnesses to elder abuse. If they do nothing, if they are ineffectual in stopping dad ( and if he has dementia or some other mental impairment, no amount of persuading is going to be effective) then they open themselves up to being held responsible for mom's abuse at dad's hands, at least in some jurisdictions. Thus, I would jump on this very scary and sad situation right away, BEFORE another incident occurs.

(((((Hugs)))))) to you and your family. Please let us know what steps you take and how it's working out.
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Your father definitely needs a psych eval and some medications. Please get him admitted as soon as possible. I agree, call 911 when this happens.
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Is your father having a hard time accepting that the disease has changed his wife? Or do you think that he also has some dementia of some type. What Babalou suggested is a good idea. If he hits or shakes her in an abusive way, call 911 and let the police know what happened. Instead of arresting him, he should be taken to the ER and held for geriatric evaluation. They may be able to find a combination of medications that will make him calmer. If they don't, it may be the best idea to have them discharge him to a facility where he will not have access to your mother unless you visit him. This is a sad situation. I know you don't want to separate them, but I know you also want to keep her safe. What would be best would be if they could find something to help control his agitation and anger with her. Big hugs.
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You call 911 and get the EMTs to come out and transport him to the ER, where you ask for an involuntary inpatient psychiatric evaluation, if this is something that you can request in your state.

I would also ( before the next incident) call Adult Protective Services and report his behavior so that they are aware of it.

Is he under the care of a psychiatrist? Is he getting meds for his agitation and anxiety? If this is a recent change in his behavior, his doctor needs to know asap.

Does dad have dementia as well? Or has he always been abudive?
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