How can I deal with my Father's aggressive behavior toward my husband and myself?

Asked by

He's nicer with my younger brother and his daughter-in-law. It seems since my brother got married in 2012, and having his own daughter, who is now 1 year old, that my father has been rude, crude and saying things to my husband ( 19 years together) and myself. Recently, my father has added the blame game with my husband and I. He added my mother to this blame game. He had my mother tell me on the phone yesterday, that we had stolen his black radio that he supposedly left on his chair next to his side of the bed. Not only did he accuse us of taking it, but also my mother said this, too. She doesn't have Alzheimer's Disease, dad does. He was diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer's' back in April of this year. But, he also has anger issues, too. He's never been able to control his anger ever since he was a young man. So, this is a factor, too. My husband and I had house sat for them from June the 10th to Sunday, June the 14th. We have 4 radios of our own, which we hardly ever use. We don't need another one. We didn't like being accused of something that we didn't take. And, we didn't see the black radio on his chair, we saw the silver one that shows the time. Even still, we were blamed by my mother who I love so very much. She is very normal and doesn't have anger problems or has dementia problems at all. She was just retired two years ago from being self-employed as a psychotherapist. So, she is smart and intelligent. There is a possibility that she could have dementia in her future, because of her father having Alzheimer's Disease. I think her younger brother is having problems in the finances part of his brain.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
For reasons of her own, your mother has decided to stick with this abusive man. Maybe he has other sterling qualities. Maybe she has self-image problems. Whatever the case, it has been and is her decision.

Your husband, on the other hand, has no obligation to decide to accept abusive treatment. Nor do you. If it were only the dementia at work here I would urge you to take a compassionate approach and not to take your father's abuse personally. I guess I still would like to see you compassionate and also not to be crushed by his behavior, but I also think you need to protect yourselves. I agree about not house-sitting for them.

"Mom, we've decided we won't be able to watch your house for you. I know that Daddy has dementia and his memory and his judgement aren't always under his control, but we don't want to provide any possibility that the two of you can think we would ever steal from you. It hurts us that you could think that, so we'll just stay out of your house while you are gone."
"Someone took my radio/pocket book/good pen/hearing aids/jewelry/something!" is a very common refrain in dementia. And it can be a vicious cycle while that phase lasts. "My comb is gone. I know there is a thief around here. I'll hide my glasses to be safe. Oh, I can't find my glasses anywhere! The proves there is a thief."

The alternative thought, "I've lost another possession. My memory is fading and my mind isn't working right," is too painful to accept. So, someone took the missing item. Your father's behavior is quite common.

What is driving your mother is more puzzling. Is she in denial about Dad's dementia? Was she perhaps talking in front of him to assure him that she is trying to help him? Can you talk to her privately to discuss what is going on?

I know this is extremely hard, but try not to take Dad's accusation personally. It is damage in his brain that is causing this, and it no doubt isn't helping that he has anger issues on top of dementia. Try to sympathize without falsely admitting guilt. "Oh Dad, it is certainly distressing to hear that your black radio isn't were you expect it to be. I'll double-check to make sure it didn't somehow get mixed up in our luggage, but I don't even remember seeing it. I remember seeing a silver radio there, with a clock. Is that one where it should be? I'll look for it but if it is not here then can I come over and help you look for the black one? We have four radios and hardly listen to them, and we could loan you one of ours until your black on shows up."

Be sympathetic, offer to help, and don't argue. What he says is his reality of the moment and you are very unlikely to be able to reason him out of it.

As to why he picks on you and not his son, that is usually a great mystery, but it, too is not uncommon in dementia.

I'm really curious about your mother. If you gain any insights into that, I hope you will share. We learn from each other.

I agree with jeannegibbs, I wouldn't house sit either. The thing is nobody ever talks about aggression and what to do. They all just say how awful it is. Well it is awful and having been on the receiving end of a knife being thrown at me and kicking me off her property, my mom got very aggressive. Its very hard not to take it personal but try just letting that part go as "unimportant" at the moment. I would not put yourself in a position to be blamed for anything. Maybe have your visits in a neutral place every now and then so there is no room for error. I know it hurts that your mom isn't sticking up for you either but there are surely some issues with self esteem and or self confidence when it comes to her relationship with her husband. Just remember thats her issue not yours and you can't fix it.
Remember because of the short-time memory loss, people with the condition wouldn't remember they misplaced the object and it will certainly could be found in the most unexpected place. Play along but the most valuable advise I could give you is to go to the scie.org.uk training sessions and dive into the free courses (20min), with full explanation about behaviour and what's happening in their brains... people living with the condition follow their own 'irational' logic, so the more you are prepared the more you understand what's coming.
It is difficult to adjust to the behavior of someone recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Your mom might be having a hard time the accepting his diagnosis and needs to get support in understanding your dad's behavior. He might be transferring his anger toward your mom to you, the daughter. He might know he is losing his mental function and is extra angry. I'm very sorry that you have to go through this, it is a long journey but you have people here, in the same boat, to support you and your mom.
Clearly your relationship with your parents is important to you or you wouldn't subject yourself to the abuse.

However it sounds like whatever you give to them at the same time takes away from your marriage. You are putting your husband in the position of second-class citizen.

Perhaps it's time to respectfully disengage from your parents. Blessings and best wishes to you in this struggle.
When I first came to this site, I was in a real pickle with my mom over what behaviors were from dementia and what was from her existing mental illness. As if there's any way to correct for either, because there isn't.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter other than make it harder to tell when they are declining. Their normal baseline is not "normal" to start with, so it's really easy to miss signs and signals of change. And don't drag around guilt over it.

Dementia will make his regular personality more pronounced and extreme. My mom could no longer control her paranoia and distrust at all. Usually she felt that way but could keep a lid on it around other people.

It's time to start planning what will happen when it's not safe for mom to be with him anymore. There will come a point where dad might need medication and more help than mom can safely provide. Combative dementia patients can be very strong and very aggressive, and it doesn't matter if you are the wife or family they've known forever.
My wife is always hiding things and I'm forever looking and finding the things she hides. There are things I can not find and never will. With you I would as others have said back off on house sitting. I know what your feeling. God Bless and keep your love for them.
Shawn, the mantra I keep repeating is "his brain is broken". I saw a cat scan of my mom's brain post stroke (she has vascular dementia ). It looks like swiss cheese. There aren't the right number of cards to make a deck. If something isn't there, it was stolen.
ShawnMarie, click on the link below which will direct you to some very informative articles about Alzheimer's/Dementia. The more you know about this memory issue the better prepared you and your Mother will be.... sadly, it won't be easier.

https://www.agingcare.com/Alzheimers-Dementia

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support