My father mid 80s is emailing a few people from his past, but also people we currently know and some professionals that look after him financially and medically. He lives with my mother, who has never been very nice to anyway but she is tolerant. He leaves the email open and she sees these contacts and one day and she asked me to click on them as she was concerned to read the content. Plus she wanted me to check for scams, as he fell for one before. He is complaining about myself and my mother, telling tall stories about how is being treated badly (no specifics) and is unhappy and telling these contacts he will visit them soon (which he cannot do, as most are abroad).

When I saw these emails, I felt sick inside and embarrassed, as I know and knew some of these people. They have not been bombarded by emails (yet) it's once in a while so far and they reply and answer his questions. I am worried they might believe the content and think badly of us all.

I discussed with my mother, but we do not know how to handle it. Should we contact these people and tell them not to reply? I think it will get worse, he is not losing his mind per se, he can have a normal conversation with you, but his poor character traits that he always had are becoming more pronounced and irrational. He is so ungrateful, as he is well looked after and could never get this quality of care anywhere else without paying a fortune. What I really want to do is take the computer away, but I do not feel I can, without a huge fuss and I do not even know if that is rational of me at this point!

I need some advice about what you would do in my position.

Um... I would be very concerned. One of his contacts may contact Adult Protective Services. I would make sure... don't mention the emails... but make sure he knows that if someone takes him seriously APS has the power to remove him from the home and place him in what they consider "protective custody".
Example: My father was telling people on the phone that his house was falling apart (it was under construction and obviously during the weekends the construction people would not be working). I repeatedly told him that if he told people this on the phone they might call the police and he might be taken away from me or me away from him. He finally stopped and now I forbid him to answer the landline. I got him a "special phone" that only his friends and family can call it no solicitors.
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Reply to hgnhgn
Rabanette Apr 26, 2019
Maybe they can contact Adult Protective Services preemptively, and maybe APS might have some suggestions about how to keep everyone safe in this situation, going forward?
I don't mean this unkindly, but are you guessing or do you actually know what medical and/or psychiatric investigations and/or treatment he has had so far?

Is this bitterness or mental illness ... we will never find out.

Well, you'd *better* find out. And this is what you explain to whoever you're asking:

He is sending sensitive financial information to people who clearly have not asked for it and are not expecting it. He is not involving your mother in standard household finances because he fears that she will steal from him. He is increasingly detached from reality in his communications. He is acting against medical advice: tell the doctors that he only complies with treatment or respects their opinion when he agrees with it, and they'll tell you his ideas are grandiose. He is increasingly intolerant of any challenge to his judgement, even when it is demonstrably risky.

He's not just having a bit of a grump, is he.

You can sit tight and blame him for the trainwreck when it happens, or you can start setting off alarms. And unless your mother wants a horrible mess on her hands, she needs not to be passive about it. I know it can be frightening to feel that you've started something when you're not sure where it's going to end, but if she does nothing she won't even have professional back-up.

What sort of medical professionals have been treating him? One of these might be a good place to start looking for advice.
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Reply to Countrymouse

Your father is afraid, as in living in fear, and your mother is miserable.

His fear is not rational, and his response to it is counterproductive, but that's not the point. He is not able to analyse the situation as you have done and think "heck, I'd better calm down and be nice or she really will leave!"

They can't go to counselling as a couple because he's obviously not going to wear that idea for a nanosecond.

The question to be answered is whether his mental and emotional state is deteriorating to the point where he is manifestly ill. The marriage has long been strained, okay; but at this point the impact on their quality of life seems to have crossed a line. Has it?

When you say "put him in a care home" what exactly have you in mind? I'd agree with you that your father does need to be examined and might actually be better off in residential care, but on what basis could he be admitted?

Your mother feels defeated and helpless, and who can blame her. It is very difficult to see your way out of a situation when you feel trapped in it. But you do not need her permission to seek professional advice, and once you have had that consultation you then take your mother to see the same person and have it repeated. As things are, she doesn't know what to do so she's not doing anything. But if that continues, the only way that anything will change is if one of them dies or somebody gets hurt.

For an example of what you can discuss: your mother isn't engaging with psychological services because your father wouldn't agree to see them. Well. Mentally ill people rarely do agree that they're mentally ill! There are ways round that, which professionals will be able to explain.

Try not to be so pissed off with your dad. When your mother seems so oppressed by his behaviour I know it's hard to feel warmly towards him, but detach from that and look on him as just an old man who is very unhappy and needs help.
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Reply to Countrymouse


Why specifically was your mother concerned to see the content of these emails? Had something happened that led her to believe there was a particular problem? - e.g. questions or remarks from a concerned outsider.

You say he doesn't give any specifics, but you also say he is telling tall stories. How can they be inaccurate if they're not giving any details?

As a complete outsider, all I know about how you and your mother are treating him is that you've read his private emails and consider him an ingrate and would dearly like to prevent him from expressing himself, when you yourself have told him you don't want to hear his complaints, and would like others to dismiss him as well.

It's not like he's imagining it altogether, then, is it, really?

What do you think your mother would like to do about all of this, her whole marriage and future, in an ideal world?
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Reply to Countrymouse
itsjustme123 Apr 23, 2019
I meant tall stories about how he will be visiting these contacts (he is unable to) and on other subjects, which I know not to be true.

When you say expressing oneself, ok fine, but it still embarasses me. I do not think this is the right thing to do, contacting people, with what I know to be untruths and mentioning myself and my mother in this fashion. They also mention visiting these people - the subtext if you read them is I need to escape to you, it could be worrying for them. Maybe I am overthinking it.

Yes, someone they both know told my mother they got an email, and what he said, this particular person knows it is untrue info. But most contacts have no way to contact my mother or are just his own friends.

As far as me not listening to his complaints, I stopped listening for my own sanity. I tried to console and reason and all the other tactics for years. To him it is more important to be right and angry, then to let any of it go.

In terms of my mother, she thinks it is too late to change anything in terms of her marriage, she made a committment and she is just gritting her teeth through the bad bits.
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Okay, again.

Look. It is *possible* that increasing anxiety verging on paranoia, fantasy escape plans, a complete and disproportionate breakdown in trust - combined with being so cavalier about security as to leave his email unprotected - could be a sign of treatable or manageable mental health problems, and investigating your father's wellbeing could lead ultimately to an improvement in your parents' quality of life all round.

Is there any history of mental ill health? You say you burned out when it came to listening to him, which is fair enough; but how long a period of time are we talking about, here?

It is also certainly true that your mother should be looking ahead to her own future needs, and making sure that her finances are organised. In 2019, it is just not the norm for her to be so dependent on her husband that she wouldn't even know how to cope if she had to, not even if she too is in her mid-eighties. The Equal Pay Act has been with us since 1973.

But somebody he trusts needs to talk to him before you can do anything much. He doesn't trust your mother, whether or not there is even a grain of reason to his suspicions, and you've shut him down. Can you reopen communication and restore his confidence in you?

Are you or is your mother in touch with the medical professionals you mention? - what sort, by the way?
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Reply to Countrymouse

I'm not including the name because AC has rules about things like that, but this is the web profile of a young lady practitioner in your area which I found through a reputable source in less than five minutes. The idea is to give you an example of the kind of help you and/or your mother can access without any need to make your Dad lift a finger if he doesn't want to.


Late life is often a dynamic time and one of transition. For many older adults, it is fraught with illness, loss and emotional and physical challenge. But it can also be a time of enormous potential. With fewer obligations, long time personal goals can finally be realized and difficult family relationships repaired and healed. Evidence suggests that it's possible to make change at any stage of life. Together through the collaborative process of psychotherapy, we will work towards your goals using an integrated approach that includes psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, and solution focused strategies.

My practice also includes end of life psychotherapy & psychosocial support and therapy for those living with serious or chronic illness. I also offer consultation & psychotherapy to well spouses & family caregivers, as well as mediation assistance to families in conflict over treatment or end of life decision-making or caregiving responsibilities.
As an Advanced Certified Hospice & Palliative Care Social Worker (ACHP-SW) & former VA Palliative Care Fellow, I appreciate that many frail clients, especially those in need of end of life support, can't travel to a psychotherapist. I'll consider home visits for very ill or end of life clients.


She even throws in a free initial telephone consultation. How can it possibly hurt to ask?
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Reply to Countrymouse
itsjustme123 Apr 25, 2019
sigh - if it was me, I would not give him his meds if he does not want them.
He has plenty of access to medical care, he gets a 3 montly routine visit at home to check blood pressure and general checkup. The drs prescribe the meds, it is up to him if he takes them in my opinion. He may or may not have parkinsons, again it is up to the dr and him to discuss it, if he is lucid, which I think he is, and if he is not lucid, that should be up to the dr to pick up. I will tell my mother to inform the dr to assess him for lucidity, but I cannot see how anything other that old age slowness will be picked up, as he does not holler or show irrational thoughts in front of the dr of course...
I think that you and your mother had better pretend that you did not access your father's private emails without his consent, and do your best to put his complaints to his contacts out of your minds.

Eavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves, is the saying.

This advice might change radically if your father develops dementia, but so far you make no suggestion that that is the case?

Since he was caught by a scam before, and you do not have to be demented to be caught out by those utter bustards, has your mother taken steps to ensure that her and any joint bank accounts are now secure? Has your father also done that? - did he learn his lesson?
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Reply to Countrymouse

He left the emails open for the world to see. You and your mother did not go snooping. In my opinion, there's a difference. It's like when you hand someone your phone to show them a picture and they accidentally swipe left or right and see another picture that may not be for public consumption. It's the risk he took by leaving his emails open on the screen.

That said, print out the one where he gave away sensitive financial information. Keep it in a safe place, along with other important documentation.

It's time to start documenting. Your mother needs to keep a journal. For example, document the date, time and medication he refused to take. Write exactly what he says e.g. "I don't need this pill" or whatever. Write objective statements only e.g. "He flushed the pill down the toilet" or "He spat the pill on the floor".

Get your mother a consult with an elder law attorney as soon as possible. That consult needs to be between her and her attorney. Do not involve yourself or your father. You can help your mother protect herself financially and psychosocially for her future.

Focus less on your father because he refuses help. Focus more on your mother because she is vulnerable to your father whose unpredictable and uncooperative.
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw

If your father has no diagnosis of mental illness and/or dementia, and your mother is feeding him his medication without his knowledge or consent, that is assault.

She can report non-compliance to his doctor.
She can remind and encourage your father to take his medication as prescribed.
But she cannot give it to him covertly. She must stop doing that.

You and your mother are coping with a very difficult situation. I don't for a second suppose that you have anything but the best intentions. But with those best intentions, you are between you engaging in activities which *are* abusive.

Even when abuse is unintentional, it is still abuse.

That tremor - do you know that your father does *not* have Parkinson's Disease? Or that he has not been taking antipsychotic medication long-term?

Are you confident that your mother has told you everything she knows about his medical history?
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Reply to Countrymouse

I would reply to each of them without telling him and explain his situation. Welcome any responses that they send to his emails because he is still actively writing and trying to communicate with others. Once they understand the situation, perhaps their responses can show empathy while knowing the real situation as well. And be sure to let them know, whatever his condition is prevents him from traveling even though he indicates he intends to do so. So far, none of these people have paid a welfare visit to check out his claims of being treated badly, so perhaps they already doubt what he is saying. In your email, welcome any of them to come for a visit. Will allow them to look around and observe AND pay him a visit.
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Reply to my2cents

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