How can I help my husband cope?

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How do I help my husband cope with his mother's dementia? She is a strong willed otherwise fairly healthy 88 year old. She provokes "arguing" behavior with him. He spends one night a week at her home since we live almost 200 miles away. If I am with him she is less likely to "argue." She lives alone and insists that she will never leave her house. She will nag him for hours with "I don't want you coming all this way. I don't need you to come. I am not hurting anyone." If I am there I tell her she is hurting him by saying these things to a loving, caring wonderful son and let's talk about something else. That is usually enough to make her settle down, but if not, she just keeps hearing the exact same thing from me. He tries to reason with her, point out why she needs assistance. She fights back and this can last for hours. He comes home mentally, emotiionally and physically (he takes care of her yard and maintenance as well as all financials) exhausted. Any suggestions on how he might deal with this?

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I'd suggest that your husband find the time to learn more about dementia. In his case, it's doubly hard, because his mom (by the sound of it) has always been strong willed and argumentative. However, now that she's been diagnosed with dementia, old behavior on his part needs to be changed.

Arguing with a person who has dementia just makes matters worse. The Alzheimer's Association has a terrific brain "tour" on their site that can really help people understand what is happening to their parent or spouse's brain. The organization also helps counsel and educate people and offers enormous support.

Both of you would do well to spend a lot of time on www.alz.org and take advantage of the education. Knowing how to handle the person who has dementia can go a long way toward making life more bearable for everyone.
Good luck,
Carol
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you simply must learn to avoid reasoning or argueing with a dementia patient. they talk in circles that will only result in you getting bent out of shape. my mom was hallucinating once and seeing people all over the front and back yards. i told her as long as theyre not coming in here messing with us we wont worry about them. telling her the people didnt exist would only have frustrated and agitated her. its not easy to learn but it can be done.
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Thanks for your comments. I got a call today from one of her friends that they and another friend couldn't get her all day and couldn't go to check on her. I called and just got a busy signal. I don't know what's up with the phone. I called for a wellness check and I am sure she wil not forgive me having the police come check on her for as long as she remembers it. (Which I hope is not long, but seeing it's negative it may stick.) My husbands plan is to let her do as she wants until something bad happens, then deal with it. Her doctor actually suggested this.
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Update: I had to work last week so husband went by himself. Although he said everything went ok, he came home looking like he had been dragged through the wringer. I got in touch with the local organization what provides services to the elderly and arranged to have someone come in 4 days a week midday to try to make sure MIL gets one hot nourishing meal a day, some companionship and a wellness check. MIL has told me she won't allow such a thing, but am going to give it a try. Soon will have to take the car away and this will also give her transportation. Turns out the lady they are sending went to high school with my husband. I think I will tell MIL she is an old acquaintance, but have no idea how this will work. What has your experience been? Will meet with this person Monday. Kind of nervous.
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Hi, skinonna, sounds like you are still stuck in a tough situation. This is just my opinion, but from reading from the beginning of your post until this last one, I haven't read anything that makes me think having your mother in law move in with you is a good idea; not for you and not for her.
I do feel that much of your frustration is in having a husband who is being passive-aggressive in his behavior. I'm passive-aggressive myself, and I know how much I can resent things after they happen, even when I was not brave enough to say NO in the first place. '
I think you should tell your husband NO, his mother is not moving in with you; you will help him find a nice facility either near you or near where she lives now, but NO she is not physically moving into your house.
If she really does lose her license from the RMV (DMV?) at least you and your husband are not being the bad guys in that case. But if she doesn't, your husband needs to take her keys away before someone gets hurt! If he's not brave enough to have that discussion, you may have to start the discussion but make it very clear to him that he needs to back you up, no questions asked, no waffling, no "she will be fine."
If she refuses to move out of her house, then really you will have to decide if you need to get Protective Services involved.
Stay strong, skinonna!
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Skinonna, the last thing I'd want is to make you feel "got at", but if your husband is not coping well with the stress of your mil and indeed has mental health concerns of his own, that strikes me as an even better reason to back off. Your mil will need increasing support if - as she wishes - she is to stay in her own home. So if the two of you together are already not able to provide that support in a way she is happy with (and that means more than "is polite about when she can summon up her good manners"), then don't do it. There are other options.

The way things seem to be developing, everything your mil feared is coming to pass PLUS it is painting you and your husband into a very tight corner. Elders who have no relatives manage somehow; your mil can manage without you - especially if that continues consistently to be her stated wish. Let service providers do the donkey work of security and protection and negotiating in-home care - all the bits that drive you mad and are difficult to manage at a distance - and you're off the hook. All the best x
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Well firstly let me say that he is very lucky to have you and how supportive you are. My mum has dementia and ive learned to TRY and avoid arguments as youre wasting your time you cannot win just agree and keep telling yourself that shes ill and she dosnt know what shes saying TRY not to take things personally I know its tough VERY tough but if he can accept her comments as just her illness then its a bit easier to switch off from a little. My mum is just like her and its very hard as shes been like this all her life but is now getting worse and aggressive. My mum also refuses to go into care and insists shes ok on her own and that she dosnt want help from anyone?? thats fine for her BUT the things she is doing,she is not safe on her own I am ill with worry as I cant stay here much longer and want to move 3hrs away BUT she does not want to come with me? She is adamant that she will stay in her home until she dies? His mum like mine is losing her independence and the more he does the more she will argue best he just agrees for now and get him to learn all he can about this illness the more I tell myself she dosnt know what shes doing or saying the easier I cope!! I walk away if she gets angry do something else then come back and she may have forgotten? I live with my mum so its everyday which isnt easy your husband is doing his best keep telling him this and that its not his fault she is ill! Hope this helps hes very lucky I wish I had a partner here to support me!
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Well, the dr has states she shouldn't live alone.

I would suggest to husband that he hire (vis moms finances) some in home care however many hrs you can afford. Hire a reputable agency with a good contract that outlines care needs, duties, hrs, etc. suggest that everyone tries this for a couple months and sees how this works out.

Tell husband that your mom needs more skilled care than the two of you can provide and you want to respect moms wishes to retain her independence and remain in her home a little longer. This will work to your advantage while getting you off the hook.

He can still visit one or twice a month to see how things are going. Hopefully mom has the finances to afford.

In the meantime, take it upon yourself to research and visit some AL or memory care facilities nearby. Narrow down and then pick one or two that are a good fit and ask hubby to visit with you and meet with director. Let him see how great they are and how much they have to offer to your moms quality of living and meeting new friends her age in a new place. Give him some time to warm up to it and then he can help mom to adjust to the idea.

Good luck. If you aren't comfortable with mom moving in...then don't do it! I know I won't let my mom move in because I know I won't be happy doing it and it won't be the quality time I want to be able to spend with her as a daughter not a caregiver. I tell her I love her and will work to help her adjust to a home nearby but not live with us.
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Update: Husband went by himself this weekend. He always has her drive to her Dr.'s appts and then tells me what a good driver she is. But not this time. She stopped while crossing a 4 lane bridge and then stopped in the middle of an intersection. He said she was just upset about something so not driving like her usual self. I took me at least 3 attempts to get him to understand that the problem was not that she was upset and not driving like her usual self, but that she had no idea she was not driving well, she thought everything was just fine. I asked why he did not take her keys. He said he feels when she is not upset she will drive well again. Again, how do I get him to deal?????
In two weeks she has a PCP appt. and on the last visit the Dr. told her she has to give up her license or he will call the RMV and they will take it. I expect big fallout from that one!
I am trying to make it clear that although she can come stay with us, I will not be her caretaker. He will have to quit working or at least cut back and take care of her. I will do my part, but I will not do his.
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Whoa! Just hang on. Dementia does not give anyone the green light to ignore every wish the sufferer expresses. My first thought matched Captain's (not for the first time) - your MIL has dementia and your husband is trying to reason with her? Well that's a hiding to nothing if ever I heard of one. But my second is that on the most contentious points your MIL seems to be wholly consistent. She's always been strong-willed (does that by any chance run in the family, ahem?); she insists she will never leave her home; she repeats that she doesn't require the frequent visits; she correctly(?) points out that she's not doing anyone any harm (and long may that continue). Unless she changes her mind, starts saying she wants to move "back" to the Pentagon or otherwise loses her grip on those matters, then I'm afraid you're going to have to take her word for it.

Look, she doesn't have to have the capacity to come up with a reasoned argument for things (let alone the killer argument that will once and for all convince her son that She is Right and He is Wrong - and I've gone a few rounds of that with my own lovely lad) to prove that she has still got sufficient capacity to know where she is and what she wants. She retains the right to have her life arranged as she likes it, as far as that can be ascertained and accommodated (accommodated does not necessarily mean accommodated by you two). I get a bit of a feeling that your husband's battle to move her to a place of safety, while in itself a good cause, may however also be the continuation of a lifelong war. This looks like a battle royale of wills, to me the outsider anyway.

I hope your husband is not tempted, not even for good reasons, to use the dementia as a bunker-buster. All is NOT fair in love and war.

Why are you flogging yourselves up there once a week if she doesn't want you to? It's not often enough to prevent risk, and it's far too often for a 400 mile round trip. It sounds like a sacrifice your lovely husband is making to demonstrate that he loves his mother. Clearly he loves her and worries about her. But the sacrifice is futile, and from his mother's point of view - as far as one can tell - uncalled for.

She "provokes arguing behaviour with him…" Less so when you are there. Mm-hm. And you're sure that when you're not there to referee it isn't six of one and half a dozen of the other?

I think this question has trodden on my corns because, aged 50 and with a wonderful, loving, caring and newly married 30 year old son, I'm imagining being in your MIL's position. My son is my first born. I adored him from birth and still do. But from the time he was physically and verbally able to dispute my authority - i.e. aged 0 - he did exactly that. We can't be alone or in intimate social circles together for more than a couple of hours without the fur flying. Clash of personalities? Hmm, not sure: a client I was on the phone to once overheard the tail end of a "lively" discussion between us - which I closed with "Alexander will you STOP arguing!" - and drily commented "Yes, I can't think who he gets it from." Perhaps it's more that identical personalities can clash very hard indeed.

But your question, of course, is: how can you help him? Well. Somehow, you have got to get him to delegate the house maintenance, practical tasks, safety issues and personal care to people who can support her in her own home. Because that's what she wants, and from what you describe I can't see you've grounds for overruling her. Then you call her, you visit her, you send her clippings and photos and post cards, you take her out on her birthday, invite her to clan gatherings, you build good close relationships with her support network, etc.; and you encourage your husband to treat her more like an individual, a little bit less like the mother he loves but cannot ever hope to convince.

Bring her to live with you? Forget it! You'd go insane; and what on earth makes you think that would be ok with your MIL? Don't you dare. It would be hell for you as a couple, and an outrage to her right to autonomy WHICH SHE HAS NO MATTER HOW CRACKPOT SHE GETS. It's your job to support her in exercising it as she gradually loses the capacity to do so, not to strip her of it for her safety and your - ha! - peace of mind.

What more can you do to help him? Again, discourage exhausting sacrificial trips; encourage celebratory and social ones. Comfort, sympathise, research that support network, and make the tedious calls. But also, see if there are aspects of his mother's personality that you genuinely rather like, and share your enjoyment of those with him. Praise them to him (caveat: praise them to him only if they aren't aspects that regrettably get right up his nose, of course). And the saddest bit, prepare him for the long, hard, slow letting go he will all too soon have to face.

He sounds like a lovely man. She must have got something right! And a lucky man, having you to help him. I'll wish for things to go easy on you all xxx
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