How can I help my husband cope with his Mother's dementia?

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I am terribly worried about my husband. His mother went from "normal" to moderate dementia in just 8 months. He seemed to be dealing with it quite well until we finally got a diagnosis a few weeks ago. He is normally a very strong man, with this hard outer shell that kind of abrasive, but he's sweet on the inside. I have rarely seen him cry in our 28 years of marriage. Ever since the diagnosis he's been weepy, and shaking. He wakes up at 3AM crying and shivering and continues through the day very sad. Everything makes him cry now.

What puzzles me is he is not that close to his mother. He loves her but it has always been a love hate relationship. She is the type of person that I call a "life sucker". She has an uncanny ability to suck you dry of your time, your money, and your happiness. I know it sounds harsh but she has always been lazy, a hoarder, and a slob. She has never been able to keep a job and has been fired from every job she ever had. She has been totally dependent on him and myself since we were teenagers. She lived with us for six years, then when her mother died and left her money she bought a home and moved out on her own but she blew through the money, would not work, took out a line of credit on the house, used all that then turned to us for $2500 a month for the next 8 years! We finally cut her off in 2008. She and her husband barely scraped by for the next 4 years until he died in 2012. By this time she had just turned 62 and was receiving Social security. She was so out of shape that she could not even walk to the mail box (type 2 diabetes, and obese). We had no choice but to move her to FL to live just 15 minutes from us in a 55+ apartment. It wasn't even a month before she started asking for money again. We realized in 2014 that she was lying to us about how much her bills were and using the extra money we gave her to shop on QVC (over $4000 in a year). We found out that she was also getting money from her brother and her friends were still sending her "widow money". Fast forward to 2015... She was hospitalized in May after a collapse of some sort. We are still not sure if it was a diabetic coma, prescription overdose or a seizure but she has progressively gotten worse over the last eight months.

I just don't know how to handle this overemotional state he's in. I don't understand why he's so torn up all of a sudden. I understand that part of it is the huge responsibility we are now faced with but this seems extreme for such a strong man.

Sorry for the rant! As you can probably tell, she's not my favorite person and I'm having a very hard time with all this as I am her primary caregiver now. I just feel the weight of the world on me now that he has broken down. I need him back to normal.

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My husband went to the doctor and she prescribed a mild Xanax for the middle of the night panic attacks. They do calm him down but he still can't get back to sleep. He's only sleeping about 3-4 hours a night, he's losing weight, he's soooo depressed it's hard to be around him. We were already going through a hard time before his mothers dementia started. His father passed a few years ago and we've had about 5 years of serious financial issues (which his mother contributed to) so this was just the cherry on top of our crap sundae! I try to lighten to mood by cracking jokes or flirting with him but he just goes right back being sad. I'm terrified that he will be this way from now on. Unfortunately his mom is not going to get better and this will be a long and difficult road. What if I lose the fun, sarcastic man I married to the depression?
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I know it's unintuitive, but I also had a harder time emotionally with my mom's decline given the MUCH more difficult relationship I had always had with her. There is a lot of grief, and it is not the bittersweet grief of knowing that a life well lived is coming to a natural close...

In a situation like this you still want your parent to be happy, not to suffer, and not to die, and there is such a limited amount of relief and joy you can bring them compared to what you wish you could do.
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Jeanne, wow! I never thought of it as being in mourning. That's exactly what it feels like. And you are 100% correct that we are getting no emotional support from friends and family. It's all been pressure about what we are doing for her and constant questions about her condition. I can't believe I never thought of it that way. I guess the reality that she is slowly dying had not hit me yet. Now I feel like a selfish ass for wanting him to stop crying. If that's what he needs to do I just need to hold his hand, bring him tissues and be his best friend! You have totally changed the way I was thinking. Thank you so much!
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I wanted to add one more element to this... I lost my mother at age 7 and was taken away from my abusive father at age 10 and raised by my big brother and his wonderful wife who were only nine years older than me. I'm not saying this for pitty of any sort because my brother and "sister" (in law) were and still are amazing! But I find that when trying to help my husband deal with the slow and painful "loss" of his mom from this dementia monster, that I have no clue what it feels like to have a mom, much less what it must feel like to lose her. Even though she has been hard to deal with, I'm sure he has many wonderful memories of being a child with a warm and loving mother that I completely can't imagine.

We have two wonderful children a son and a daughter (grown now) that I love with all my heart and soul. So I know from the parental side what that mother/child relationship feels like. But since I never felt it from the child side (I was much to young to remember) it's hard for me to know the right thing to say to comfort him.

Any advice?
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Lesanne, I wonder, especially considering all the ways you've bailed MIL out of her immaturity, if somehow deep down your husband was secretly hoping and expecting that some day she would grow up and change and be the loving, sensible mother he deserved. And now he has to face that is never going to happen.

Also it is not unusual to grieve the various obvious losses that dementia brings, long before the physical death. The son or daughter or spouse is in mourning but is not getting public support. No casseroles, no flowers, no notice in the paper. No one calling up and saying "I'm so sorry about your loved one." Quite the opposite -- people are acting like the person in mourning is "weird."

Seeing a doctor and a therapist could help. It would help if they tell him that what he is going through is normal and he is not going crazy. Perhaps a med can help take the edge off -- but there is nothing "wrong" with mourning the losses dementia brings about.

If either of you gets comfort from reading, I highly recommend the a book by therapist Pauline Boss, called "Loving Someone Who Has Dementia."

As for whether MIL is up to her old tricks or whether her behavior is controlled by the dementia, forget about it. Doesn't matter. She has probably been ill most of her life and she is very definitely is ill now. Accept that. Vent here about her behavior if it helps -- we understand! But as far as how you treat her or talk about her to your husband, just don't worry about exactly what is causing her behavior.
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He's going to the doctor tomorrow, thank goodness! His blood pressure is really high all of a sudden which scares us both. He's open to trying an antidepressant short term, so that might help. I think he might consider counciling but I'm not sure he's ready for that yet. It would take a lot of convincing. I have to say that I have never gone to counciling or even talked openly on a forum like this before and I've been really suprised how much it's helping me. I have been carrying all these feelings around with no one to "unload" them on. Thank you all for taking the time to read my ridiculously long rants!

I do try to keep quiet about his moms behavior as much as possible but it's an adjustment. Our mutual irritation with her used to be something we bonded over (which I'm aware is kind of weird) but laughing about it kept us sane through all these years. Now I'm trying to adjust to this new way of seeing her and feeling sorry for her feels strange and unnatural.

For the record although she has not been a responsible adult or parent and has a million faults, she has never intentionally been abusive or mean. In fact she is quite warm and loving which is why it hurts so bad when she takes advantage of us and lies to us. It's confusing for someone to hurt you with a big warm smile on their face. And anytime we confront her about things she's done (before she was ill) she acted like it was no big deal and would just say "sorry", change the subject and act like it never happened.

I agree with Babalou that she may have been mentally ill or intellectually challenged her whole life. It has always seemed as though she just never grew up. Her actions have always been those you would expect from a teenager. My husband and I have discussed that many, many times through the years.

Anyway hopefully the doctor can help him out a little and I will try harder to be there as his sounding board. Life will go on and what doesn't kill me will make me stronger ( I hope). :)
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It sounds as though his mom has been mentally ill all her life. Losing someone to whom you have an ambiguous attachment is much, much harder that losing someone you love or hate. Would he see a therapist or couselor?
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Lesanne-
First of all, BLESS YOUR HEART for taking all this in stride. My MIL is much the same type of person, but she is financially prudent, thank goodness. She was cold and very abusive to my husband and his older brother, but a peach of a woman to their little sister. It was so hard on my BIL to live with the cruelty she inflicted on the boys that he moved out the day after HS graduation and has never been back. He hated his mother for how he treated my hubby. My hubby deals with his mom as little as humanly possible and the guilt is horrific. He just can't stand to be with her more than an hour or so every 6 months. She divorced from my FIL 25 years ago and the kids kind of "took sides". The boys "sided" with dad and she never forgave them. She's asked me to not be a part of her life, so I am not welcome in her home, my hubby wants me there for emotional support, but I can't go. I know when she gets "bad" (now she's just really, really "batty", but able to function at home just fine....I think my hubby will lose it. He feels so much guilt from so many things. He didn't ask to be raised by and abusive, hate filled woman, and I know now he sees this frail, kooky old lady and he can't bring the two parts of her together into some kind of "whole" person. She has rejected me, our kids, our grandkids (whom she calls her "great nephews and nieces", NOT Great grandkids). He visits her and comes home and vents for hours about her..I just listen. There's nothing he can do, or is willing to do to mend the rifts. She's 85, but will live to 100, I'm sure. I imagine your husband is feeling guilty, depressed and angry all at once. If he's like my hubby, he doesn't DO emotion. Sounds like maybe he'd feel better if he could talk to someone about it. I agree with the advice to be careful how you speak to him about her. The dementia has a life of its own and it's hard to know which one is in charge on any given day. You can't cure her, be grateful she does not live with you and just provide your hubby with a lot of love and assurance that what he's feeling is normal and it's OK if things end and he's not on good terms with her. We rarely get things the way we need or want them, I'm finding that out. Best of luck.
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That's very admirable of you. It is a huge undertaking. It's clear your love for your husband inspires you to step up. I suspect that the more you read about dementia, the more you will see things that the disease causes. It's difficult to know what part of the behavior is due to dementia and what part isn't. I'm not sure how we can tell, except that when the brain is effected by the disease, it is damaged. There are some common things that happen such as lying, delusions, hallucinations, obsessing, repeating, refusal of medication, resistance to care, etc.
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Oh, gosh I fully understand what he is going through. He's wishing it all could have been different and hoping it will somehow get better. It's very important that you do not criticize her behavior, it will only increase his anxiety.. Just hear him out, let him vent. He is grieving for something that never was. Ask him to consider taking anxiety meds when he goes to see her. Beyond that, bite your tongue.
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