My husband (71) has been bipolar all his life and now that he has Alzheimer’s his behavior has become much worse. He snaps at me for no reason and then criticizes me for things that didn’t even happen. It continues for hours and sometimes for days, at times he becomes violent. My problem is that I don’t know what to do when this happens. I’m afraid that any move I make may irritate him more. Not knowing how to react when this happens I get scared and freeze while he continues to badger me.

Which is the best way for me to respond when I receive his verbal abuse? Should I agree with him and tell him I was wrong? Should I apologize for something that never happened? Should I pamper him? Should I not make any moves and just let him continue criticizing and insulting? I heard it was best not to argue and try to correct things, so I try to stay away from doing so. But what CAN I do I calm him and stop his violence?

I can’t go away since I fear leaving him home alone, especially when he’s angry. I hired for assistance last year but it did no good. In front of other people my husband is a different person like Jekly & Hyde. I got some free time when I hired, but what I need to know is how I handle his outbursts when there is no one to help me? What are the best way to respond and the best thing to do when he flares up in order to help his anger go away?

Just b/c your husband is ill with diseases doesn't make it okay for him to be violent towards you. Violence is never acceptable for ANY reason, period. Does his doctor know about the violent behavior and the Jekyll & Hyde personalities? If not, let him or her know immediately in the hope that medication can be prescribed to curb his agitation.

If not, he needs to be placed in a Memory Care facility or in a Skilled Nursing Facility if there are no private funds for Memory Care. Medicaid can be applied for; contact an elder care attorney for a consultation about YOUR rights. Disease or no disease, please look out for YOU.

The next time he gets violent, I'd call 911 and have him taken the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Let THEM figure out how to sedate him before they send him back home. Hopefully, you will have contacted an elder care atty and have your Plan B in place for if such a scenario takes place.

Nobody should live in fear in their own home. I'm so sorry you are going through this. Take heed of Tothill's words, read them very carefully. Wishing you good luck and Godspeed, my friend.
Helpful Answer (18)
Reply to lealonnie1

You need to protect yourself from his violence. When he gets violent, leave the room/house and call 911. Your safety is important.

Talk to his doctor and let him/her know.

It maybe time for him to go into a care facility.

A very good family friend had early onset ALZ, she was just 60, but lived another 27 years. She attacked her husband with scissors. It was a very scary situation. Unfortunately the stress of providing care killed him, 25 years before she died in care.
Helpful Answer (17)
Reply to Tothill

It’s not going to get better, it will get worse. Please consider placing him in a facility for Alzheimer’s.
Helpful Answer (17)
Reply to elaine1962
psuskind1 Sep 26, 2020
I totally agree from experience.
Please don’t accept violence, no matter the reason. Your husband needs care that is beyond what you can provide, not your fault, you’ve certainly done all anyone can expect. Now time to protect yourself and have him living elsewhere
Helpful Answer (16)
Reply to Daughterof1930

My 74 year old husband was the same way and after I finally involved our older son who made him go to the doctor because obviously nothing was wrong with him and everything was my fault. I called the police numerous times and he was very calm and said to them nothing was wrong. I learned that sometimes I had to run away for a night away from him as I couldn't take it and he would yell at me to never return to our house because I wasn't wanted or needed. The next morning he would call my cell phone and plead for me to return. I apologized repeatedly and said it was all my fault and I would try to correct my behavior. I now give him medication in his early morning meal to keep him calm during the day. I now go to the gym and run errands every morning for about 2 hours and when I come home he is excited to see me. He has vacuumed(poorly) and emptied the dishwasher(no one knows what I will find in what cupboard). We use the same dishes everyday even though we have multiple sets.

This abusive behavior went on for about five years until I found answers to my questions about the disease through lots of internet searches. Now I know that he will never say it was his fault and everything that goes wrong is mine. That's ok I don't criticize him and I keep him calm. He now can't read anything nor can he tell time or change the tv remote. We do very little outside the house and I have had my son employ people to do the chores that I use to expect my husband to do(of course it's my bill to pay but we have that figured out) There is nothing like a man slowly pushing a grocery cart through the market who doesn't know the names of the food stuff that he is looking at. But he feels like he is accomplishing a good deed for me. We go early and all the clerks know not to question him about anything. A little note helps explain lots.

Make him dependent on you and when his medication isn't working walk away. I go out in the yard and pull weeds or wander. Never argue it only makes it worst and realize that lots of us are going through this. Read some articles and books on the subject and really educate yourself.

Have you gotten a power of authority over money through a lawyer? Do you have a current will? Have you thought about arranging how you can control the assets that you have? Do you have children who can help sometimes? My grandson who is 9 is a great babysitter for his grandfather when I want to do something in the yard that I don't want to involve other in.

We have been married for 50 years and I didn't sign up for this but I do remember the great life and the adventures that we shared throughout our marriage.

You have to allow your life style to change if you want to keep him in the house with you or make the choice to place him in a facility. GOOD LUCK!!!!!
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to angelarochon
MargaretMcKen Sep 24, 2020
Well done for posting how you have coped, without suggesting that it’s the only ‘right and proper’ way. I hope things continue to be manageable for you and for your husband. Best wishes, Margaret
A very dear friend of mine has a wife who is bipolar. He told me once, the worst time of his day was when he came home, because he didn't know which wife he was coming home to.

She threatened him, repeatedly. He worried about her hurting their children. She would take her meds, and then stop - common in people who are bipolar - and then go off the rails. She once locked him out of the house; he had to call her sister to intervene. The really messed up part - she's a nurse. So on the occasions he could get her committed, she know *exactly* what to say to get out.

He finally told her, in no uncertain terms, that the next time she stopped taking her medication and he had to commit her involuntarily, when she came out he would have taken the kids and left with no forwarding address. He had to keep his kids safe.

I think you might need to seriously consider leaving, for your own safety. I realize you must be torn, he is your husband and you feel it is your responsibility to stay and take care of him. But there is no reasoning with someone who is bipolar and has dementia. Either place him someplace safe, or leave him for your own safety. You can't very well continue to take care of him if he seriously injures you - or, God forbid - kills you.

Please stay safe!
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to notgoodenough

Violence is never acceptable. There are no good reasons to ever tolerate being a target for aggressive behavior.

Best wishes to you. I sincerely hope that you are able to find a feasible solution to this challenging situation.

At one time I helped out a friend (single mom) with her teen son. He had severe autism, he was non verbal. It was easy to sit with him when he was a toddler and a younger boy. He knew me. I watched him grow up.

I suspect that he also had mental health issues. His mom has bipolar disorder.

Anyway, this young man when in his teen years attacked me. This kid towered over me, he was over six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds. I am 5 feet and only weigh slightly over 100 pounds. I was extremely frightened. I had bruises all over me after his attack. I made excuses for him due to his severe autism.

I was seeing a therapist for some anxiety that I had about a stressful situation at that time in my life so I decided to speak to my therapist about the situation with this young man and he got me to see that even though his aggressive behavior stemmed from frustration because of his disabilities, that I was nevertheless being abused and suggested that I no longer sat with him.

I so wanted to help my friend by sitting with him on occasion for her to get her hair done, doctor appointments or just to have a break! I realized that I had to stop sitting with him and stopped.

He never improved and even attacked his elderly grandmother when she sat with him.

Social workers stepped in to try to find a solution for her. Life has many challenges. It’s tough.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

1) find a registry with local sheriff's or police, called Vulnerable Population Registry/Special Needs Registry. Register your names, or just your husband's name. (Fill out a form, ask your doctor for help.).
2) You need to be able to confirm at every point of contact that he does not have a weapon, and is on the registry of vulnerable adults. For example, when you call 911, when they arrive, etc.
3) Learn to observe his behavior and leave the home immediately before he blows.
Keeping yourself safe is more important than stopping him from what he is doing. If you are afraid to return home, if you need a welfare check on your husband, call 911 or the business office of 911.
4) Put a lock on your bedroom door, and sleep separately until this phase changes, hopefully for the better.
5) Never threaten that you will call 911, just make the call.
They will make an assessment and either come with a psychiatric response team or will call them to come. (You can call PMRT yourself.)
6) Treat each other kindly.
7) You do not need to be in a violent mode when police are summoned. You can learn what to say to law enforcement.
"There was an incident earlier today, and continuing for 3 days, I do not feel comfortable and feel unsafe."

Because you have said: "In front of other people my husband is a different person like Jekyll & Hyde", that proves he can still control his behavior. Your actions above, by calling on 911 a few times will put him on notice that he needs to self-control in your presence also, or there will be consequences.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to Sendhelp

What you are describing is abuse. No one should have to take the abuse - physical, mental and/or emotional.

I know because I speak from experience. My uncle moved 1700 miles to be here because he was so abusive with his children that they would no longer speak to him. For awhile the abuse was okay. I especially felt guilty because he would be Jeckle and Hyde, too, and it was hard to explain to people when he would be so nice around them. It took its toll and eventually things had to change. I am no wimp; I took it like a champ, but eventually it was too much and things had to change. Since he wouldn't change, his living situation had to change. He was horrible with the staff there, too. The difference is that they got him medications that helped alleviate some of the outbursts; and to be horribly blunt, they are paid to deal with it and know how to deal with it better than we do. Even if you cannot place him in a facility, it would be a good idea to talk to his doctor about medications!

Have you thought about seeing a therapist for yourself? A good therapist can help you make decisions and set boundaries to mitigate the abuse. It is also a good place to release some of the stress you are feeling. You say you cannot leave him alone, so can someone come stay with him for the short time you would be away or can you do therapy over the phone?

Have you thought about placing him in a memory care facility? It sounds harsh, but you cannot live your life as if you are walking on egg shells - it is not productive or healthy for either of you. If he really is - and I believe you - different in front of other people, then maybe a memory care facility will be able to handle him and at the same time give you relief. You can visit him for hours each day and hopefully get away from the abusive behaviors.

Another alternative is to document each abusive outburst and start calling 911 if you feel even slightly unsafe. They are able to bring in a mental health professional and perhaps have him sent to a psychiatric facility. He knows what he is doing because, as you said, he is different when others are around. That makes the abuse even less tolerable. Don't feel guilty bout doing this - you have every right to protect yourself at all costs!!

No one, not even a spouse, should ever think that abuse is acceptable in any form. We look at people we love and think we should be able to handle it, but the truth is that we cannot. And we shouldn't. His abusive outbursts that last hours and days is taking a toll on you both emotionally and physically. You NEED to take care of you, too. As selfish as it sounds, you deserve to be healthy; just because he isn't healthy isn't an excuse to put yourself in a dangerous situation. You never know when his outbursts will turn physical. Also, the abuse does change us physically.

A therapist and/or social worker can help you make decisions that are good and healthy for both of you. Many community centers have access to one or the other, or both.

I wish you the best in this journey. It is one of the most difficult in our lives, and it shouldn't be made more difficult by someone who is abusive.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to anrean
LakeErie Sep 26, 2020
What she is talking about is mental illness. It’s not the same thing.
The FIRST and most important thing for any caregiver to do is PROTECT your self and anyone else in the house.
If he becomes a danger to you you must leave the area he is in, You can go to another room, close and lock the door if you have to .
Then you call 911 and explain the situation that you are in danger, you fear for your safety.
Please tell the dispatcher that the person has Dementia and is Bi-Polar. Also if there are any weapons on the property inform them. (Better safe than sorry if there are any either get rid of them or lock them up)
Keep kitchen knives locked up as well.

Talk to your husbands doctor about his behavior there are medications that can help.
Begin to think about placing him in Memory Care. This may become a daunting task as many are reluctant to accept a resident that has a history of violence.

You need to protect yourself. I have a friend in one of my support groups her husband had been diagnosed with LBD (Lewy Body Dementia) and she now has debilitating back problems from the times he shoved her up against a wall and the final came when she woke up when he had one hand wrapped around her neck and was holding a kitchen knife in the other....

As to how to respond. Whatever works. If nothing works say noting and leave the room. You can never win an argument with someone that has dementia, adding a mental illness into the mix compounds that.
Please stay safe!!

By the way if he is a Veteran please contact the VA they can be of great help dealing with mental illness and violence issues.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Grandma1954
Sbrock Sep 26, 2020
Excellent advice!
See All Answers
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter