Is this mean and manipulative or is this dementia?


I am completely confused, and I just don't know any more.

My FIL is mean and horrible to me and the kids during the day, throwing things on the floor, stomping around, demanding, angry, ignoring us all, sulking if he doesn't get immediate attention when he wants something. If I ask him not to do something, he will immediately do it, very loudly. He turns off his hearing aid, and won't look at anyone so he doesn't have to talk to us. He slams doors. Lately, if I or my daughter have a bath, he stands outside the bathroom door ... the door has a frosted window pane in it, so you can't see anything, but the outline if you go up close enough to the door, so we now put towels over the door when we bath or go to the toilet, as he stands and "watches?" He tells lies and fibs all the time.

Yesterday he had a completely manic day, with anger and threatening actions, which left the kids and I actually a bit shaken and scared.

So I get to thinking, maybe this is dementia and I need to have compassion with him.

And then ... my husband comes home from work and he is a different person. he is back to the man that everyone thinks he is (sweet, quiet, helpful, supportive, engaged). He wears his hearing aid, he is nice to us, he offers us coffee, he engages in conversation, he asks us questions about our day as if we have been out all day. He puts on a very "vulnerable, fragile, old man" act, so that we run around and do everything for him, even though two hours before he was ranting and throwing things on the floor and snapping at the kids for watching something on tv.

And then I think, this is manipulation on a gross scale.

The good news is that my husband is now very well aware of the way he treats us, as he has seen it first hand, and he has spoken to him about it. OF course, he lies and says he doesn't, but hubby has witnessed it when he is not aware that he is standing there, and seen the change that comes over him when he realises that his son is now in the room.

The bad news is that we just don't know. Is this dementia? How do I find out? What do I do if it is? We are three months into living with dad, and life is really stressful on all levels. He is so incredibly stubborn that I doubt I can get him to a doctor for a check up to see if he has dementia.

If this is mean and manipulative, again, what do I do? Its exhausting for all of us.

We manage on a day by day basis literally. I treat him as kindly as I can but I am running out of steam. The kids avoid him as soon as they see/hear him coming, so our family life is disintegrating.

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Oh my. I feel for you. Your FIL should meet my MIL. Very similar behavior. You tell her not to do something, she does it just to be spiteful. It is infuriating. Our children also hide. Fortunately, the older two are off at school, but they hide when they are home. My son cannot get upstairs or down to the basement fast enough when he comes home from school. She is very mean to him. We have been doing this for six months, and I am just done. It is no way for children to live, and it is impacting our family life. I am actively seeking alternate living arrangements. I told my husband enough is enough. She needs to leave. For you, I find the bathroom thing creepy and inappropriate. The camera is a good idea, but I would seriously start looking for other living options.
Helpful Answer (8)

I am a newbie to all this but my impression from what you wrote is he is definitely being manipulative. That he can turn on the charm the minute your husband is there shows a level of control and awareness. Is your husband willing to read him the riot act? That he either treats everyone else with the same respect he treats his son or he'll have to live somewhere else?
Helpful Answer (7)

Yes, it is very good news that your husband sees what is really going on.

There is a concept in dementia called "showtiming" -- when the person with dementia can (with great effort) appear normal for limited periods of time. For example, he may showtime at the doctor's office, or in front of guests. This can be very frustrating for caregivers! My sisters never really show my husband at his most confused. When they visited he seemed to them to be fine. Sigh. Eventually the dementia takes over too completely for the person to pull this off, but many can do up to the moderate stage or beyond.

I wonder if it is possible that your FIL is showtiming in front of his son? It sounds like he really has some mental problem (I don't know if it is dementia) during the day. If the behavior is merely manipulative, what is he trying to manipulate you into doing? What does standing outside the bathroom door or throwing things on the floor accomplish for him?

But whatever is going on with him, I think you and your husband need to take charge and establish some rules. This is your home. You set the conditions under which he can live with you. And the first requirement is that he must see a doctor. You should make a list of your observations of his behavior and your concerns and get it to the doctor before the visit. One of you (probably his son) needs to attend the appointment with him.

Once you have a better sense of how much of this behavior he can help you'll whether it makes sense to insist that the behavior improve.

In any case, this is not good for your children or good for your family life. What are the alternative living arrangements for your FIL? I know nothing about what is available in Germany.
Helpful Answer (7)

thank you all so much for your responses! murphy's law, I posted this yesterday morning and then had the most chaotic day, so have only come back on line to read all your really helpful responses.
my hubby is actually going to rig up a camera, and do it very publicly and in full sight, and say it is so he can keep on eye on things, so he can see what goes on when he is not around - to see whether that makes an impact. Perhaps if FIL knows he is being recorded he will pull it together; if he doesn't that is also an indication that perhaps there is more going on here. I also have got my little voice recorder that I use in meetings primed and ready, and it will just be another little gadget that goes with me from room to room.
of course, just when we all decide to be really strict with him and read him the riot act, yesterday he fell and hurt his knee. not serious, but enough that he has a swollen knee and it hurts him to walk, so now i feel dreadful because he is physically hurting, and I am trying to make him feel better ... so the plan of being strict has gone out the window today!! He is being very nice to me today, maybe because I am running around with painkillers/hotwater bottles/tea/ magazines to read, and giving him nursing attention.
I have been doing some research as well, and I really think what we have here is what jeanne calls showstanding combined with a very real passive agressive anger. He cannot express his anger to his son that he has to live with his family, so it comes out on me and the kids. What he really wanted was for us to move back to him, and into his house to live with him ... but my husband has such bad memories of that house that he refused to even consider the idea, and I think somehow the old man has it that its all my fault. (plus the fact that our lives/work/job is here, not back at his "home")
He gets angry if my husband and I do something together without him; for instance, we went out to dinner one evening ...alone, how wonderful was that! ... and the old man sulked for a good week after that. We had a business meeting on Sunday with partners, over lunch, and he was angry for the next two days, but always only directed at me and the kids.
It is really so very helpful to know that others out there understand this journey, and get what its all about because you also actually live with it. I find that I cannot say anything beyond platitudes to anyone else becasue they simply have no common understanding, as they have not had a similar experience at all. If someone asks how things are, I say, " thank you for asking, things are fine, thanks. " Here at least I don't feel bad or mean or horrid for expressing my thoughts and worries, because you all really know what its like! Thank you, thank you. Big hugs to you all today.
Helpful Answer (6)

If and when he goes into another one of those manic states before you can get him to the doctor for an evaluation, I hope you will call for some help and get him committed to a hospital for evaluation. He does not sound like he is a danger to himself, but he does sound like he is a danger to you and your daughter.
Helpful Answer (5)

Oh, gosh, does this ever sound familiar. This is the way my Mom is. She treats me badly, and my sister, but everyone else thinks she's the sweetest woman that ever lived. Seriously. I can feel for you. She does have dementia, but she's always been like this and maybe the dementia has accentuated it. She just got out of a geriatric psych center where they evaluate and adjust medications, because I thought she was either withdrawing from her pain meds when she acted like that, and to see if they could take care of her pain and find out if it was real or anxiety/depression induced. It's really hard. I am sorry, but I do understand.

No one would believe me when I would take her to the doctor, but then she had an episode in front of the new doctor I found, and VOILA! I got her into the program and she at least is a bit better. She's off the pain meds, so I the pain wasn't physical as much as either withdrawal or anxiety/depression driven. Because of that stint in the Senior Care, I have a psychiatric nurse that comes every week and talks and I get to say things in front of Mom, so she has to fess up to them. I can also call her when I need to. I am being plugged into an outpatient program, too, if she qualifies. She has a speech therapist who comes and makes her "think" with certain word games, and exercises, and physical and occupational therapy. At least this way someone else is around, too, so I am not the only one to take the brunt of it.

Good luck. I like the idea of the recording, too. If the doctor hadn't witnessed the crying and wishing she could die drama, no one would have believed it. She is such a good actress in front of otheres. At least you husband knows, now.
Helpful Answer (5)

I sooo agree! This is a maddening phase as they try their best to cover up the fact that they are "losing it". It would drive me insane to hear my mother either on the phone with a client telling that person all the bad stuff about me and would either exaggerate or flat out lie about the situation. Why she opened her mouth to total strangers about me was beyond me and make me livid. I went many months having not talked to her and intentionally moved several states away. Then I got divorced and I swear her head spun around like Linda Blair off the Exorcist. She would be just the sweetest little old woman who loved to be the center of attention with people she did not know and everyone loved her. They would think I was lying about things she would say or do. Now her POA is hearing some of the things she does first hand. It is so nice and I have to admit a relief to have someone else see that manipulative side of her. I have been on all kinds of meds trying to get a handle on my anger due to this "showtiming". She would put on all kinds of airs in order to come off looking better to everyone else. It drove me nuts. No one saw the woman who told me it was my fault that I miscarried, that I was divorced a couple of times, that I had "it is all about me syndrome", the woman who never said, "I am sorry." She withheld the fact that I was adopted until I was 35 and applying for a passport. People who knew me since a kid thought I was lying when I told them I learned I was adopted. I was furious and still am! Now that she has some type of dementia, and another person has POA I am in a hornet's nest and having to go to court. I am the only child and only heir and I am not allowed in her house without the POA being there. Even though I have belongings in there. I am just glad her POA is seeing her true colors. Even my husband thought I was not quite right for the first 8 months of our relationship due to my perception of her. Then he caught her going off and flat out lying one day while walking into a room. He got angry and had us leave immediately. He was not tolerating his wife being berated by the woman whom had been supposedly mom. I get so angry thinking back and now what makes it worse for me, is I cannot raise my voice in the nursing home. I feel I have no voice when she starts acting out. Last time I raised my voice in the hospital when she went on one of her tangents, she stated, "All I know is I feel abused." Which landed me in a kettle of hot water and an investigation due to her falling all of the time. I was livid and very hurt. The very thought that people would think I would hurt her intentionally, physically was beyond me. Now I am fighting for guardianship and conservatorship and honestly, I do not know why. After all that has been said and done, why should I give a crap about what happens to her? Then when I do try to keep a watchful eye, and try to be helpful, I get nailed with I am only in it for the $ I am to inherit. My husband sees me come home from a visit at the nursing home, after having puked in the parking lot due to nerves, nearly a wreck with anxiety and so angry I could, as mother would say, "spit nails". It was not until I talked with my best friend about this did I realize I was not alone with having a female version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But she pulls off the greatest lies, and shows the world that I am insane. That I have been put on meds due to my issues. When all along, my depression and anxiety was due to her and her antics. I still think I am crazy for even caring about her, and very guilt ridden when I do not make an appearance. Which is right now... I have not been to see her in almost two weeks since the last episode. You are not alone in this Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde manipulation. It is real and yes, it does happen. Way more frequently than you may realize. Take care of you sweetie. Only you know when you have had enough! Talk to her doctor, she may not be able to talk back due to HIPAA, but give the doc the bigger picture. Ask for a psych eval and CYA cover your @ss! Have proof, get that digital recorder or even an old tape recorder will do. Put it in your jacket, robe, etc pockets and turn it on as soon as the episodes start. Give it to the doc to listen to. That way you have a serious in-road to a 72 hour psych eval. Also, if he gets violent, call the police. You need documentation. Unfortunately, it means you have to suffer more in order to get it but desperate times call for desperate measures.
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I have to agree with seeking other living alternatives for your FIL. It is possible he has an undiagnosed mental disorder. My mother did and was given medication to control her behaviour. It was quite effective. Of course, you would have to see a psychiatrist for this evaluation. I'm quite familiar with how they can turn on the charm as needed. So, I learned it was a mixture of a personality disorder, dementia and another form of mental illness.

I've cared for three elderly family members with dementia/ alz. and I found how different each experience was due to the personality of the elderly person. I had all I could do to keep my mother out of the mental institution as she was becoming a threat at the nursing home.

The medication helped control the outbursts and threatening behaviour. Just a thought - every situation is different and has to be diagnosed properly, of course. Hugs to you and hope things improve.
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Susan- one thing I wish my husband and I would have done is have a serious discussion and agreement up front on what this arrangement is intended to be. Was it meant to be permanent? If not, how long do we plan for her to stay? What can she afford? We should have investigated living options and discussed them early on. If you have not done that, you need to. I really just cannot tolerate the being mean to my children for any reason. This is their home, they have no choice in where they live. In our case, it is not dementia induced, it is just being mean. I find it completely disrespectful that we have opened up our home, cleaned and cooked for her, catered to some really ridiculous requests, and then she feels completely justified in being a total witch to our son. This is his home. I will not have him look back some day and remember that we put her needs above his. It took me a few months to come to that resolve, but now that I am there- there is no option for me that includes her staying permenantly. I wish I would have laid those ground rules with my husband earlier.
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That is what we are here to do, listen and try to help each other with our own experiences and making sure each of us realizes that no matter what we are enduring, we are not alone. Nor are we crazy for seeing what we see and no one else seems to see those same issues. Huge hugs and do not feel guilty over him hurting. It is not like you caused him to fall. Enjoy and savor the moments of your togetherness without him. Try your best not to let him spoil your time out. No matter how hard he broods. Hugs!
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