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My father is undergoing testing for dementia and under the care of a neurologist. He is clearly having more difficulty with daily tasks, communication, etc. My mother is his only daily contact in life. She has always been a negative person, prone to biting, bitter comments. I am concerned about the way she deals with him now, so short tempered and nasty. He has reached out to me several times over the past year and indicates it really hurts him. I am an only child so I am the only referee. Should I step in here? She indicates he says mean things when I am not around, but I believe that's mostly the dementia, as this was not formerly his nature. I think she lacks the tolerance and compassion to deal with this...I am concerned for my dad's emotional well being.

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Angels19 and Beth53 - thank you for your comments and suggestions, and for sharing your experiences. My parents live four houses down from me. Otherwise, all family is at least 1000 miles away, and my parents have alienated the few local friends they had over the past year as things have deteriorated. So, it's all on me to referee and be the voice of sanity. I just take things one day at a time, like I'm sure most of the people involved with this forum do. Thanks much. It's good to be able to vent and discuss here, I have no one else except my husband and I don't want to drag him down too much with this. I'm trying to keep it from negatively affecting every aspect of my life!
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This is a tough one. I doubt your mother will change. Sounds like your father is still functioning fairly well, so now would be a good time to get him involved in a program designed to give people with dementia (and their families) some support and activities.

You can't change your mom and whatever you do, don't abandon your life to try to referee. Get yourself and your dad involved in supportive activities, especially your dad. There he can get some warm fuzzies and positive affirmations he's not getting from your mom.

You can try having a talk with your mom about being a little more patient and empathetic. Encourage her to get involved in a support group for those whose spouses have dementia. If necessary, get your dad away from your mom if he's at risk for physical abuse.

You're an only child, but don't try to do this alone. Are any of your parents' siblings alive, especially your father's siblings? Ask (but don't expect) them to help out, even if it's just a weekly visit or phone call. And rely on community resources. Good luck and take care of yourself.
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Just wanted to chime in on this because it reminds me of what I went through. In my situation, my dad was at home with terminal cancer, and I was living there as his primary caregiver. (My mom lived there as well, but she had never taken care of ANYONE, not even me when I was a child.)

As was typical for her, my mom was worthless and completely selfish regarding my dads condition. She knew he was dying, but even the weight of THAT did nothing to move her toward compassion.

She would say things extremely LOUD so that my dad would hear her. It was awful. She said things such as, "I KNEW IT WOULD BE A BAD IDEA TO BRING HIM HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL!" (She said this as she watched me cleaning him up because he had become incontinent.) She was quite involved in providing negative remarks, and totally bankrupt at giving anything even remotely helpful or positive. I couldn't even get her to sit and hold my dads hand and watch a TV show with him.

I finally could not stand anymore of her attitude, and let her know very clearly that she better "knock that sh*t off" because it wasn't going to be tolerated. I think I told her that if she couldn't be helpful to us, then she was not going to be permitted to enter my dads bedroom and she could keep her unhelpful remarks far away outside of those walls.

I came down so hard on her that I felt a bit guilty. My dads primary care physician happened to drop by the house that day, and I confided in him about what I had said to my mom. He was more then on board with what I said to her, and told me to stand my ground. And I did. I wasn't very nice to my mom when it came to this.

So my answer, is yes, do whatever you feel necessary. Your moms selfishness and uncaring ways are not going to benefit ANYONE, including HER.
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if your dad let mom bulldoze him thru decades of marriage imo he is the one to blame for his current predicament. you can try to educate her about the impending mental decline but pushy belligerant people arent prone to taking advice. get her in a bind with the law and send her ass to anger management. its a good class for anyone, chock full of advice on manipulating, controlling, shaming, blame shifting, etc..
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MishkaM: I have accepted the diagnosis, sadly, and I'm doing OK. My mom is more of the wild card at this point. I read your profile and your situation sounds a lot like mine, except I don't have children to take care of. I do run a small business which often requires a 7-day work week. But it also gives me the freedom to dictate my schedule, to a point, so I can be there for my parents. I really appreciate your input.
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Happy person? No, I think I tried to cheer her up from the time I was in kindergarten on, but she rarely found much in life to be happy about. I don't know why. I do appreciate everyone taking time out of their Sunday to respond!
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Your statement- "of all the things out of control this is something I can act on"--is really deep.

How are you doing with your dad's diagnosis? Are YOU ok? I had a hard time for awhile with my Mom's. It is hard knowing that I cannot turn to her for support but instead need to support her. (sigh)
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I think perhaps she's never been a very happy person? And that now she is angry with your dad on top of it. Angry at something he cannot help...angry at fate/god/luck...just angry at the whole situation beyond her control.

I don't know how to help her with that, but you might now. I think that its something worth investigating, so if it's accurate in any portion, you might be able to help her resolve this and not just for your dad's sake (and yours) but hers, too.
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Thank you for your responses. It is much appreciated. This is really eating at me because, of all the things outside of my control, this is something I can act on. It is difficult to deal with the dynamics of the marriage. So far I have mostly kept my mouth shut and figured they would have to work it out. But as he gets weaker and more isolated it really makes me mad to hear the way she speaks to him. It's not yelling, it's just condescending and very very impatient. This is so hard!!!
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And mom has always been "a negative person, prone to biting, bitter comments".
And just concerned about how things affect her, yowzer - not fun, not fun at all. Okay, in my experience, it is very difficult to change the dynamics between married people. It does sound like a normal development for someone like your mom to be more concerned about herself at this time.

I think your plan to give them a talking to, is not a bad idea. You playing the referee may just be making their relationship dynamic 3 sided. You might want to consider limits that you want to place on your involvement, tell them, and be consistent with both of them.

If you feel you need to, then give it a go, it may improve things, which would be great, can't hurt unless you just end up getting more drawn into the triangle.

What may be best, imho, is if you could shrug them off when they apply to you to be their referee and take a side.

Now if is escalates and you feel their relationship is a severe enough detriment to justify separating them, you may down the line consider such options.

Marriage can be a complex relationship between two people. My ILs had been at each other's throats for many years. My FIL was the main aggressor and always had been in their 50 plus year marriage. My MIL began to retaliate in later years, making every thing even less fun. Best of luck to you!
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Hi upstream,
I deal with this with my Dad to my Mom with dementia and stroke related issues. I have a daughter with special needs (almost 17 yrs.old)who is very difficult at times and so I used my situation to approach him. I said how I understood how tiring it can be to always be on call and how frustrating it is when the caregivee acts out (mom can be very demanding) but I said "YOU CANNOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO YELL OR INSULT MOM!!" I was very firm. I told him that we are here for him and he should call me if he ever feels he needs a break and I would come right away. I think if you say something- which you probably should- you need to be able to back it up with a "I will help you through this" and start out with compassion -"I know it is hard and you are probably sad BUT..."

Good luck. I know this is so hard. ((((hugs)))))
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Good question. I am increasingly playing the role of referee. I have told them both, equally, be nice to each other. I think I need to pull my mom aside and tell her she is being cruel at times in her demeanor and her comments. The way she speaks to him. She is only concerned for how this is affecting her. Period. I know she will have excuses that he says mean things to her, too. But he is the one who is vulnerable and more helpless, not her. It's just so hard seeing them this way, they have been married since 1964 and we always had a happy home life. Maybe mostly I am just wondering if this is normal. At this point, stepping in does not involve outside help.
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Upstream, what do you mean by stepping in? What are you wanting to do?
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