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My mother-in-law moved in with my family a year ago due to health issues. At the same time, we placed her husband in a nursing home. He has severe COPD and either Frontal-temporal or Lewy Body Dementia (doctors are not sure). He calls his wife frequently and makes many demands and yells at her if she doesn't meet his needs. She picks him up from the nursing home at least 3-4 times a week and takes him out for lunch/dinner and then brings him to our house for a visit. I regularly observe him continuously prod her to do things for him and then get angry because she doesn't have the good health and energy to keep up with his demands. She is starting to speak up for herself and tells him "no" which sometimes escalates into a verbal argument. Then he forgets and the cycle repeats every 20-30 minutes. Other times, she just gives in because she doesn't have the energy to fight, but his demands wear her out. On good days, none of this occurs and he is pleasant to be around.

I know that some of his behavior is due to his dementia, especially the repetitive prodding. He has only been in the family a decade and 1/2 and I know that some of his disrespectful behavior is due to personality traits and mental illness he has had all his life. No matter what the cause, I do not like watching her be abused by her husband. I am a strong women's advocate and it bothers me to the core that she is being treated that way in our house in front of our grade-school son. My husband will barely speak to his step-dad because of the way his step-father treats his mom. There are times, when I speak up and put him in his place, but it isn't really my business to interfere in their relationship.

I have considered telling her that her husband is no longer welcome in our home; however, it is her home now too. She has the right to visit with her husband. Taking him home makes it much easier on her than taking him to public places. She has been limiting the number of days she picks him up to about every other day, so that she has a break. Unfortunately, the phone keeps ringing on off days with his constant asking her to come get him.

What are your suggestions on how to handle this situation?

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FTD and Lewy Body dementia can make a person behave just as you are describing. Add to that previous mental illness, and you've got an even harder situation. Of course you know that neither of these conditions are his fault. And your mother-in-law knows this, too. But she feels a need to still be his wife.
Even though it's hard to watch, I think supporting your mother-in-law in what she needs to do is important. Encourage her to only bring him home when she feels she can tolerate it. Also, remind her that it is the job of the nursing home staff to cope with his illness. She can do what she is able to do. Visit him, and occasionally bring him home if she wants to. But she may want to cut back for her own health. Remind her that her health is important to all of you and that you'll support her in whatever she does.
Take care,
Carol
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Abuse is abuse regardless of the diagnosis and background of the husband. Your mother in law needs to let him in the nursing home, limit the visits and stop taking him to your house. Always welcome her and support her. She deserves to live the rest of her life in peace.
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joanie76, "make him promise that if you take him in that he has to act right." Hmm ... promises are not meaningful to persons with short term memory problems. I cared for my husband with Lewy Body Dementia for nine-and-a-half years, until his recent death. As is common with that disease he had good hours and days when the dementia was not obvious, interspersed with bad times. When he was having a good period I was fooled at first into thinking I could trust that. I'd say, "Honey, I'm going to the drug store. Please just stay in your recliner until I get back, and if you need to go to the bathroom, promise you'll use the walker." And he understood how reasonable that was and agreed. I'd be back twenty minutes later to find him standing on a stool reaching for something high in a kitchen cupboard, the walker nowhere in sight. He wasn't being devious. He simply forgot his promise to me, forgot that he needed a walker, and forgot that his balance was unreliable. I quickly learned that I needed to change my behavior and expectations -- that he could not change his. This is a hard (and essential) lesson for caregivers of people with dementia.
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Since things need to be repeated constantly, informing him that his abuse will not be tolerated also needs constant repeating. Believe me, there will come a time where he will remember that because he will get tired of being reprimanded. Sometimes it's the dementia, and sometimes it's not, it's just a license they give themselves to be cruel because they feel they are entitled due to their circumstances. Wrong!
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How about just taking your step-dad out for breakfast or lunch but NOT to your house. I'm surprised that he hasn't pushed and argued to live in your house. I was fearful that my husband would try to come home; so we just took him out to eat once a week.. It worked. Many hugs. Corinne
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get him out of the nursing home, take him home with you. he is freaking out being in that place. he will turn around his behavior. it would take a lot of patience but mostly love- true love. your probably thinking no way but it could be a good thing for everyone in the long run. make him promise that if you take him in that he has to act right. and your husband will probably end up best friends with him.
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Bringing him home would only increase your problems. You would then be taking care of two people, and your MIL would have 23/7 abuse. Sounds as if she is having a hard enough time now dealing with his situation.

I won't even discuss the stress this will cause you and yours husband. Has his doctor be advised of this behavior? Does this man have children that could help out and maybe take him to dinner or visits in their home on a weekly basis?

It can't be easy but you and your husband's first responsibility is to yourselves and your marriage/children and then the welfare of the MIL. I would feel this way if you were talking about your husband's Father. Best of luck!
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RichardJ: "I have not seen institutionalization and/or prescription drugs offer any hope for improvement, only decline." I respect your opinion and that it is based on personal observation. For balance, I'd like to share my personal observations. Some kinds of dementia, and Lewy Body Dementia in particular, respond well to the right drugs. These never are a cure, and the person still declines (because that is what dementia does), but the quality of life can be greatly enhanced by control of symptoms. I saw this up-close and personal in the care of my husband. Drugs given in a care center for the care center's convenience are a different kettle of fish, but I hate to see all drugs tarred with the same brush. In some kinds of dementia the right drugs can produce huge improvements.

I was fortunate to be able to care for my husband at home until the very end. But I have seen (in my caregiver support group) spouses and children agonizing over whether to place their loved ones in a care center, and when they have finally made the placement in carefully selected centers, some of the loved ones showing improvement in symptoms. I know that you, too, are speaking from experience. I'm just pointing out that experience varies widely.
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It's impossible to know how much of the problem is actually caused or worsened by the institutional setting and prescription drugs--which seem to go together--unless and until these factors are removed. Improvement may occur in spurts over months, with regressions along the way, as I experienced with a family member. I have not seen institutionalization and/or prescription drugs offer any hope for improvement, only decline.
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Carol is so right. Even a person who can't fully cope with a spouse's dementia still wants to be a spouse. Tracy, I suggest that you try to respect your MIL's needs, and support her in her visits with her husband. Do not ban him from your home. In terms of the role modeling in front of your children, this is a teaching opportunity. You can explain that there is something wrong with this poor man's brain and that his behavior is very unacceptable but he can't help it. Even though there is something wrong with his brain Grandma still loves him and wants him to be happy. Your example of respect and love will have more impact in the long run than the obviously inappropriate behavior of this family member with dementia.

A risk here is that MIL will try to tolerate more than her health can really support. Keep an eye on her and gently protect her from the risks she doesn't see. I hope you can do this without banning FIL totally or with causing rifts. Perhaps encourage more visits in public places and shorter visits in your home.

My heart goes out to you and to your family.
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