How can I keep my husband, who has dementia, and teenage daughter from fighting and avoid family conflict?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 06, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband has mild dementia and is suffering from depression because he forgets many things. Sometimes he is very aggressive when things are not his way. He is 78 years old and is going worse. We also have a daughter who is 15 years old and they are fighting most the time. I think that he is hiding his dementia with aggressive attitude. What I can do? Many thanks for your help, Dora.

Expert Answers

Mikol Davis, PhD has worked in community hospitals with geriatric patients suffering from dementia, depression, and other psychiatric problems. He has a doctorate in Psychology from the University of San Francisco and has been in private practice in Marin County, California. Davis co-founded with his wife, Carolyn Rosenblatt.

Let me start by saying how important it is while dealing in family conflict with a teenager, to get some immediate professional help. Ask you family doctor for a referral to a psychologist that works with families and specializes in inter-generational counseling. Your husband who is suffering from dementia and depression can not "consciously" use agressive behavior to cover up his medical condition. Often agressive behavior is a symptom of depression. However most parents are challenged by dealing with a family conflict teenager. Unfortunately your daughter must be suffering from watching her one and only father slowly become incompetent and dependent. The very best advice I can give you is to immediately have your husbands medication levels for depression be re-evaluated. Next get a referral for a family psychologist. Third reach out to your family or community and arrange for a "safe place" where your daughter can go for the night or weekend to get away from family. An additional resource you might check out is our free articles written by me and my wife Carolyn Rosenblatt at I hope this helps you situation.

Community Answers

Elderesolutions answered...

A 15-year old is not too young to learn about dementia, so that she can be armed with better tools for being with her father without being the "cause" of the fighting. In addition to books and tapes, your local Alzheimers' Association may be very helpful with educational classes, support groups and maybe some dementia-oriented counseling about how the disease is affecting her father. Of course, the combination of recognizing the difficulty of her father's disease and being a teenager makes this situation especially difficult. She needs to also be able to be a teenager, doing activities with friends and not acting as a caregiver for all her non-school time.

Frena answered...

yes, it's hard for everyone. one person with dementia plus one teenager (who may well be overcome by all the dementia situation).

teach her how to communicate less stressfully. for them both. (you can't teach your husband this because he has dementia)

  1. people with dementia are very often afraid and, especially in men (but not only) this makes them angry;

  2. people with dementia actually CAN'T argue successfully because they can't do logical thinking. this makes them angrier and also very resistant;

  3. teach her to deflect the anger by saying uh-huh, i see, right, okay, really? and other variants which signal not arguing (but not agreeing)

  4. consider therapy for her because old people failing, and an old parent failing, are very distressing, confusing, and hard-to-handle even for adults, let alone for such a young person.

  5. support her. she needs friends outside the house who understand her struggles. other family members who can help her. activities that give her somewhere else to succeed. find other resources in your community for her (and for yourself).

my heart goes out to you. you all need peace, help and support. and there's a lot of it out there in your community.

A fellow caregiver answered...


The caregiver's voice answered...

Consider this...A fifteen-year old who may be trying to find her own way while her father who is sixty-three years her senior is "losing it."

Your husband who was the pillar of the community or at least his family is now vividly aware of what he can NO LONGER DO. This is understandably depressing and scary. For all you know, he may fear that you will leave him.

Meanwhile, you're in the middle trying to survive and find some peace in your home.

Beyond what Frena has suggested earlier, you might consider making this a fun challenge and life learning experience for your daughter. Both of you can undertake to learn as much as you can about your husband's dementia and then explain to your daughter that if she can succeed in communicating with her father, she will learn life skills that can help her with her friends, at school, and at a job. (Please note, I don't have teenage children. Yet depending on the approach, it may just work!)

For whatever it's worth, my father was forty-nine when I was born. And back then, most parents were in their late teens or early twenties when they had children. I had to deal with, "Is that your grandfather?" "No, he's my father." "He is?"