How would I know the difference between my husband suddenly turning into a jerk or having signs of early dementia?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 27, 2016
Berngirl asked...

How would I know the difference between my husband suddenly turning into a jerk or having signs of early dementia? He is still working and seems to be functioning normal except for changes that family and friends cannot understand.Going on the internet and suddenly after a 31+ year marriage, hooking up with a woman online. It is totally out of character to this once Christian man we all thought we knew. He is wildly spending money when otherwise frugal, is promiscuous, and becoming withdrawn.

Expert Answers

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

You're correct that a change in personality is one of the signs of dementia, however this usually takes the form of withdrawal and even depression, hardly descriptions of a "jerk." in other words behavior that's quite opposite your husband's.

As a rule of thumb, we look for a pattern of three or more of these markers to indicate dementia:

"¢ Short-term memory loss that interferes with daily life

"¢ Hard time with planning or solving problems

"¢ Difficulty finishing projects

"¢ Problems with routines at work

"¢ Changes in mood and personality

"¢ Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

"¢ Increasing problems with words in speaking or writing

"¢ Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

"¢ Placing items in unusual places; i.e. car keys in the freezer

"¢ Confusion with routines: personal hygiene, paying bills

"¢ Getting lost in familiar neighborhood

"¢ Vague about time or place

"¢ Decreased or poor judgment

"¢ Withdrawal from work or social activities

Everyone experiences one or several of these problems occasionally. They become indications of dementia when they happen on a regular basis.

*For more details, go to "Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia"

Whether your husband's actions are caused by dementia or midlife crisis, I do recommend that you consider counseling. Seek out a psychiatrist or psychologist with a geriatric specialty, who can work with the possible dementia and/or your marriage.

You say your husband is developing a relationship with a woman whom he met online and that he's spending money right and left. If these actions are indeed totally uncharacteristic of your husband, they rightfully should concern you. My alarms go off when I read "stranger online" and "throwing money around," virtually in the same sentence. Unfortunately there are numerous unscrupulous con-artists working through social media online. Elders are particularly vulnerable because they grew up in an era when honesty was the norm and in general people could trust each other. Not so anymore, we must be vigilant and unfortunately suspicious, especially when it comes to the internet and money. Everyone with an email address is likely to have received numerous Nigerian scam letters, offering millions for a small sum.

I'm not saying this particular woman is trying to swindle your husband, in fact she may be a perfectly innocent and honest person who has no idea that his actions are not okay with you. However, if you learn that he's giving her money directly, you need to take action. If it's smaller sums, try not be accusatory, but contact a marriage counselor to help you establish an agreement with your husband on how much "funny money" you will each have per month. "Funny money" is extra cash you can do with as you wish without any accounting to your partner. If you find that he's been giving her larger sums directly, you may be faced with a con-artist, in which case you ought to talk to local law-enforcement. I urge you not to jump to conclusions; do your homework discreetly without shaking the boat at home. A counselor can help you figure the how and why of what's going on.

Community Answers

Berngirl answered...

Thank you so much for your insight. I guess what I really wondered was could he be showing some of the signs of early dementia, such as apathy, lack of empathy, promiscuity but not show signs of such things as forgetfulness, getting lost and losing things. I was worried that this woman was taking advantage of him. I don't believe he has given her money because she is almost telling him that she is looking forward to a pension, has a condo to sell if she wishes and her parents are very well off. Maybe a reverse type psychology? Anyways at this point now, after a conversation with him, I pretty much believe he just became extremely disappointed in his inability to make changes in his life. He lacked ambition to do so and blamed everyone but himself. I only remind him that in 30+ years nothing much has changed. He couldn't change his job, or where he lived, so he changed something he could. I can't be new and exciting, I don't have my own government pension, a condo to sell or rich parents who would leave an inheritance. So, I guess he did pretty well in changing his life!! Apparently this woman's mother has Alzheimer, as did my husband's father. So, there may be a race to see which one of them actually gets Alzheimer's. He is choosing to be with her in the near future and is pushing for a divorce. So I guess he won't be my problem anymore. Meanwhile I guess I will continue to look for signs just because I have known him for more than half my life and he is my kid's father. Thanks so much again.

Jytte lokvig answered... is a treasure chest of information on Alzheimer's and dementia. This can help your kids, because you're probably the last person he's going to listen to after your divorce. Speaking of which, I hope you're able to get at least a legal separation sooner rather than later, so you can go on with your life. Best of luck. Give your kids my website:

Berngirl answered...

Moving things rather quickly. Going to mediation. Then I believe he wants a divorce right away. He is being open about everything I believe and fair. Although I questions about one item. Really hard to hide assets here in Canada as Revenue Canada requires tax receipts for everything!! He was really shocked though what he may have to pay in spousal support. Not so, cocky now about things. But yes, quit worrying about him and get on with my life. Thanks