What do I do or say to my father who is on the receiving end of my mother's verbal abuse, spawned by dementia?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 17, 2016
Ny daughter asked...

my mom is 83-85? has signs of Dementia, is verbally abusive to my father. One minute she can be civil and the next totally abusive verbally. I know this is a sign of fear, we try to reassure her. she constantly talks and repeats herself. medication is out of the ? cannot tolerate them or won't take them. My dad sometimes just cries, I know he is going to pass soon, he looks awful. Dr. is aware doesn't see it as a problem.

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Thanks for your excellent question.

You stated that your mom has "signs" of dementia. The first thing you need to do is get her to a geriatric neurologist for a thorough exam, assessment and accurate diagnosis so you can create a workable treatment plan based on a definitive diagnosis of her problem.

If she has a form of dementia, most likely Alzheimer's, her behavior is not unusual. But that doesn't make it any easier for your or your dad to deal with her when she becomes abusive. However, you must rule out any other possibilities of illnesses so mom can be properly treated.

You also said that mom won't take medicines. That's a serious issue if her agitation and anger can, in fact, be treated with medicines that she can tolerate. The neurologist will determine which meds can help alter mom's level of agitation. But as far as taking or refusing the medicine, your mom no longer gets a "vote" as to whether to take them, if they can be tolerated.

It is going to be up to you to become creative in getting the medicines into mom's daily routine. If they work, her behavior should settle down, and she will be less likely to be quite as verbally abusive or upset. Keep in mind, all medications have side-effects, and you have to pay a great deal of attention by looking for potential new issues that you may have to deal with as a result of the new medicines.

As for your dad, he may be clinically depressed. He too needs to see a neurologist or geriatric psychologist who assess him, and possibly suggest a medicine that might lighten his burden of anguish. If he is depressed and properly treated, you may find that your personal prognosis of his death may be quite wrong, and you may see a major change in his attitude if his problem (again, I'm assuming it is depression) is properly diagnosed and treated.

You indicated that your doctor does NOT see these issues as a problem. That for me would be more than enough reason to find a new doctor who listens to me, and who does care about the quality of life of both of your parents. I suggest that you contact the Alzheimer's Association, or ask a friend who has had similar issues with his/her parents whom they recommend and be sure that the physician is known to be compassionate and understanding of these issues and others facing his aging patients. It seems to me that by his lack of concern about the signs and symptoms you report that your parent's current doctor is neither understanding nor compassionate.

Good luck with these challenges, as I know how frustrating and emotionally painful it can be to deal with these types of issues.