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My selfish, verbally abusive husband now has dementia

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a housewife in my 70s. My husband began suffering from dementia two years ago. He’s behaved selfishly since he was young, and the thought of taking care of him from now on makes me want to die.

He has long snarled loudly at me if things don’t go the way he wants. If I talk back, he yells at me, saying, “No excuses.” When I started talking to him about issues related to our children and other problems, he slammed doors or threw things to express his displeasure. I thought, “There’s nothing I can do about it, that’s what men do.”

Recently, I began thinking that my husband’s behavior toward me might be emotional abuse.

He is a problem in fact. Although his dementia is mild, he steadfastly refuses to receive nursing care for people with his condition. He shuns the notion of wearing diapers, but wets his pants day and night. That means I have to wash and dry his clothes numerous times a day.

It’s a very difficult situation for me. And just like always, he yells at me if things don’t go his way.

I’m also suffering from a chronic illness and I’m unable to move freely. I’d like to hear your advice.

T, Tokyo

Dear Ms. T:

Your husband is terrible. You wrote in your letter: “There’s nothing I can do about it, that’s what men do.” Your husband has wrongly made you believe that all men are like him. I feel like objecting to your husband’s behavior on behalf of all men.

What’s more problematic is the difficult time you’re having while caring for him. If he were a devoted and compassionate spouse, the mental stress you’re currently experiencing would be diminished. Instead, he yells at you just as he always has. Here, I suggest you put the emotional aspects aside and treat the past and the present as different problems.

It’s difficult to cope with dementia-related problematic behavior with only the help of family members. If you’re the sole person in charge of your husband’s care, you might end up collapsing before he does. You need to take various measures, including taking him to see a doctor. However, it’s obvious he won’t agree to that notion.

I suggest you go to a community general support center in your neighborhood or a similar public organization to seek advice. Some people say it’s not desirable to suggest going to specialists in this column, which is supposed to offer advice. However, I’ve determined this is one case in which I need to suggest the guidance and expertise of a facility with specialists.

Soichiro Nomura, psychiatrist

(from April 18, 2016, issue)Speech

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