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Dealing with loss of memory and abusive relationship.

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by witsender, Jan 13, 2016.

  1. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    #1 witsender, Jan 13, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
    I wish to share my story concerning my experience with my parents over the past year and a half. My Mum and Dad are almost ninety years old, and still living at home. They are, as the saying goes, both fiercely independent, although my mother used to chat with me a lot more than my Dad about the big and small things in her life.

    I would like to start by saying that my main reason for writing here is simply because I have nowhere else to turn for advice and support at this time. I hope I can explain why later. I also hope that some of the courageous and loving people here will forgive me my difficulties and shortcomings in expressing the emotionally painful elements of this story. To be honest, I do not even know where to begin.

    Over the past twenty years I have spent quite a few periods living and working abroad, together with my wife and our son. However, throughout the years spent in this country, we always used to visit my Mum and Dad at home two or three times a year, usually Christmas/New Year, and in the spring and summer. My relationship with Mum was formerly very easy and straightforward, and we talked about anything and everything together. However, despite my respect and love for Dad, I could never get close to him. In common with many of his generation (he was in the last world war, and in the army for some years after the war), he never shared with me anything about his life, nor any of his personal or business affairs. However, he was often wanting to know the details of my life, and the accounts that I gave to him just as often resulted in bouts of anger, abuse or pointless recriminations. This led to some very difficult times when I despaired of ever getting close to him.

    During recent years, whilst abroad, I had always maintained contact, phoning Mum and Dad once a month just to keep in touch and to reassure Mum that I was fine (she used to worry a lot). The last time I was abroad, in the year before my return to the UK, Dad requested that I call them more frequently than once a month, as I had previously been doing. I agreed to contact them once a fortnight, and continued to do this until my return. During this time I had many warm conversations and discussions with Dad, and I also wrote several emails to to them both, concerning my impending return, and other plans. During one call at this time, my Dad requested me not to ask him to make any decisions, as he told me he was finding this difficult to do. As I had not asked him to decide anything, I wasn't sure why he said it. Anyway, I resolved not to consult him or request any decisions from him in the future. During this period, I also remember him telling me that my mother's memory was becoming quite bad, and a request that I come and visit them both during that year. In the light of what I had been told, I began to consider the possibility of relocating somewhere closer to their home, in order to be of some assistance as and when necessary, rather than returning to my former home town where I, my wife and our son still had friends and contacts. When I suggested this as an alternative possibility, my Dad responded favourably, mentioning that they could both do with some help if I was there.

    Everything appeared to be fine until a few weeks after my return to England. Over the course of about three months the following exchanges took place at different times between me and my Dad:

    When I mentioned his earlier request for me to visit them this year, and my intention of living closer to them in accordance with that request, he angrily denied that he had ever said such a thing, and that they did not require my help or assistance.

    He told me he had made arrangements to grant power of attorney to my sister for the management of his financial affairs.

    He suggested some doubts about whether my son (who he has known since he was a toddler, and has watched grow up into his late teens) may not actually be my son. He had never previously made any mention of such a thing, and there had never been any cause for doubt nor any basis for such a comment. The worst thing was that he spoke these words whilst both my wife and his grandson were in the same room.

    At this time I struggled to understand more fully the reasons for the inconsistency in my father's behaviour when measured against the calm, almost intimate, conversations we had had over the phone earlier that year, before my return.

    During a visit to their home on Boxing Day that year, I tried to have an open discussion with my father and mother about their future plans. My Dad became irate and defensive, and despite my attempt to explain the causes of my concern, he abruptly told my wife, my son and myself to 'get out'. I asked my wife and son to sit in the extension of the house and to wait for me, and returned to sit down with my father and try to ascertain the causes of this behaviour, asking him to be honest with me. He shouted 'I hate you', adding that he wished I had never come back to this country, and wished I would go back to the country I had just returned from earlier that year. I remained calm, and asked him if there was something I had done (that may have caused him to feel that way). He told me that I had taken his grandchildren away from him. In view of the fact that our son, who had accompanied us on all our visits since his childhood, was sitting in the same house at that moment, I became concerned that he was not perhaps fully aware of what he was saying. He then told me that he preferred my former wife. I presumed then that he was referring to the children from my previous marriage, which ended twenty-two years ago. In an attempt at reconciliation, I told my Dad that I did not hate him, but wished he could be more honest and open with me. He only replied that he did not hate me either, which I observed as being the reverse of the words he had spoken minutes before. I reminded him of this, asking him which words I was supposed to believe were true. He answered that he had not said he hated me. I then told him I was concerned that he appeared to be losing his memory, which he angrily denied. At a loss to explain this behaviour, I told him that I wanted to speak with their doctor (which I later regretted). I apologised to Mum, and promptly left their house with my wife and son.

    I rang the doctor the following morning. He told me that my father had just called him minutes earlier, to tell him not to speak to me. He continued that, as a result, he was unable to share any information about my mother and father with me. However he did allow that I was welcome to give him any information that I felt might be useful or necessary. I later made an appointment to see him, and gave him a letter which contained most of the information detailed above. It was a bit like talking to a brick wall, and I haven't bothered to contact him since then. The shock of the whole experience has left me in complete confusion for over a year now, during which time I have not wished to visit them again, and ruled out any visits accompanied by my wife and son for fear of subjecting them to further abuse. I only maintain contact with occasional emails to and from my father, which are awkward and stilted affairs to say the least. I have let them know that I am here for them, and they may contact me at any time if they feel it is necessary.

    I have since described the situation in brief to my own doctor, but she did not venture any possible avenues apart from some independent counselling for myself which I have not pursued. At this time I am more concerned for the well-being of my Mum. I have not seen her for over a year now and I fear that she is possibly the most at risk person now on the receiving end of Dad's abusive behaviour. I remember her referring to him a few years ago as 'just a bully' and my heart goes out to her. It is hard enough facing old age and infirmity without the kind of abuse which my father has always seemed to thrive on. I really need to know how she is, but it has been impossible to speak with her in confidence as my Dad always listens in to our conversations on the other phone they have in the house. She called me once last year, but she did not say anything about what has happened, just the usual small talk.

    I am sorry if I have been rambling on too much, I have lost all hope of ever having a meaningful relationship with my Dad now, but it has been too long now without knowing how they are getting on, and this is the worst time of year for the elderly.
     
  2. cragmaid

    cragmaid Registered User

    Oct 18, 2010
    7,963
    North East England
    Hello and welcome to TP. I'm sorry you have had to find us, but do believe me when I say that there are many people here who have had familial disputes and fallings out.

    Do you have any contact with your sister? Have you any idea what her take on the present situation is? I wonder if your father has been thinking of his other grandchildren, does he have contact with them?

    Does your Father go out alone? If so you could phone your Mum then without hinder.
    You have referred your concerns to their GP. You could telephone your local Adult Social Care dept. and ask them to consider contacting Mum as you are concerned she is vulnerable.
    I would say to keep making your phone calls, perhaps simply call and make small talk, weather, TV, that sort of thing, and keep them short. Make no reference to things said in the past, because if they were made and then forgotten, it does no good raising them again.
    If Dementia is the cause of your Father's current emotional state, his attitude to you and your family could change many times. There is little point asking if he hates/loves you, becauses what he said five minutes ago only applied then....and asking him to remember something he has forgotten only reinforces the fact that his memory is not reliable.

    I have not mastered the skill of attaching links, perhaps someone will post it for me...the Compassionate Communications link. I'll try this way, but you could type Compassionate Communication into the search bar.

    Keep posting and keep caring.
    Maureen.
     
  3. Shedrech

    Shedrech Volunteer Moderator

    Dec 15, 2012
    8,036
    Yorkshire
    #3 Shedrech, Jan 13, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
    Hi witsender

    cragmaid has written very much what I was going to say

    I too wonder whether you are in touch with your sister, and if so what her experiences are - you write that your dad was going to arrange for her to take Power of Attorney; this may indicate that he knows something is 'not quite right', or could be that he is just taking sensible legal action

    if your sister now has POA, might she be in touch with your parents GP? I appreciate that you feel the GP has stone walled you, but their hands are tied to a great extent - however any information you send will be noted, even if they can't speak to you or even take action, esp if your dad will not see the GP

    maybe try phoning your mum, just to regain contact - if your dad listens in, so be it, that's the reality - so keep the conversation acceptable to him, better to do that and talk to your mum - maybe even throw in a few positive comments about your dad and times you spent together, so that he hears that you are not against him - though as cragmaid warns, if dementia is in the mix for either of them, unpredictability is the norm

    and, unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a PWD (if your dad does have dementia) to turn against one particular family member - and then make up and turn against another - nothing is set in stone

    here's the link to compassionate communication:
    http://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/showthread.php?30801-Compassionate-Communication-with-the-Memory-Impaired

    TP is a safe and supportive place to share any experiences and concerns - so do keep posting

    very best wishes
     
  4. Risa

    Risa Registered User

    Apr 13, 2015
    483
    Essex
    Would you consider visiting your parents again (without the rest of your family)? Your Dad may have no recollection of the way he behaved and if you were able to visit and act as if it hadn't taken place (not easy I appreciate) then you could see if your parents are more approachable to any help you could provide.

    It is horrible to be on the sharp end of abusive behaviour but unfortunately it is a common thing to experience, regardless of the previous nature of the relationship. Personally I tend to have the mindset that I am dealing with a patient rather than with a parent so there is an emotional distance which I find makes it easier for me to cope with any nastiness.
     
  5. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    Thanks for you comments.

    Thank you Risa, especially your advice about dealing with a patient rather than a parent. It will take me a while to adjust to that mindset as a reality, and to put some of the emotions aside. I will do my best.
     
  6. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    2,739
    I would have thought your Mum is well adjusted in the nicest possible way. They have obviously been married a very long time and she knows him inside out and upside down. Perhaps it is not the happiest marriage but who knows and we can't judge what goes on inside someone's relationship.

    Because of your circumstances you clearly have not been very close to them for many many years - perhaps your Father has built up resentment and dementia has just released him from any inhibitions - not suggesting it is your fault but sometimes that is just how the mind works.

    He's ill - and you do need to remember that he is ill - and your mum is coping as she has always done I suspect. Hopefully she has a good network of friends who have helped her out over many years and will continue to do so as your father's illness progresses. Your role now is to support them both however you can or however you wish to and to learn as much about dementia and the services that are available as you possibly can and as a big warning - the path is rocky and the things that are said even by the sweetest angels are frequently not nice but they are a symptom of the illness and you can't take them personally. Regarding PoA perhaps your sister is the best person to do it - if she has been seeing your parents regularly over the years perhaps she will have a clearer idea of what they want - your dad will be unreliable in terms of information now and so his past Your mum will need practical help and advice and perhaps your job could be to find out answers to her questions from here and support her through. There is loads of help on here and people treading the same path - please do look at the Compassionate communication sheet that someone posted earlier - it is really worthwhile and it would be a really good idea to share it with your mum

    good luck and keep posting lots of people to help and support
     
  7. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    Dear Maureen, thank you for your interest and suggestions. I am especially grateful for your suggestion to contact the Adult Social Care dept, as I think that is the best way to start the ball rolling and going towards resuming some kind of contact.

    I don't know if my Dad still goes down to the village to pick up the paper like he used to each morning, so I can't be sure of speaking to Mum confidentially, unfortunately.

    Apart from a brief call to my sister just before we returned from abroad a year and a half ago, we haven't kept in touch (There hasn't been any communication since I met her at the hospital when my father went in for a heart operation in 2002. Upon arrival I saw her in the car park and said hello. She just gave me a blank stare as if I did not exist, and that was it.) Before the Boxing Day incident my Dad mentioned that they were going to meet up with my sister and her partner for dinner at a local pub. When I said I would like to join them, it being a chance for the whole family to be together again for once, both Mum and Dad were not at all keen on the idea. Mum told me then that my sister did not want to meet me as 'it had been too long'. Needless to say, my sister can do no wrong in my father's eyes, so I let it go, although I told them I was disappointed at the time. I can't see any point in making further efforts to resume contact with her as she clearly doesn't want it, and goodness knows why.

    With regard to my Dad's grandchildren, they used to visit Mum and Dad occasionally, and independently from me and their mother, and I have no idea when they last visited. If I can speak to Mum again I will ask her if they still keep in touch. (They hardly ever visited me and never keep in touch, though I used to tell them at every opportunity my door was always open for them.) It is not the way I want it, yet it sometimes appears to me that, over the years, I have, silently but effectively, been excluded from my own family, without any explanation for it.

    Anyway, thanks for the link to to the compassionate communication page, I have read some of it, and saved a copy on my computer for further reference.
     
  8. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    Thank you for your comments. As I have written, I have always maintained regular contact with Mum and Dad, and over the many years that we paid regular visits to them, I, my wife and my son were as close to them as I imagine any normal family to be, despite the limitations. Sadly, that has changed now, and it may well be that they barely remember all of our times together over the past seventeen years, no matter how well we remember it all.
     
  9. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    #9 witsender, Jan 13, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
    Hi Shedrech, thank you for your response. I hope I have answered your questions in my reply to cragmaid. In case I have missed anyone, thanks to everyone who has responded to my original post. I really appreciate all the support and advice I have received.
     
  10. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    Thank you also to the person who responded with a PM. I can't send a reply as a PM yet as I have less than ten posts. However, your story resonates a lot with me, thank you so much for sharing it.

    I wish you the best for the future. I can't write much more just now as I have been so busy responding to all the comments I have received since posting. However, please feel free to keep in touch, I really value your support and advice, and it is always helpful to know that someone else has been through similar experiences, no matter how traumatic or unpleasant.

    Best Regards
     
  11. tigerlady

    tigerlady Registered User

    Nov 29, 2015
    427
  12. Spiro

    Spiro Registered User

    Mar 11, 2012
    522
    To me, those are the two statements that stand out. I wonder if your Dad is aware that he has memory problems, but finds it easier to deal with the issue by making it look as though your Mum has them.

    It sounds as though that your Dad is in denial, but at the same time he knows that he has to make some serious decisions. Decisions which may mean that they become separated, for example going into a home.

    Giving POA to your sister is a way of maintaining control of a situation he doesn't want to deal with. I'm guessing that he knows that the two of you are not close.

    I would consider writing to your Mum's GP (who may be the same as your Dad's):), saying that you are concerned about her welfare, and mention the fact that your Dad says she has memory issues - send it by recorded delivery. As your Mum has not forbidden her GP to talk to you, this might be a means of addressing her supposed memory problems.

    The GP has a duty of care to them as individuals.

    Your Mum's health will suffer if your Dad continues to behave like this. Your parents are married, but they are not joined at the hip.:)
     
  13. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    2,739
    I apologise, I thought as you had been abroad you wouldn't have been close in the sense of day to day, watching people change, knowing about all their interests and how they spend their time together or indeed how they relate to each other. I have family who I see 3 times a year if I'm lucky and neither my children nor I consider them to be close family or even as close as most of our friends That doesn't mean they aren't family, of course they are and still have the same feelings about them but they don't know much about us really - the daily struggles and joys.

    I think it must be very hard for all of you to make adjustments but as I said that doesn't mean they don't need your support, of course they do, you are their son. If your Mum needed help with her relationship with your Dad wouldn't her first port of call be your sister? Just the 'girlie' bond? Or if she needed your help she would ask for it and make the time to have that conversation. I just wonder if going to professionals might create a whole load more resentment. Surely someone else would have spotted something that was really amiss during the time you have been away, that's all I'm saying that it is very difficult to judge someone's relationship unless you are a part of it and your parents have been together for a long time and now more than ever they need each others support.

    However, if I have upset you I didn't mean to I just thought that perhaps your efforts could be focussed on different areas of help like TP that they may not have been able to explore. To be honest once a family member has dementia their needs become paramount and certainly in the early days when everyone is learning and working out how to deal with the daily trials the focus is going to be on that person.
     
  14. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    Hi Fizzie, no offence taken. I do appreciate your advice but like most families, there are complex issues and patterns of behaviour that affect all the relationships.

    In the case of my family, my sister has always been the one that could do no wrong in my Dad's eyes, but her relationship with my Mum has not been as smooth, and I frankly have doubts about the level of support she receives from my sister. Their home is outside the village, Mum doesn't like to drive any more and it is too far for her to walk there. My mum's friends have all slipped away over the years, and she has told me she doesn't want to see other people any more, so I think it is reasonable to say thet she is very isolated, except for my Dad. The problem is, even at their age they are still prone to having vicious and bitter arguments. That is part of the cause for my concern.
     
  15. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    2,739
    That is such a shame, for you and for them, but your caring attitude is wonderful and I really hope that you will find a way through this for all of you x

    Have you considered trying to point them in the direction of extra care housing? I know a number of people recently who have moved into schemes - both private and LA. I went to see a private one the other day and it was wonderful, large 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom flats, care team on site so living very independently but with access to care teams as and when necessary. Also with lots of social events, coffee mornings, games afternoons, all sorts - I was really impressed and would live there myself if I didn't have teenagers at home (for my sins) so now working on getting rid of the teens pronto

    Good luck, keep posting x
    Just a thought - it is either called flexi care housing or extra care housing
     
  16. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    Thank you Spiro. You have made some very insightful comments here. In fact I would say all of your observations are, incredibly, right on the button. Good point about Mum's GP, even though it's the same as my Dad's, I might be able to get some feedback from him about Mum.
     
  17. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    Hahaha, teens at home yes I know what you mean we have our teenage son with us although not looking forward to him leaving too soon.

    With Mum and Dad, I have brought up the subject of care before but they were very resistant to it last time. However that was a while back. It may be different now.
     
  18. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    2,739
    Sorry I wasnt very clear - the advantage of flexi care housing is that you live independently in your own flat so it isn't at all like a care home but the big advantage is that you have the support of the care team for pop in visits or to help shower or for more if it is needed but it is entirely your choice and you only pay for what you get. It is independent living with the added value of the care team and support but it really is independent. A lot of couples choose it when one partner has higher needs because it gives them such flexibility and both people can live a decent quality of life
     
  19. fizzie

    fizzie Registered User

    Jul 20, 2011
    2,739
    Your GP is bound by confidentiality and data protection and I would be amazed if he was unprofessional enough to disclose any information to you at all even more so as you do not have PoA
     
  20. witsender

    witsender Registered User

    Mar 24, 2015
    14
    I just want to say that, due in no small measure to the support I have received from all the people who have responded to me here, I finally took the plunge and called Mum and Dad this afternoon. I was surprised at how pleased they sounded.

    Lots of memory gaps were apparent in the conversation, but it all went smoothly and I'm relieved to hear that they are both apparently fine, and looking forward to a visit from me soon.

    The biggest challenge for me right now is in making the delicate steps towards more of a patient/carer approach, without all the emotional baggage in tow.
     

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