Protecting my dad from my mum


Registered User
Mar 13, 2006
Hi there, I've just joined this forum and I'm hoping some of you may be able to give me some advice. My mum is caring for my dad, who has memory problems - possibly Alzheimer's. I am worried about both of them, because my mum seems unable to accept that my dad can't help being confused. She gets angry and impatient with him and he gets more and more nervous as she gets more and more irritated, which makes him more confused, which makes her more angry, etc!

She refuses to contact any support groups or organisations - she doesn't "do that kind of thing". I understand that his behaviour must be very frustrating for her, but she seems to be looking for reasons to be annoyed with him by testing him on things. For example, the other day, she put him on the spot by asking him what my name was - and he didn't remember, even though he knows it fine when not under stress. This was upsetting for both my dad, and me.

So far, I've just gone along with her explaining that she knows it's wrong, but that she can't help it when she has to live with it every day. I do sympathise with her, and try to visit them regularly to give her some support (although I live quite far away from them), but I can't continue to watch her undermine my dad and make him terrified to say or do anything in case she snaps at him.

Does anyone have any tips about how I could try and rescue my dad without being unsupportive to my mum?

Dave W

Registered User
Jul 3, 2005
Softly, softly ...

Not a happy situation, by the sound of things - for either your Mum or your Dad.

It strikes your Mum's behaviour is actually making her own life more difficult. The more impatient and angry she gets, the more confused and frightened he gets, which makes it harder for him to do anything - which makes her more impatient and angry.

If she can't see that snapping at him doesn't help him (and I don't want to judge!), then can you at least try to persuade her that it isn't helping her either. Sympathising with her probably helps, as living with someone with dementia is very challenging and frustrating for the carer too: but knee-jerk responses don't actually help in the long run. (You will probably have seen several references in other people's posts to the need to scream/punch a pillow while no-one's looking and so on: she needs to vent her own feelings, but doing so at your Dad isn't the answer.

She may also, of course, be frightened by what is happening: impatience and anger could be her way of expressing that. Her reluctance to contact any kind of support is an important factor: is this one that you can tackle? In the nicest possible way, it might be worth trying to explain that your Dad probably isn't going to improve (and may well get a lot worse) with time, and that - sooner or later - she won't be able to cope with him on her own.

Have a look at the factsheets on the site, as they do have some good basic advice on handling behavioural issues. (Another stab in the dark, but demonstrating some of these approaches might help - if your behaviour towards your Dad doesn't make him scared and confused, she might be encouraged to follow suit?)

And good luck.


Registered User
Mar 16, 2005
Hi bbt,

I can empathise with your situation because this was how it was for me a couple of years ago. My Dad had always been the easy-going one in my parent's relationship - that's not to say that Mum isn't, but he would usually go along with whatever she said. When the dementia started to kick in and Dad began to argue, swear and even became violent towards Mum, she reacted the same way as you describe with your Mum.

Later she told me she thought Dad did not love her any more and was obviously frightened about what was happening. She would get annoyed at Dad because she wanted her husband back. Now she has told me that she feels awful that she was like that, but I can understand it and know that Dad would forgive her too if he could! If you do not have a diagnosis yet, your Mum is might be holding onto the hope that it may not be an illness. Testing him may be a desperate way of trying to wish him well again, because if she tests him he might just behave the way he used to again.

Mum also did not want to contact organisations and was opposed to attending any support groups. All this has changed over time but I'm afraid there is no quick fix. Watching and waiting the opportunity to help is also hard. Sorry I have no tips, in my experience you just have to do as you're doing and chip away, gently of course.

Best wishes,


Registered User
Jul 2, 2005
West Yorkshire
Hi There BBT

Your post could have been written by me!

This is exactly the position we are in. Dad has Alzheimers, and Mum is convinced that if he tried a bit harder, he'd be a lot better.

She will not, absolutely not, accept that he cannot help it.

She seems to goad him, and then he snaps at her - and she's in floods of tears.

She will carry a good sulk on into the next day, when Dad has forgotten all about it within moments.

Then, oddly enough, when go to the memory clinic, she plays everything down, almost 'covers up' for him. But in front of the family, she has no hestitation in relating some 'silly thing' he's done or said.

I lurch between feeling so sad for Mum, when she rings in tears because of a nasty comment he's made, and then my heart goes out to Dad, who will be trying to explain something, and she butts in and talks about him as if he's not there.

I don't have any advice BBT, just wanted to let you know that you're by no means alone in what you're going through.

*switching Corrie off now, too close to home*

Best Regards


Registered User
Mar 13, 2006
hi im new to the group so not a lot of advice to give but my dad is my mums carer and i know with him he gets so frustrated with her dementia he ends up annoyed with her, when all along he just wants to have her back the way she was.
she's only 65 and suffered brain damage after a heart attack which in turn has developed into dementia its still very new to us but her diagnosis hasnt been good and she'll be lucky to see the year out, im sure your mum dosent mean to be annoyed with your dad its probably the disease she's most annoyed with.
good luck

Nutty Nan

Registered User
Nov 2, 2003
Many a bell is ringing here, bbt: I often thought my husband was being deliberately awkward or acted like a spoilt child before we had a diagnosis and I learnt more about AD. It is so frustrating and bewildering to see your gentle, clever, capable, independent husband changing into a stroppy, volatile, unco-ordinated and helpless stranger. The worst moments are those when he acts out of character, or when he point blank refuses help ....... I also found it difficult to adapt my own behaviour - trying to live in his world, avoiding confrontations, agreeing with his view of things and using white lies to make many an awkward situation easier. Also, he was very resentful on many occasions when he became aware that I was taking on tasks/roles which used to be his domain.

I also identify with your mum's reluctance to join support groups etc.
I gained a lot of information and 'support' from one of the first books I read about AD, which I can wholeheartedly recommend: "Learning to Speak Alzheimer's" by Joanne Koenig-Coste (available from ebay or the 'You' Bookshop). Would she read it (or at least browse in it) if you bought it for her as a present? Or perhaps you could read it yourself and then pass it on to her with an appropriate recommendation? - Just a thought.

Best wishes to you all!


Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
near London

bbt said:
She gets angry and impatient with him and he gets more and more nervous as she gets more and more irritated, which makes him more confused, which makes her more angry
Unfortunately I think we all go through this stage. The disease is so unbelievable in what it does to someone we know so well... so it must be possible to undo such simple things by explaining, arguing, helping them re-learn....

Wrong, of course, as we find out.
bbt said:
my mum seems unable to accept that my dad can't help being confused
Well actually, she probably can, deep inside her, and what she knows about their possible futures - but won't admit - simply scares the wits out of her.

My only advice won't be very helpful.

It is to wait.

To wait until she reaches the stage where she will say to herself "this is hurting both of us and helping neither. The illness will get worse, but it is far worse for the sufferer than for the observer, no matter how painful it is for me. He has a clock ticking, and every minute is precious now. I want to live for that minute; I want him to live for that minute and to know that I'm there with him. We will take each next minute as it comes. Conversation may no longer be as meaningful as it once was, but it is a link between us and I must lead, and not become frustrated when we repeat things."

In the same way that we can't make the sufferer better, long term - we can't make the spouse/partner/friend understand until they are ready. Until that happens, confusion will reign supreme in all parties.

Keep trying though.....Good luck!


Registered User
Mar 7, 2004
Hello BBT, just an idea which may help.

Print out some of the replies and advice you are getting and let her read them at her leisure.
I often print a complete thread and give it to our CPN, or take to a group meeting.
That way your mum will know how concerned you are, but also that other people react in the same way.

Ultimately you have to learn to live in their world, because that is real to them, and rightly or wrongly, that today is all they know.

Regards, Connie


Registered User
Mar 23, 2005
Hi bbt,

Everyone else has given such excellent advice already. My only question is based on your comment:

"My mum is caring for my dad, who has memory problems - possibly Alzheimer's."

Has your father had any sort of investigations regarding his memory loss?

While it doesn't eliminate the emotional burden of caring for someone with dementia, getting "into the system" can help to start some of the wheels rolling that can lead to improved support. This could be valuable if your mother is one who would not normally seek out support groups and the like.

Going to the GP could open the door to a diagnosis and drug treatment which might improve your father's condition for some time. People who might not feel comfortable picking up the telephone to call a support group might be much more comfortable talking with a GP or Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN).

Take care,



Registered User
Sep 16, 2005
In my experience


Due to my own experiences, I wil come at your query from another angle. If I were you I would ask myself, who my mum was, before my father began to display symptoms of dementia, what was my parents' relationship before this all happened?

The reason I would ask this, is because if this is simply a new kind of behaviour, and out of character for your mother, then I would do what others say, just wait and see, try to be supportive as it would appear that your mother is simply confused by this situation, perhaps hoping it will go away, maybe is in denial...but eventually she will likely realise there is no avoidance of it, and will start to look for more effective ways to deal with your father's condition.

On the otherhand, if your parents have always had a volatile relationship, if your mother holds a lot of resentment towards your father for things in the past, if your mother tends to be manipulative, behaves more like a child than an adult in many ways, likes playing the matyr, can be very very selfish, then you must begin to prepare yourself to be your father's keeper and your mother's support (even when you don't want to support her and are just angry at her). This latter advice comes from my own personal experiences. Over the past 6 yrs I have been stressed to the extreme watching my mother stress my father (who has early onset dementia) out to the max, yell at him for being so stupid, whack him with newspapers, other available items and her own hand, hose him out of their vehicle when he refused to get out (he wanted to go 'home' although he was at home), and then place him in a home and want to pretend that he doesn't exist (she doesn't succeed with this last one now, because I keep her in line) all this to the man she claims to love (and does love in her own way).

My parents relationship was always a warring one, and just thinking about growing up in my family exhausts me emotionally, and it just appears to be going to continue like that! Over the years where Dad's disease has progressed, I have found that I had to 'support' my mother as she is more dangerous when not feeling supported. At least as long as I kept communciation going between us, I could gently point out that her behaviour might not be appropriate or at least deflect it away from Dad. I found the stress of keeping this up over a period of about 4 yrs long distance was almost the end of me however, and if it wasn't for my supportive husband I don't think I could have done it (so if this is your situation, you really need to be sure you have your own personal support network). Now Dad lives in a home near me, and I get to be the one who basically ensures he is well looked after now, and I find this far far easier.

So anyway thats the situation from my angle, it is most likely that your situation won't be anything like this and hopefully is the temporary alternative I mentioned above. However just because situations like mine are rare, I feel it is important to mention them online in discussions because I know I really really wished I could have had someone to talk to back when times were realy tough, someone who understood and didn't just think I was exaggerating things, or misunderstanding my mother's behaviours.

Whatever your situation, best of luck, and I'd also advise to use this website anytime you need to let some stress out or ask questions.

Last but not least, a book that helped change a lot of my mum's crueller behaviours towards Dad was called ' Learning to speak Alzheimer's', it is written by a woman who's husband had dementia and she talks about how she learnt to get the best responses from her husband by not confronting him or stressing him (she then went on to apply her knowledge to other dementia sufferers and for us her advice was lifesaving - my life, my mum's life and dad's life!)



Registered User
Jul 18, 2005
Hi bbt
We were in this situartion until Christmas. My uncle (my aunt's carer) would get really ratty with her and tell her to 'get a grip' denying to the whole world that anything was wrong. After Christmas she took a turn for the worse and has now tried to walk to my dad's house only to turn up at the wrong one, is constantly saying she wants to come to my house (i live 100 miles away), can't dress herself without help in choosing clothes, or wash without being prompted. After new year i found a telephone number for their local CPN (Community psychiatric nurse), gave her a call and arranged for her to visit them at home. My uncle was so relieved that there was some support system to fall back on and now he rings her when it gets a bit too much for him or he needs to find out how to go about handling a certain situation.

As for his rattiness and impatience with her, he's now admitted that it doesn't work and that it's not her fault - it's the disease. I suggested that when he feels his blood is reaching boiling point he should lock himself in the bathroom for a couple of minutes to calm down - this is what i used to do when my children were younger!! Your Mum will probable find, in a little while, that the situation is getting slightly worse and she really needs some support and she will admit it to herself, just as my Uncle has.

Good luck bbt, as someone else suggested - try printing out some of the replies to give to your mum. She will see that she's not alone. This terrible disease is one of the worst but at least we have this forum where we can vent frustrations and offer some sort of advice and support.

Let us know how it goes x


Registered User
Mar 13, 2006

Thanks to everyone for your helpful advice. I was about to pick up the phone to my Mum, but thought I'd check out what people had to say first. It is so tempting to jump in there and give lots of advice, but the general message I'm getting is to be patient and supportive and try and offer help when I can.

It is reassuring to know that there are other people out there who are having similar experiences - it makes me see Mum's behaviour in a different light.

My Mum is quite volatile and has said herself that she is the last person who should be looking after a person with dementia because she is so impatient and intolerant. She feels really bad about being horrible to Dad. I do sympathise with her, and everyone else in her position, but I think that if I really want to help her and Dad, I have to try and support them both - even if I sometimes don't like her for what she's doing.

I will try and bring some of the ideas you have offered into our conversations over the next few weeks, and will definitely get the book that a couple of you recommended - Learning to speak alzheimers.

Thanks again.
Last edited:

Members online

No members online now.

Forum statistics

Latest member