Ask Fiona: Struggling to cope with husband’s dementia

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Advice columnist Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships

My husband won’t accept he is ill

Q I believe my husband has dementia and I’m struggling to cope. He won’t accept he has a problem, he just becomes very aggressive and blames me for problems. He says I’ve done something to the phone which is why he can’t understand people speaking to him on it. I could go on.

Our GP has been seeing him, with me there, and believes it is Alzheimer’s and is doing tests, but my husband has still ignored things. I don’t really know what to do for the best. My sons are no help, they won’t accept things, but they only see him once in a while.

A I’m sorry to hear your husband’s health is deteriorating. It is difficult to cope with something, especially if you don’t really understand it, so I think a new brochure Alzheimer’s Research UK has just brought out would be really useful. Contact the charity via www.alzheimers-researchuk.org or on 0300 111 5555.

Sadly, the aggression you’re facing can be one of the side effects of the condition. Make sure you keep yourself safe and get help when you need it.

My son harmed himself

Q I’ve discovered my teenage son has been cutting himself. We were talking about one of his friends who has suffered with depression and he told me how worried he was about her. He said she cuts herself and I said: “How awful, I hope you’d never do anything like that,” and he said: “Oh, I have done.” I was so shocked. He said he only did it once because he was angry and thought he’d try it because everyone else did.

A When people cut themselves it is usually to try and replace difficult emotional feelings with a physical pain, which can seem easier. Your son was able to talk to you about this and, by the sounds of it, he was only experimenting. It’s great that he was open with you, so keep talking to him and encourage him to think about other better ways to deal with pent up feelings. Point him towards sources of help like Youthnet’s TheSite (www.thesite.org) which is geared to the needs of young people.

My ex won’t let go

Q I have been engaged for two years and plan to get married next summer, but I have an ex-boyfriend who just won’t leave me alone. Whenever we meet he tells me he still loves me and wants to marry me. I’ve stayed friends with his mum and last week, when I popped in to see her, she was out but he was there and we talked for a while. He said again that he wanted to marry me and again I explained that I was marrying someone else. But he said that didn’t make any difference.

He won’t take no for an answer so how can I get him to see sense? My fiancé would go ballistic if he found out.

A Whilst it’s good to stay on friendly terms with people, I wonder whether you’re actually trying hard enough to avoid this man. Are you just a touch flattered by the fact that, more than two years after you split up, he still wants to be with you? Could it be that you’re not discouraging him quite as hard as you should?

Don’t pop in on his mum – call her by all means or meet her somewhere else, but make sure you avoid her son. Don’t give him the chance to talk to you. Tell him one last time that it’s over and that you’re not discussing it with him ever again. Of course, I’m assuming that it really IS over and that you’re not having second thoughts about marrying your fiancé – that’s something only you can decide.

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