My Husband Has Dementia and is Becoming Violent. What Do I Do?

Morning friends,

Whew, it was a whirlwind week, and I’m still quite fatigued. Thanks for your prayers. There was a great response to my two day interview on Focus on the Family on Reclaiming Hope and Safety in a Destructive Marriage.

If you missed it, you can listen to a replay at (Part 1) and at (Part 2).

I’ve also added a new video on my home page entitled “5 Steps to Achieve Lasting Change”. Click title to watch.

Here is a question from someone who listened to the Focus on the Family broadcast this week. I have not addressed this question before.

Today’s Question: I was listening to your seminar on abusive marriages. It was interesting, but what if your partner has dementia and possibly developing Alzheimer’s and he's increasingly mean and violent with you and others in the community? How do you handle that.

Answer: Your question is an excellent one. We must also recognize that when abusive behaviors are not typical of someone’s patterns or have not been part of a couple’s marital history, there may be something physical going wrong which affects his (or her) thinking and behavior.

I remember working with a woman whose husband tried to kill her one night while she was sleeping. His violent behavior was totally out of character. They had no previous episodes of abuse, and they had been married a long time. After further tests and investigation, it turned out he had been given the wrong medication which greatly affected his mood and thinking. This new evidence got him out of jail; however it did not mitigate the lethality of his behavior. Had he succeeded in his attempt to kill his wife, although we understand it was not his fault, she would still have been dead.

So here is how you must handle this new development in your marriage. I’m sure you have great compassion for the man he once was. Ask God to help you be extra gracious, forbearing and tolerant when he acts mean knowing that this is not at all the man he was. However, if you feel in danger or he gets violent, you must also take measures to protect yourself and not feel guilty for doing so.

Tell your adult children what’s going on so that they can help and support you, if possible, as well as give you some much needed breaks if you are his caregiver.

Next, talk with his doctor and inform him or her of your husband’s violent behaviors both at home and in the community. Let him know what he’s done, when they’ve occurred and how frequently they happen so that your doctor can adjust his medication or, if necessary, refer you for help at so that you will be able to find a place he can live that is more equipped to handle his violent outbursts than you are living with him alone.

Please don’t feel you need to be the martyr and sacrifice yourself to keep him home with you. Care giving takes a great toll on the caregiver even when there is no violent behavior. The best and safest way you may be able to care and love your husband in these latter years is to daily visit him at a place where he is well-cared for but where you and others are safe from his unpredictable and dangerous behaviors.

We have a large community of wonderful people, and I’m sure some of you have faced something similar. What words of wisdom would you share with this wife?


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  1. Brenda on October 28, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I haven’t personally had to deal with this issue, but know someone who did. Mr. was a sweet gentle man, until he wasn’t. He became aggressive overnight along with Alzheimer’s. Mrs. took care of him at home for the first year or so but it became necessary to place him in a nursing home after he tried to rape her. Physically he was not capable of sex, but his physical strength was beyond what she could handle in her small stature. He needed around the clock care and medication to calm his now assaultive personality. The more aggressive he became the more depressed he also became. The disease progressed very quickly and he passed within a couple of years.

    There just are some things we are not equipped to handle on our own and God does not expect us too. We do what we can to get the best care we can for our loved ones. Remember them for who they were not for what they were when it was no longer them making choices for what they were doing. Remember he loved you well while he could.

  2. Brenda on October 28, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Leslie, You are in my prayers. I know you are working hard for the Lord’s cause, but even Jesus took time for rest. Brenda

  3. Chuck Sigler on November 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve always recommended Ed Welch’s book, “Blame It On the Brain” to help spouses put these struggles in a biblical light.

    • Jane on November 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Have you done any thing on “intimacy Anerexia” caused as a result of men being molested in childhood?

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