Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I did a terrible thing today. I struck my elderly father, who suffers from dementia, because I couldn’t take his insults anymore.  My father lives alone and has an aide for six hours a day – currently we are on aide number 9 and all he does is watch television, eat and talk on the phone.  I have to clean my father, take him to the bathroom and shower him while he hurls vile curses at me in the three languages he knows.


I know he isn’t responsible for what he does and says, that his brain has turned into Swiss cheese and he doesn’t remember whom I am, who he is and what he’s doing.  Most days I am able to tune him out when I visit after work. I prepare his food, clean him up and put him to bed. I come back again in the morning, before I go to work, to more ranting and raving and verbal abuse, and to let the aide in and set out his food and clothing for the day. I call in several times over the course of the day to hear if everything is all right. I am not a bad son, I love my father, or the father he was before he became this evil tyrant who beats and bites and spits, and says all those hateful, hurtful things.

Today, I lost it with him. I had a particularly hard day at work, what with my stress level at its peak due to my wife divorcing me, the threat of losing my children and the threat of losing my job because I’ve had to leave work early or come in late too many times due to my fathers needs. While I was feeding him his dinner, he started to smack my hand away and spat out a mouthful of food and I snapped.

Before I could stop myself, I pick up my hand and struck him across the mouth causing his lip to bleed. Seeing what I had done and what I had caused to happen, I broke down in tears while my father shrieked in fright. I think I am losing my mind and I am afraid I may not be able to stop myself next time from hurting him badly.  Please tell me what to do and how to do it.



Dear Friend,

My heart goes out to you and to your father; this is truly a sad and distressful situation.  I empathize with you as my mother, a”h, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for twenty four years.  Where our stories differ is that my mother had wonderful help after we got rid of the first three or four aides who did nothing or physically abused her.  Then, Hashem sent us an angel by the name of Irena, who took care of her as if she was her own mother, which made it possible for us to keep her at home for almost twenty years. I also shared the responsibility of caring for both my parents at home with my two brothers.  It made a world of difference and gave us all a change to regroup and rest. I can’t imagine doing it alone.

You did not mention any brothers or sisters. If you have siblings who live nearby, work out a schedule that gives everyone a turn to look out for him. If they live far away, let them contribute money towards additional sitters so that you can have a much more workable break. It seems that this arrangement has taken a toll on your marriage as well as your health.

If you have no siblings or anyone who can help you, perhaps you should look into institutions that provide compassionate eldercare and see how this works for the both of you.

It’s hard, this role reversal that makes children become the parent to their elderly and infirm parents. It is terribly hard for adult children to see their once vibrant, loving, wise and wonderful parents become shells of the people they once looked up to and adored. Sadly, this is the new normal and we have to find a way to give them the best quality of life in the twilight years, while at the same time, not sacrificing our own quality of life.

There are always options and you don’t have to be oyver kibbud Av.  You just have to do some research and hishtadlus, keep a watchful eye until everything works smoothly to your satisfaction and then, the impossible becomes possible.  Take heart and don’t lose hope. Please contact me if you need further resources.


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