Dementia: My husband of 54 years often... - Care Community

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My husband of 54 years often refuses to believe that I am his wife

If I try to laugh it off he gets very angry

I don't know how to respond

I get very upset at times but he shows no sympathy

13 Replies

That’s very sad. Has your husband been diagnosed with dementia? If so, he cannot help his reaction to your laughter and wouldn’t really understand sympathy. Dementia is awful as l know by my mother in law.

Do you have any help? Maybe carers or a Living well with dementia representative could be of help to you.

Wishing you well xxxxxx


Isn't it awful. My husband isn't quite that bad (yet), but he also refuses to believe there is anything wrong with him - it's all my fault. I also get horribly upset by his behaviour but he is completely unable to understand that he is not acting properly. it was worse last week when I wrote in the diary that I had a hospital appointment. He studies the diary loads of times a day to see what we are doing and it never occurred to him to ask me why I was going to hospital (or to ask me how I got on when I came home). It is such a lonely life being married to a dementia sufferer.

calista in reply to Hidden

Hi Exhausted Wife.

My situation is a bit like yours or getting to it in that husband may not ask why I have doc appointment etc.or will forget right away anyhow.

It feels like lack of interest but probably the condition.

Still very sad .

Good to hear other experiences as unless you are in the situation impossible to understand.

Laughing it off will only confuse him. I knew a man whose wife with dementia believed he was a hired attendant. My husband, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, asked me how many years we had "been together." When I told him we had been married for three years, he was pleasantly surprised.

Hi Tricia bee it's so hard that a close relative or spouse forgets who you are. My mum has Alzheimer's and often doesn't believe my sister and I are her daughter's. Maybe laughing it off is not a good idea because they are frustrated and it seems you are laughing at them. Maybe showing wedding photos of you both may help or talking about when you met ect may stimulate his senses. It's surprising how much they remember from the past it's just the present time they have problems with.


Hi Triciabee. How my heart goes out to you for having to endure this. It must seem like the most awful betrayal of the love you've had together for what amounts to a lifetime.

It must make you feel awfully alone and abandoned and the trouble is, no-one can say "never mind, this may get better", because we all know it won't, and might well get worse in the time to come.

Try to remember that although this is the man you've known intimately, inside and out, he is in reality only the shell of the person he once was. He's not choosing to deny you as his wife, and from his perspective it must be really bewildering, not recognizing you as the person with whom he's shared his life. If he could have his 'normality' back, he'd be only too proud to point out that you are still at his side despite all that he's going through.

I think that all you can do to comfort yourself is to, firstly, know that you are doing the very best you can, in really difficult circumstances, and then to reach out to anyone who can lend a listening and supportive ear, whether that's through friends, family or a support group of people who are going through the same thing. Don't hold back. Members of support groups already understand, and good friends and family will be happy to help you through this.

Try to stay strong and, if it helps, think back to days when you were happier together. I'm sure you'll have tried talking about the past to remind your husband. Keep trying to do that and show pictures of the past if he's receptive, but I know that, unfortunately aggression can be provoked that way, so don't do it if he isn't open to it.

Very best wishes to you in this difficult time.

Hi TriciaBee,

I am so sorry to hear this, I can't image how hard it is for a partner to hear that. Is it a consistent thing that he never believes you are his wife, or is it something that comes and goes?

My father has similar symptoms. It's sometimes that he thinks there are multiple versions of the same person (i.e. his carer, where there will be a good version, a bad version in his mind). Sometimes its about places, where he doesn't recognise his home (which is less emotionally painful than your experience). But I have found that when he is confused like this, trying to correct him just makes him angry, stressed and more insistent. Rationality does't work either, like showing him photos just makes him think its a conspiracy. Sadly neither correcting him, or playing along is particularly helpful. Certainly stress makes confusion worse. I try to find ways to reduce his stress, help him relax, change the conversation, and then at some point he returns to knowing who is who and where he is. But it comes and goes, and sadly it won't get less frequent, but I do think one can get better at handling it for both yourself and them.

I hope you still have moments where he remembers you and everything you do for him.

best wishes and good luck.

Thank you so much all who replied. It is good to know that others feel the same as I do. I never know how each day is going to be. Sometimes good sometimes bad. I know that he is never going to be the same as he was. I just have to live with the person he is now.

Thank you for all your suggestions too.


So sorry to hear about your situation. I can't imagine how awful it is since we are at an earlier stage. However anger is triggered if I try to laugh off any problems my husband is having with day to day living. We always laughed a lot together and I miss that easy fun.

Every day is different and brings its own challenges. I find it easier to divert the conversation when it gets difficult eg I am told several times each day he needs to see about a blocked ear. We already have an appt to deal with it. Explaining that doesn't help so I change the subject.

All best wishes to you.

Hi. I was so sorry to hear how upset you feel. I am frequently called by my husband's late wife's name, not mine, but I know inside that he is not trying to hurt me, as that would just have not been like him before he had dementia and I really have to hang on to that.

I tend to ignore it and steer the conversation in another direction which does seem to help. If I show him old photos he remembers me as I was and that helps me but I accept that one day that may not happen.

On the symapathy front that sadly disappears with this disease. I feel that my husband is living in his own muddled and confusing world and cannot reach out of it with empathy or sympathy. My mother died recently and his response was that it wasn't very clever of her, but I know if he did not have dementia he would have handled it completely differently.

Letting go of your upset is essential for your own self preservation even if it is just by texting a friend or member of your family with an honest short text about how you are feeling at that precise moment. If you build up friends with other carers you will probably be on the receiving end for them sometime too.

Hi TriciaBee, You are going through a really tough time, and it sounds like your husband has dementia, am I right? It's like going through a bereavement, for the person and relationship you once had. You have begun to receive amazing support from the other members of this community, who identify with your experiences. Here's link to the Alzheimer's Society site, as well as a helpline they have during office hours, hopefully you might find some more specific help and support through them too.

National Dementia Helpline tel:03002221122

This is a safe space to share your feelings, to receive support. Keep in touch.

Best wishes.

TriciaBee in reply to MAS_Nurse

Thank you all again. I realise now that I mustn't allow myself to get upset by arguing or trying to correct my husband. I also need to take a break but as he is physically disabled because of the stroke it is doubly difficult for me to leave him. I will certainly contact the Alzheimer's Society though. Also thank you for the Dementia Helpline number. It would be good to talk to someone- if can manage to talk without him hearing me! Perhaps when he is having a nap. Wish me luck.

Hi again,

That's great that you've found some of our suggestions helpful.

Carers Trust has some very useful information covering many topics, and here's a link for you to think about having respite care,

Take care,

Best wishes

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