Caregiver Coach: Don’t let guilt put you in danger

Posted: Sunday, June 14, 2015 6:45 am

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of advice columns from Benevilla’s caregiver coach, Regina Thibideau.

Dear Caregiver Coach: I need some help. My husband has Alzheimer’s disease and has recently been thinking that I am an intruder in our house, not his wife. He yells at me sometimes, and I worry that he might hit me. We have been married for a long time, and it hurts me to think that I might have to place him in a facility. So, in addition to feeling afraid, I feel guilty about having the idea about moving him out. Can you shed any light on this for me? — Scared Spouse

Dear Scared Spouse: My heart goes out to you. This is such a difficult place for you to be. But, that being said, it is imperative for you to protect yourself and to be safe.

What a lot of people do not realize is that there is the potential for people with this brain disorder to turn violent at some stage of the disease. No, not everyone will have to deal with that, but some will.

Be aware that any guns or knives you have in the house can be used against you. Give firearms away if you can or hide them at the least. Kitchen knives are weapons as are tools like hammers and screwdrivers.

Try to keep away from conversations that could stir up conflict. If you feel as if the situation is getting more than you can cope with, it is.

While you have time, look at placement options. Visit care homes and facilities you like.

They will allow you to sign up in advance with no penalty if you do not use their facilities. Be prepared.

Don’t wait for an emergency when your life could be in danger. There is no reason to let guilty feelings prevent you from being safe.

The husband that you married would not want that for you. Try to talk with your family about what is happening.

Talk with friends or neighbors who can watch out for you, too. Make an appointment to see your physician and tell him/here about your husband’s progress.

That doctor is going to want you to be safe and well and may be able to refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist if that will help. Get as much help as you can, and most importantly, stay safe.

Please consider coming to a Benevilla support group, where others can share their experiences dealing with this illness with you and offer support. You are an amazing caregiver.

Feel free to contact me directly with questions.

For questions or information, visit me online at

• Regina Thibideau has been a family and spousal caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s. She is also a professional whose job entails facilitating caregiver support groups, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s caregivers from the beginning of their journey to the end.