Whenever I visit my husband in his very nice and costly assisted living facility, he complains about it. He also does not seem sympathetic to me when I tell him about how tired and stressed I am.

My husband has been in a MC facility for almost five months. The transition has sometimes been quite rocky but he has made it through like a champ. I see him twice a week. We have lunch, I shave him and trim his nails and make sure his room is tidy and comfortable. We cuddle and hold each other close. He is well cared for by the caring and competent staff. It is key to know that his physical needs are being met. His emotional needs are up to me and his family. The “I want to go home story” is ongoing and only with me. Why? I believe because he links me so closely to living at home and safe and happy. Every visit I give him a version of the same Pep Talk. I do not give him ultimatums or threats because they don’t work.

instead I tell him that I am so proud of him and that the staff really appreciate what a good resident he is and that he is in this very comfortable and friendly place for his wellness and safety. Arguing is counterproductive so I stress how successful this has been. And then I move on to other things. But telling him that I am stressed and working hard is also counterproductive because then he insists that if he comes back with me he can be a big help to me. Yes, it all makes me feel so guilty that at times I want to cry—for him and for myself.

One other struggle is how much I miss my darling and my best friend. I’m lonely for his “presence” in my life. So I have to give myself a Pep Talk as well. I know this is the best and the only solution to our particular problem. My advice is to not be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself of how much you love him and that this is an act of love. Good luck!
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to Carelyn73
NightHeron Mar 19, 2023
Your story really touched me. Thank you for sharing it.
He complains to you because you are "safe" for him to complain to. You are his everything and he feels comfortable to complain to you.
I can only guess that if your husband is living apart from you that he must have some kind of dementia, and sadly when one gets dementia, they typically become very self focused and lose the ability to sympathize or empathize with others.
I remember times with my late husband when I would comment about being in pain after my many surgeries, and he would ALWAYS then talk about how much pain that he was in, when all I wanted was for him to be sympathetic to me, as I was the one who still had to take care of him despite my own pain.
It's hard, but you must remember that it's not your husband anymore. His brain is now broken and it's now all about him.
Find a local caregiver support group that you can share your feelings with.
And I will also recommend the book Hope for the Caregiver by Peter Rosenberger. It's an easy read and very encouraging. A must read for all caregivers.
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Reply to funkygrandma59
Midkid58 Mar 13, 2023
My Dh does this too.

If I have a migraine, he has a worse one. If I have a cold, he has covid. If I am tired, he's more tired b/c he's been up for 30 hrs.

Just once I would like a sympathetic shoulder to lean on.

One of my girls said that the reason Dad does this is he needs me to be super, super strong and never have any reason to feel anything other than 100%. Because he sometimes feels 'weak' and needs me to be tough.

Yes, it's exhausting. Sometimes I just say "I'm taking the day off." and I either sleep all day or go find a friend or daughter or grandkid to play with. He'd love to have me here 24/7, silently caring for him and doing all the things. He wants 3 hot meals a day & preferably served in bed.

Uh, no.

I know that MANY of the men of my generation are like this. Baby Boomers with the emphasis on Baby :) Dh is a good guy, but pretty clueless about others' emotional status.
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Someone with dementia is pretty self absorbed. They honestly aren't interested in the problems of others. They cannot absorb nor identify with them.
He complains to you because you are his "fix it person", the one he thinks can do anything and everything for him. He will never understand that you no longer can. So just tell him you are sorry, you understand, and that not everything can be fixed, and then try to redirect him to something else, perhaps a walk, a w/c tour, a board game or puzzle, a photo album. Take in pictures and get him busy with pasting them in a book. Divert him. If you cannot divert him then cut your visit short. It makes no sense to sit there getting made unhappy for no reason. Tell him you will return another time when he is feeling better. If he learns that the litany of complaints makes you leave faster he may eventually get trained not to do it. Most of these things can be filed under "habitual behavior " in any case.

I wish you good luck and I would advise you cut your visits down a bit to get yourself some rest.
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Reply to AlvaDeer

I have actually selected the residence that I plan to go to if/when my cognitive capacities begin to deteriorate, and I have also warned my POAs that I will no doubt scream like a banshee when/if I am placed, because most people do.

I have told them if the placement has been made based on my need for safety and care, that they must turn a deaf ear to my entreaties to be “taken home”, tell me that they love me and will return to see me again soon, and LEAVE as soon as I start to complain to them about where I am.

I did exactly this with my most recent family member, and ultimately this approach worked.

If your husband has dementia, it will work sooner or later for him too.

It will be harder for you than it will be for him. Dementia robs the most loving soul of empathy. Be good to yourself and keep in mi d that you decided to place him mostly for him, but also for you, and that’s OK.

Take good care of yourself.
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Reply to AnnReid

For 17+ years my mother lived next door and, even 10 years ago, before it became obvious she had dementia, she became a complainer. She’d come over midday and rehash all the wrongs done to her by her MIL, two of my aunts and my uncle. She’d follow me around my house for anywhere between 1 and 3 hours, dredging up the same old perceived slights.

Whenever I tried to discuss how much it upset me, she raged that I was the only one she had to talk with, and how selfish I was to want to deny her that. Whenever I tried to discuss how she seemed to upset herself daily and point out that there would be no closure with people long dead, she raged that I was obliged to help her deal with it.

Back then she had a big social circle, but she told them how her life was peachy.

If I was not home during her routine complaining time, she’d leave a nasty letter on my kitchen table.

Antidepressants tempered her rage a little, but the complaining to me continued.

Eventually her dementia became apparent and her complaints expanded. Next came the paranoia. And the conspiracy theories about legitimate things being a scam. And ridiculously impossible things being real. It astounded us how a broken brain could perform such mental gymnastics.

My point is, I think she HAD to have something to complain about. Rational or not, real or perceived or complete fiction, she had to grasp onto something.

Incidentally, she’s quite content in care.
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Reply to Anabanana

You do not mention a diagnosis or why he is in AL.
If he has dementia...
You are a "safe person" he trusts you, he "knows" that you will listen to him and try to take care of things that he can no longer take care of.
As far as not being sympathetic to you and what is going on in your life with dementia I think sympathy, empathy and many other emotions are lost to the disease. (My Husband would hold my hand or give me a kiss when I returned home but there was no "feeling" in either. He would no give me a hug even if I put his arms around me and that was not like him at all.)
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Reply to Grandma1954

He is at the AL because he is bedridden and incontinent, with mild cognitive impairment, after several strokes and brain surgery for an aneurysm. He has been there about 3 months.

He used to be very, very empathetic. That is why the change in personality is so difficult for me. I am slowly adjusting to the realization (as many have pointed out) that he is not the same person he was.

I tell him not to complain so much to me, and to try to resolve some of his issues by himself - he has a phone and can call the Concierge Desk.

Also, he suffers from dyschronometria, which distorts his sense of time, so often he thinks the staff have take several hours to answer his call button, when it has been only 30 minutes.

Thanks for all the input. I will check out the Rosenberg book, and I am planning on cutting my visits down from 3x week to 2x week, so he will socialize and connect more with his AL community. Also, I am exhausted - he was in the hospital for 2 months before the AL transfer, and I was managing his care there through several UTIs, diagnostic tests, and multiple doctors.
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Reply to djenning6msncom
InFamilyService Mar 19, 2023
I cannot stress enough to take care of yourself. He is well cared for I am sure.
While caring for both my parents and sister critically ill on ventilator with covid, I had a stroke and heart surgery!!!!!!
Before that time I was in great health/ active at 65, perfect labs. My cardiologist said stress was a BIG contributing factor.

If you visit try to distract him with some outside time or a special treat/ activity.

If you feel he needs more attention think about a sitter/visitor a few hours a week. He has been through a lot.

When my dad was in rehab I still had to hire an evening sitter(his worst time). Staffing was poor and I wanted him to have the help he needed.

Good luck to you. So sorry for all the events. This may be his new normal.
I am so sorry. Your question hit me hard. I have been having a tough weekend knowing my last before he goes to memory care this week after 12 did you make it out of the facility when you moved him in without just screaming and crying? I keep trying to vision God's face but sometimes the guilt of this is so much. Have a blessed day
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Reply to phoward51
Febyshe Mar 19, 2023
Phoward51, when we first took my MIL to a MC facility we had my husband’s aunt and some good friends of ours helping us to move her things in to the room. The staff suggested that my husband and I tell MIL that we are taking out some trash and then quietly leave the unit. Our friends were instructed to stay for no more than 10 minutes after we left the room, then say that they were going to do something down the hall and quietly leave. Each family member/friend did this and she was rather calm after we had all left. No kicking/screaming/crying. I thought it was ingenious and we used this excuse each time that we came to visit. She never cried, screamed or put up a fuss. But she also went downhill very quickly and stopped responding to us within a month. She had Frontal Temporal Dementia and her symptoms moved very quickly to put her in an almost catatonic state. I wish you much luck when you take him to MC. We were heartbroken and cried for days at having to leave her there. Please know that you are doing the best thing for him, and for you also. Peace to you.
Another thought: If your spouse complains only to you (as my mother did) what would happen if you assigned him someone else to address his complaints. Another trusted family member? A close friend? Not someone affiliated with the facility. Perhaps this would help to distinguish between complaining for the sake of complaining and legitimate complaints that should be addressed but are getting lost in the quantity.
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Reply to Anabanana

Every one of these responses could have been written by me. My husband has been in MC for 3 months now and I have been visiting him most every day. He is always very pleasant when I arrive but after an hour and half, he is very confused and agitated. Now all he can think of is how to get out of there. He uses my sympathy a lot . I get the same questions over again within seconds. He is very reluctant to go to any of the activities. If I do not take him out, he would sit in his room all the time. I am the only one he complains to. I have 4 stepchildren who think Daddy is doing great because he is so pleasant when they come to see him and they never hear any of his complaints. I have come to the conclusion I can't keep spending so much time with him. But then the guilt kicks in. I know how much I would hate living there.
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Reply to rannkite

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