‘I’m worried my grumpy and forgetful husband has got dementia’

Dear Coleen

I’ve been married to my husband for 37 years and he’s becoming so grumpy, I’m worried he has dementia.

He’s always been a loving, kind, laid-back husband, and father to our three sons, who are now grown up with families. But in the last five years he’s become increasingly forgetful and cantankerous.

He’ll lose something, like his slippers, and then he’ll fly off the handle if I don’t know where they are, or if I tell him to find them himself.

His dad had dementia, so I’ve always had that fear at the back of my mind that he’ll get it too. He’s also becoming quite needy, and will often ask me where I’m going and how long until I’m back, which he was never like before. However, it could just be that now he’s retired, he feels a bit more ‘lost’.

I’m in much better health than him with a good social life, so I don’t want to stay in all the time. I’m really not sure whether all these changes are down to him just getting older, or whether it could be a sign of dementia.

I can’t bring it up with him because he’s so sensitive about it due to what he went through with his dad.

As I said, I’m younger and fitter than him, and I want to enjoy these years, without having him shout at me over silly little things.

However, his grumpy behaviour is ­increasingly making me very sad.

Coleen says

It could just be that he’s ending up one of those cantankerous old men. But because of his dad’s health history, I think I’d go and see my GP and ask for their advice.

They may not be able to talk about your husband, for privacy reasons, but I’m sure they can give you some advice or point you in the right direction. I know you say you can’t talk to him, but I do think you need to try.

Sit him down and say, “Look, I don’t want a row, but I’ve noticed all these changes in your personality, like your short temper and forgetfulness, and I’m worried about you. It’s probably nothing, but why don’t we go and see the doctor together and see what he (or she) thinks?”

If he gets obstructive, just tell him that you’re unhappy and that it’s not fair on you to live this way. If it is dementia – and I really hope it’s not – then it’s better to deal with this while he’s still in reasonable health.

The quicker you act on this, the better. One of the biggest problems with dementia or Alzheimer’s is that people who have it often don’t ­recognise the condition.

My mum had it and just never accepted it. It made her angry all the time and it was horrific to witness.

There seem to be two forms. One where they go off into their own little world, blissfully happy, or the one my mum had – the aggressive form, even though she had never been aggressive in her life.

It could be that your husband is frightened to death over this because of what happened with his dad – but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t deal with it.

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