How can I stop my parent's marriage is falling apart?

I need advice on what I can do about this tricky and complicated situation regarding my parents.

For a few years now my parent’s relationship has been crumbling. My father is in his 80s whilst my mother is in her 50s - a big age gap. He’s been ill for a few years now and has to attend medical treatment three times a week. My mother is legally his carer and has been for the last few years. She’s been his carer essentially since they got married but formally it’s been a few years because now she gets paid by the government to look after him instead of seeking work.

My father is an old man. He can kinda look after himself by driving himself around and is semi-independent but can’t cook or clean for himself or sort out his medication. He can make some toast and the odd fried egg but nothing more than that - nothing healthy that will aid his medical situation. He relies on my mother an incredible amount but would never admit it. Without her care he would die quickly in his situation. He has to limit the amount of food he eats but doesn’t - he has to watch his weight otherwise his medical condition exacerbates and he ends up in hospital for weeks at a time. When my mother denies him food or tries to limit what he eats then he gets angry.

My mother works tirelessly for him and also has a couple jobs once in a while cleaning people’s houses for some extra cash. On top of all this, she’s incredibly stressed with other family health problems in her life and she looks after me and my sister too. She very much feels like she’s wasted her life and it’s taking it’s toll on her mentally. She cites him as the root cause of her depression and anxiety issues. She routinely says he’s the biggest mistake she’s ever made. Before he met my mother he had nothing and ate basic foods like baked beans. We were poor and had nothing and she turned what little we had into something when we were growing up. My father would fail to acknowledge all she’s done for him and our family.

My father is at heart a good man but he’s incredibly rude and critical of my mother’s cooking (which is great btw).

Arguments have been ensuing every other day for a few weeks now between them. Usually my father demands food or is incredibly critical about my mother or her food (accusing her of doing nothing for him or degrading the quality of the food). He gets rude and angry about it all and it heightens when my mother verbally retaliates in the swearing and name calling. My mother is a strong woman and can stand up for herself. But I do worry they could do physical damage to each other through due to the red mist / anger of it all. My mother’s flaws would be that when provoked she can get very nasty verbally and start telling him to kill himself and name calling his family. This adds fuel to the fire but my mother does reach breaking point where if she doesn’t spew her anger then she’ll probably go mad.

I feel for my mother because he’s incredibly infuriating. He’ll want two opposing things at the same time e.g. for my mother to go out and buy food but also not leave him alone in the house. He’ll say he doesn’t want to eat the same thing twice in a day (e.g. leftovers) and requests time consuming foods (like roast chicken) and then only eat a tiny bit wasting the rest.

Today’s arguments ended with me physically intervening and restraining after my father tried to throw plates of food at my mother and approached to hit her whilst shouting and swearing. As I say, he’s old so my mother could easily hurt him if she wanted to but she’s incredibly resistant and internalises that power. Both of them called for a divorce and say they want one immediately. This is likely the anger talking in both of them but I do believe they don’t like each other and would rather be just be separated.

What I’m really concerned about his my father’s well being. He could not live on his own. He’s heavily reliant on my mother’s care and without her he would find his medical situation worsening and he would die. He needs someone nearby at all times and would refuse to go to a care home. He’d quickly end up in the hospital for dietary problems and failing to take his medicine.

After restraining him today, I took him away from the situation into a different room as he shouted at me. I sat him down and tried to talk to him for an hour. Asking him to explain the situation and tell me the causes of the arguments. I cried silently as I spoke to him because he was babbling like a child. I’m upset and angry because I feel like I can’t get through to him. Perhaps it’s the medication that’s made him turn this way but this is a good man who can get very angry, rude and offensive very quickly. He doesn’t realise how much of an angel my mother is for giving up her life for him to help him everyday and he can find nothing good to say about her. We’re all trying to help him but he doesn’t believe that.

If I didn’t love him and think he was at heart a decent person I’d say fuck him - he can leave if he wants and I don’t care but he’s incredibly dependant on my mother for basic care needs and without her he would would struggle massively to survive and not end up back in the hospital. If he acknowledges my mother’s help he would accuse her of only helping because she’s paid to by the government - ignoring the previous 23 years of care when she wasn’t paid a single penny.

I feel like this situation will get worse and my mother’s mental health is suffering because of this. Adding to this, I feel like I can’t move out. I’m in my mid-20s and feel as though I can’t leave my mother because she has no one except me. The rest of our family live abroad so she can’t move away and stay with someone else till things calm down.

Marriage counselling doesn’t seem like an option because my father is incredibly stubborn to see any different point of view than his own and both my parents speak broken English so may not understand what the counsellor is saying. Plus they’d be reluctant to go so the chances of me getting them to attend would be slim.

It’s likely not a police issue and I likely can’t find a good enough and genuine reason to have him admitted to hospital because eventually the mania and anger calms down (even if he does continue mumbling profanities under his breath)

Any advice on what I can do would be massively appreciated. I’m struggling to think of anything that would help because it’s genuinely like talking to a brick wall.

Thank you

This won’t come close to helping, but when my Dad was alive he ate and ate, the last time I cooked sausage and mash with the usual 8 sausages, I didn’t feel well so only ate two. As I walked past I told him and he insisted I put the two sausages on his plate…

He had a massive heart attack on the 6th April 2016 and was dead within five minutes at the age of 68.

I was talking to my Sister today about the guilt that I always fed Dad my leftovers, she replied “Would you rather enjoy life or live for an extra ten years being miserable”. My Sister isn’t close to being Shakespeare, but it made me feel better…

No advice but to me it sounds like it could easily escalate into violence if your mother reaches breaking point and then it couldbe a police matter. Your mother sounds close to snapping and frankly she has to put herself first. Has any respite been offered? I know your father probably would not go willingly, but it would at least give your mother breathing space.

You obviously love both of your parents but as an outsider, it comes over that your mother is on the verge of going into carer meltdown.

Has your mother applied for any help from SS? Her life sounds unbearable. She cannot be made to care and she does seem to have gone beyond what most of us could do. I am married to a mega difficult 80 year old so I can relate to a lot of the post.

Hopefully others will have better suggestions but I did not want you to feel ignored. Age difference relationships are challenging enough when the caree is willing to be helped but in this situation it sounds as if your father is not. Your mother bound to feel bitter trapped and angry given his behaviour.

Criminal abuse is not only physical abuse but mental abuse as well.