Irrational outbursts of temper

I am my wife’s carer - I am 75 and she is a little older. Her disability means she normally needs help with using a commode in her bedroom and we use a wireless door chime so she can summon me when needed. My wife currently has a minor obsession with her bowel movements - if she doesn’t have one everyday she worries. Not for the first time, last night she took something to help things along - that was about midnight. I was in bed by about 1.00 am which is rapidly becoming the norm. I was called to help her at about 2.15 am - the concoction had given her a copious result. It took a little while to get her sorted out and comfortable again. A further summons at 3.15, but this time simply for a wee. The next call came at 5.30 am for the same reason. When I took her breakfast and the medication at about 9.00 am, I told her I was feeling tired and planned to have an extra hour in bed after I’d had some tea and toast. This I did and fell into a deep sleep for abut an hour and half. I was awoken by another summons for help with the commode, but I felt refreshed by the sleep. When I took her lunch, I was berated for “not taking care of her”, “neglecting” her and so on. Quite a tirade, which she finished by telling me to “… off”. All this because I had gone back to bed.

It is not the first time that she has criticised me in what I think is a quite unreasonable way and being a fairly normal bloke (I think) I sometimes respond and we end up having a row. These episodes are becoming more frequent (I have been caring for her now for about four years) and I find them very distressing. The outbursts are rarely witnessed by anybody else and I feel guilty about discussing them with friends who are close to us, although I am very tempted to do so. It just seems a bit disloyal for I know she isn’t well, is in pain and feels very frustrated with her situation. Understanding why she does this, however, doesn’t really help me cope with patience when it happens. Walking away seems to make her worse, but standing there to be targeted by this abuse isn’t very comfortable. Does anybody out there have any coping strategies, please?

Do you receive any help?
Do you get any respite?
You need to get link to a local carers group. You will meet like minded people. If you wife doesn’t receive any outside help. This needs to be put in place. One way she will perhaps/might appreciate you more. If she receives the care you currently provide by other people. Regardless of anyone’s pain or disability. They should not be allowed to emotionally bully those who help them.
A disability is frustrating and many people suffer. Your wife has to understand she needs to work with you. Not against you!!
You are not a slave but a husband who is trying his best.
You need to be brave and state to get proper sleep. You will need others to enter the home. So you can be available in the day well and healthy!
If you become sick others will have to be brought into the home. Or she may have to herself go to respite to give you a break.

You must be exhausted!!

What is the nature of her disability? Can you take her laxative medication away???
Next time she has a go at you, get your mobile phone out and film her. If you don’t have one, it’s time you invested in one. This can be a huge help in getting doctors and Social Services to realise what life is like behind closed doors.

Why aren’t you getting any help?

Hi Alan and welcome.
Taking laxatives which produce ‘copious’ results is not a good idea but there are much milder remedies. I suggest that you could talk to the pharmacist who usually deals with, and has a record of, any medication your wife is prescribed. They might suggest an over the counter liquid or tablet which doesn’t interfere with her medication. They might ask you to go to the GP and in any case a call to the surgery to request a visit from the continence nurse is an idea. The nurse would chat to your wife about any concerns she has and suggest a plan of action.
You should talk to your GP about your own health and well being. Disrupted sleep is not good as you know, and makes daily caring that much harder. The GP mightn’t discuss your wife but you can certainly talk about you and how the circumstances affect you. Do you think your wife’s pain has been increasing? The GP mightn’t be able to talk about her but can listen.
Have you considered having assessments from Social Services for you both? Do you get time apart from each other? You should be getting regular breaks if only for a few hours. Perhaps a sitter/companion on a regular basis could be arranged?
Would there be any mileage in a calm chat with your wife, along the lines that ‘We can’t go on like this. What can we do about it?’

Thank you for your responses.

An Occupational Therapist was here several weeks ago, primarily to advise on helping my wife shower. She suggested the fitting of an additional grab rail in the cubicle and that is being done today. She also had a private chat with me ( I was not having a good day and probably looked a bit careworn) and I believe she referred us to Social Services. The result was a lady coming from there to do a Carer’s Assessment, which was, of course, primarily an interview with me, then a few minutes with my wife. This led to a row later, as my wife felt that she was the one who should have been interviewed.

Anyway, one result of the assessment was a referral to an organisation of which I had never heard, Aegis UK. Arrangements have now been made for a lady from this organisation to come to our home and spend a few hours with my wife next week - a sort of “getting to know you” session. If all is well, this may become a regular (monthly) get-together and may include her taking my wife out shopping with the wheelchair. This will provide about three hours respite from each other, and will help both of us. I understand that we are required simply to pay expenses such as mileage, car park charges and so on, which seems reasonable.

The obsession with her bowel movements is fairly recent and the stuff she takes was prescribed by the GP. I am not sure that it is necessary, as I ensure she has a balanced diet, plenty of fruit and veg and so on. But if I refuse the stuff she occasionally takes, the result is another altercation.

There is a Carers’ Group locally, they meet once a month but so far I haven’t made it. My wife’s frequent need for the toilet is a stumbling block and my outings are confined to essential shopping, and visits to the Medical Centre and the pharmacy for medication.

My wife’s disability means she needs assistance moving around our home, with the toilet, washing, dressing and so on. And all normal household tasks, cooking, cleaning, gardening and so on are down to me. I am able to cope with the practical aspects of caring reasonably well, I think. What gets to me sometimes is the attitude she sometimes adopts towards me, as if I am some kind of inefficient and unwilling servant, not the human being she married and professes to love (we have been married fifty years). We all have faults and weaknesses and I am no exception and I recognise that sometimes I may be irritable but that it usually because I am tired.

The social worker who did the assessment spoke of finding a place which may offer respite for a week or two, and she is trying to find somewhere with what she described as a “stimulating environment”. We were offered respite several months ago and my wife went into a local place, but stayed just the one night. All the other residents had some form of dementia and there was no meaningful communication, which is what she was looking for.

Thanks again for your advice. I will consider all that you have said. I feel better already! The chat seems to help.

Alan, I am absolutely dismayed that the person doing the Carers Assessment then went to talk to your wife!
This is very unethical, a Carers Assessment is supposed to be a chance for you to be open and honest about your feelings, and ideally should not have been done in your home when your wife was there!!
I would make a formal complaint, and tell them that it ended up in a row. They need to know the consequences of not doing things properly, so they don’t do it again.

Your wife should have an entirely separate Needs Assessment, hopefully that is going to be done now?
Make sure you get a written copy of each assessment, to make sure it is complete and accurate. Some of mine seem to have been written about someone else!!

Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to be their slave. Presumably your wife is getting Attendance Allowance. That should go on domestic help, a tumble dryer, a dishwasher, a gardener.


My late husband, who was grateful and did everything he was able to contribute to running the house, still assumed that I would take over everything else and care for him - so to that extent I think he did consider it my job.

Other carers here often recommend counselling and if you cannot easily leave the house it can be by telephone or even online if that would keep it private from your wife.

I was fortunate in that the Occupational Therapists who worked with my husband kept reminding him that I needed sleep and rest because if I was ill I could no longer look after him. When I was working I had some training in dealing with difficult people and one of the things suggested was the broken record technique: just keep repeating that you need sufficient rest to care for your wife and home as you wish to do. It doesn’t matter if she shouts or cries, you keep saying it quietly. I don’t know if that would work?

Alan, You sound like me two years ago.

I thought I could do it all!!

I gradually sank lower and lower. My days were spent waiting for Mum wanting the toilet and worrying about how messy it was going to be. It ended badly with my Mum being taken away in ambulance after falling trying to go to the toilet on her own.

This led to Mum spending three months in bed in a tiny little room, a further 6 months rehabilitation in a nursing home she hated.

Now she’s finally home and we couldn’t be happier. We have carers helping, many of whom we have become good friends with.

Just don’t leave it till the last minute to ask for help, like I did.