We just put my mother-in-law in a Memory Care facility because of Dementia. We really want nothing to do with her, and now we're struggling with guilt. Help.

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Not having anymore information about this, I'd say you have done the civil thing to make sure she is safe and cared for. To deal with the feelings of guilt, etc. will most likely make the most progress by meeting with a therapist. Believe me, I understand about having a MIL that you don't want to have anything more to deal with.

She lived with us for almost a year before we felt that she was unsafe around our 2 small children. We had no clue she had dementia. We made her move out and she lived with her sister. She was subsequently diagnosed with Dementia at Stanford medical center. My wife just got her set up in a Memory Care facility back closer to us. My wife feels incredibly guilty for not wanting to visit her or when she complains that she is living in a prison. They had a strained relationship to begin with. I feel bad for my wife but know that we are doing the right thing. I just don't know how to console my wife.
Jhbinal, You have done the right thing here. You are taking good care of your mother-in-law and you are to be commended. When a feeling of guilt rears its ugly head, just replace it in your mind by saying to yourself something like: "We are taking good care of Mom." and know that you are. You don't need to visit her more than is comfortable for you. Short little visits spread out with x number of days in-between might be more workable for you, and will still allow you check in on your MIL.

The strained relationship between your wife and MIL must come very close to the strained abusive relationship between a mother with borderlilne or narcisisstic personality disorder and her children. Believe me, while infrequent visits will help, but the pain can only really be dealt with by her getting some therapy from a really qualified person. The ability of people of abusive people to instill Fear Obligation and Fear buttons in their children and press them is unreal and very powerful in hoovering a person back in.
J - don't feel guilty. If you look at most of the posts here you will see the same sentiments echoed over and over again. Just as crow mentioned about about strained relationships with mommy dearest with having borderline or NPD. That is what some of us here have went through as well, and know how well even through Dementia they know how to manipulate the abused child from childhood to adulthood the 'manipulatino of guilt'. Strained yes I believe I bet. But what I have done recently is thought about it from the other side 'their side' and the conclusion is they are scared and they are reaching out to the only family, trusted family member they know, and thus they cling to them.
"manipulatino of guilt'. I love that phrase!

Unfortunately, while abandonment is the greatest fear of mommy dearest, BPD, they do their best work on creating it with their children but then hook back or hoover back in with the F.O.G. Thus, the name boomerang love which is also the title of a book about this dynamic.

I'm not as gracious as PirateGal for what I've seen in my MIL and my mother tells me that they have allowed their own pain to totally push them over to the darkside whereas as hurt people they hurt others and use others for it is totally only about them even when they seem otherwise. Remember what Yoda said about fear and the darkside in Star Wars?
I am so sorry for you and especially for your wife. That parent-child relationship can be the most wonderful thing or just a God-awful reliving of every past hurt that ever happened within it. Tell your wife that she IS being a loving daughter. You are both providing the best possible care available to her mother. If your m - i - l lived in your home again, the strain would not be good for any of you. Your wife can honestly tell herself that she loves her mother (as another human being) and she wants no harm to come to her (as she would care about any other person) and the best possible help is being given. She is "honoring" her mother and that is all that is expected.
Your children should be your top priority now. Your wife needs to know that she did more for her mom than most and that she is where she needs to be. Check your local hospital for support groups and take your wife to a meeting. She will be surprised that she is not alone in her feelings and might even like getting a night out to discuss what she is going through. This would be much easier than trying to get her to counseling. We all end up with our own guilty feelings, whatever they may be. But we all need to remember that we are doing or did the best we could in each of our situations.
Perhaps visualize hitting the RESET button, like on your computer for this visiting problem.

When most think of visiting, they think of conversation, talking. When the parent is incarcerated in a nursing home (put yourself in her place), what do they have to talk about but "get me the hell out of here?" If you all had no clue she had dementia, then she must have a lot of oomph left in her (ie, she knows where she is, she knows who put her there, she can still verbally complain, she could have continued living with you if her behavior was better).

So, there she is. I would mentally step back from the situation and picture the visit more as a therapist would. An activities director. Load a rolling suitcase with a variety of things to DO: Portable DVD player (or laptop) and DVDs that can stand repeat showings (Andre Rieu, Mama Mia, Classical Baby are our favs) or just released movies, massage wand, photo books or books that can be read in a session. Order her a session with the NH's salon (hair, nails, pedicure) and keep her company during the session. Visit during exercise classes, meal times and help feed her, form alliances with others at the table. Can birds and squirrels be fed out on the patio? (bring peanuts, seed, bread to toss...and be willing to sweep up mess). Put bird feeder outside her window or sliding door, refill it when you visit. Do you have a dog? Some NH's allow pet visitors or they may have a pet therapy program. Come when the official pet therapist is there so you are not alone with her. Animals are a great distraction and you can both appreciate the pup.

Get her a few magazine subscriptions delivered to your house, her name on them, and deliver them to her when you visit. Get a bunch of greeting cards with funny photos, and spend an hour writing messages in them. Address them all at once, and every few days mail one off. My niece does that for her grandma. The evps are covered with cute stickers.

Share an ACTIVITY together and casual small talk might follow. Even if you all don't like her, you can still offer her something to enrich her life. Eventually, she might see you as less prison guard and more a source of enrichment. When something tickles her fancy, be big enough to allow her the enjoyment, and then elaborate that into your activity bag of tricks. And focus on things you and your wife already enjoy (perhaps classical music, or ballet DVDS), so you get something from it also.

Mom isn't in a nursing home yet, but this is the approach I've used with her for almost 8 years now. At first, being her caregiver and ripping myself from my wonderful community I'd worked 20 years at creating for myself...I blamed Mom and didn't even want to look at her. I kept blaming her for not generating her own life, for interfering with mine...for obliterating mine.

Oh, here's another approach. Willingly take on the mantle of Bad Cop and don't take it personally when she complains. BUT arrange for a Good Cop (or visualize changing roles). I do this with two nieces, the ones who send cutsie cards regularly, who do fun webcam visits.

Mom is grunting to get up.
Support groups work for some people and for others private counseling is needed as well as sometimes a support group serves as a stop-gap step to indivual therapy. I was part of an online support group for years before I got individual therapy in dealing with both my wife's and my mother in law's personality disorders. I even tried to be my children's therapists for some time before I burned out and got them into therapy. I was able to educate my sister in law about her mother, but beyond being there for each other, she is in therapy also. Anyone as an adult child or child of a parent with a personality disorder really needs individual therapy.

We must really come to terms with we didn't cause their illness, we can't fix it, nor can we control it. You and your wife have chosen a healthy path for yourself and have done the humane thing by putting your mother in law where she is. Regaurdless of her choices about a healthy path of relating with others or not, you and your wife as well as your children must keep choosing a healthy path for yourself, each other, and your family.

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