I'm fed up with looking after father in law with little support.

Started by

Five years ago my husband and two children moved back to the area where my husband grew up. His elderly, disabled (has mobility problems) father and one of his sisters still lived there with her family. We stayed in the family home where his dad was still living with the intention of buying a place. Basically to cut a long story short, his dad became ill, we ended up buying his two sisters out of the house as he had signed it over to the three children and settling down to start our new life while looking after his dad too. Well what a mistake!!! We of course had to adapt the house to allow us to live there in our own space. We spent thousands and the plan was to make a granny flat/ divide the house so we could have our own space. Sister in law put a stop to that with her tears, emotional blackmail. You can’t cut him off etc. We wanted to move his dad to another lounge she put a stop to that . So we accepted he would stay there, second largest room in the house. Basically she controls how we run our house. He has carers everyday which bathe, give meds’ etc but we do the rest. He has meals on wheels several times a week and we feed him. He also goes down for food twice a week to his daughter. My husband takes him down, watches them eat and brings him back. Her husband does all the cooking. My husband takes him to the bar twice a week too, including once at the weekend as this is his routine. His sister does his small amount of washing, helps sort out his finances (she picks up his cash), her husband delivers his papers three times a week (we did this all the time until recently) meds and doctors appointments. Though now she wants my husbands assistance with this as she physically can’t do it any more. The demands on me and my husband has grown enormously. It’s been five years and I’ve had enough!! It’s not the dad that’s the issue really. It’s the way they treat us and expect us to do everything as he lives with us. Last week was the final straw. Asked sister in law if she could help support by picking him up on one of the days so my husband could help me with general family life. Said yes to start, then I get the message could she bring food up to the house from now on? The whole point of feeding him at hers is to get him out the house. He can’t drive, he sits in his chair all day, my husband and I work (I’m part time). I asked why?? Is there a problem?? She said no. It’s made me really angry, it’s all right for hubby to do it but when asked for help and it puts her out she doesn’t like it. She’s been really frosty since. And she always palms it off on to her poor husband. There is another sister who lives away. She comes down every now and again but does nothing. My husband always has to ask for help , never offers. She always stays down the sisters, never here. Just pops up, doesn’t do anything to assist, totally oblivious. When I tell her how hard it is she just gets emotional and cries!!! When she does come down she often goes up to visit friends and never puts herself out. Went away with my children to visit family last weekend. Husband stayed behind to help look after dad. Two sisters went off for the weekend, just left husband to do it all. Brought up lunch in the evening as it disrupted there plans to do it in the day time when he normally has it. They also go away together with out inviting us and children. It’s as if we don’t exist!! All went off to celebrate my nieces birthday. We didn’t get invited. It happens all the time. I’ve tried to be strong, kind and do the right thing but I now feel very angry and I hate them. I never used to be like this. They always make me feel gulity as if ive done something wrong. We get $60 a month off his dad, used to be $40. We pay all the bills, shopping. It’s not much but he still has needs. He does pay for his care. He is loaded!!! But it seems the sister is trying to protect the money. I speak to my husband but it’s as if he’s afraid. When he spoke to the other sister about what she doesn’t do her husband basically threatened him about upsetting her. I’m ready to give up. So upset especially for my family. My children are lovely, beautiful and busy. But the dad is like having a baby in the house. He can’t do anything for himself really. He falls easily, can’t cook, clean. He can just about feed and toilet himself and he’s deaf. I do feel sorry for him but as long as he’s fed and watered he’s happy. But he doesn’t get how we are being treated. His sister says he would be distraught to see us arguing. She promised her Mum she would look after the dad. When we had burnout a few years ago she said if she could she would look after the dad but she can’t as she doesn’t have the facilities. So angry and down and afraid. If I had the money I would walk away now!!!!


What are your husbands feelings about this situation?

This is his family, it must have been his call to buy out sisters, to give into their insistence that it be your home in name only while they called the shots.

Does your husband know how unhappy you are?

It sounds as though you are no longer satisfied with the dad living in the middle of things. Does the granny flat  exist? Then move him there and hire full time carers.  
Yes, he does but nothing changes. He is angry but they just turn on the emotions, make us feel bad and we are vilified for rocking the boat. The granny flat could exist but would need lots of work as it’s within the house and we don’t have the money to do it. We would have to pay for it but the sisters have already said they wouldn’t be happy for this to happen as this is what we wanted to do in the first place.
I don't really see how the granny flat would help, anyway. It would just create the additional workload of constant monitoring.

After five years I'm not surprised you've had enough.

But I'm not clear what changes you want to see? The daughters to stop blubbing? The old man not to be your or your husband's responsibility? More input? Less input? More invitations out? More people coming round to visit you?

I think it might be mind-map time. A3 sheet of blank paper, lots of coloured pencils or felt-tips. FIL in the middle. Then write down all the aspects of his life, care, finances, health, family, friends, places; and write down what the requirements are to keep this show on the road. Time, in terms of person-hours, and who gets lumbered with each task. Work. Entertainment. Emotional wear-and-tear. Burdens of responsibility.

After a short while, you will see that FIL is actually a whopping project; and probably what needs to happen is more clarity about how this project is going to get managed - including who leads it, who pays for what, and what each willing person is going to contribute.

At the very least, doing this or something like it will help you be clear about the major subject headings you and your husband need to address with FIL and the family. Do it before attempting discussions, which tend to lead to everyone interrupting everyone else and tempers fraying and tears flowing and nobody listening.

Good luck - I do feel for you.
Oh - and #1 Priority is respite breaks for you and husband. Someone else comes and stays in the house with FIL, you two get down-time and enough sleep. Critical.
Thanks for the advice, sounds like a great idea x
As usual Countrymouse has given you wonderful advice. After you have done this exercise and have a full picture of just how much time, effort and money is required to take care of FIL decide what you feel you can still do and what you need others help with completing. Write it out. Sleep on it and the next day look at it again to assess the correct balance. Tweet some more. You and your husband should discuss it and make sure you both have been able to contribute and have jointly determined what you need in order to continue being caregivers for FIL. Them commit to be a strong unit together to stand up for your needs when dealing with the sisters.

Remember, no one can take advantage of you without your permission. The facts are the facts - you are over tired, need more balance to your life and the current situation is not working. All the tears in the world do not change the facts. Tell hubby this and that he needs to be prepared for the tears and not let them influence his perception of what needs to be done for the betterment of your family.

Call an extended family meeting and review what was discovered from your examination of FIL needs. Tell them what you are capable of covering and what still remains to be picked up by others. Acknowledge that this will require sacrifice and commitment from all members of the family if the family agrees they want FIL to remain in the home. Then let them split which tasks each will be responsible for handling. Include respit care coverage for you. A weekend each month? How many weeks vacation do you/hubby get from work each year? Consider this time for respite. given that you have made changes to accommodate FIL in your home they should probably stay at your house. Put all important or private papers/materials in a locked filing cabinet or elsewhere. There is clearly a lack of respecting boundaries from sister.
Thank you so much I feel much more positive now xxx
CM has given you wonderful advice. Something to consider....
There are times when families can pull together and cover the caregiving an elder needs. and there are times when that just can't be done and much more outside caregivers need to be brought in.

My brothers and I were NEVER going to be able to cover mom's caregiving needs and mom, while not "loaded" was able to pay for care. We arranged her care and divvied up the other tasks (financial, medical, etc) among the three of us. It kinda sorta worked.

My point is that there is no shame in not being able to be a hands on caregiver.
Andy, my suggestions are going to seem a bit harsh, but you've raised the issues and I assume because they seem to be a dominant factor. It's not my intent to be critical or make you uncomfortable, but this is a major issue and to me is at the heart of care assessment and responsibilities going forward, if you are to continue to provide care for FIL, w/ or w/o the meddling sisters.

You wrote that one sister "controls how we run our house." Why has she been allowed to get away with this? Is she paying your mortgage? Utility bills? Cleaning the house? This needs to stop. She has no legitimate authority to involve herself in how you manage your household.

You wrote that she does some minor chores. But I think you know more than you realize that the SIL needs to be put in her place.

FIL "doesn’t get how we are being treated. His sister says he would be distraught to see us arguing."

Well, let her be distraught, and perhaps she'll grow up and stop acting like a spoiled child. Was she this spoiled and manipulative as she grew up? I sense there are some long time issues with her; perhaps she was just as much of a meddler when she was a child and through her adult years.

Or perhaps she has other issues that are manifested in her interference and dominance. Does her husband stand up to her or does she control him as well?

Your point that "It’s the way they treat us and expect us to do everything" tells me you know what the basic problem is. Perhaps you're not sure how to change it. That's understandable; you're up against an ACCOMPLISHED manipulator.

You and your husband need to decide whether you're going to continue to tolerate her interference, meddling, and MANIPULATION. You're doing the heavy work now; is her contribution so worthy that it's worth compromising your health, happiness and self esteem?

If the plan CM suggests doesn't work out, b/c I suspect meddling SILs will become emotional and once again manipulate to avoid any real discussion or change of results, then what are your plans? Are you wiling to go forward alone with FIL's care, with the help of paid caregivers? Are you prepared for the sisters to throw fits and stomp out angrily?

You might factor into your assessment what arrangements could be made for FIL to see his daughters, but NOT at your house.

Two other important considerations:

1. Your children. Remember that your children are growing up seeing their parents manipulated by someone who's not providing equal levels of care. They must see that you're distressed.

What kind of role model is this for your children? Do you want them to grow up to be Cinderellas with wicked SILs? Or do you want them to grow up to be healthy (in mind as well as body), self-respecting children who will become self -respecting adults who are proud of themselves?

2. If this situation hasn't already affected the work life of either you or your husband, it will. That's a given, because it's distressing you, and that's going to be reflected in your performance at work.

I'm writing this bluntly and frankly b/c I sense that you already have realized the role the meddling SIL plays, and that you may want confirmation you're justified to be upset about this. You are. And to me it's at the top of the list of changes to make.

I want to reiterate that I'm being critical because I want to see you think, like the adage in the old movie Network, that "you're mad as hell and you're not going to take it any more."
Thank you!!

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support