I feel like my manipulative mother-in-law is taking a toll on my marriage.

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My mother-in-law loves going to the doctors, lots of doctors, and is constantly getting labs done and tests for all kinds of maladies. We have to do all of her driving and shopping because of her vision, but she's starting to get extremely weird with the shopping lists. She can't just request jelly, it has to be a certain brand, sugar free and seedless. She very rarely asks about my husband or myself, but will talk as long as you allow it, about minute details that relate to her health. She started to tell my husband about bowel problems, so he stopped her and told her to tell the doctor. That's not a topic he wants to hear about, but she continues to do it. I feel like this manipulative woman is taking its toll on our marriage. She will call at 8:30 p.m. and tell my husband to come and take her garbage out. She had him shop for her, a trip in addition to her weekly shop, and when he finished and came home, she called him and said she forgot to get something. When my husband said it would have to wait for the next shopping trip, she got angry and hung up on him. I don't even like to call her anymore. I don't enjoy talking to her or being around her. I feel like since we are both retired now, she loves it when she can have him all to herself. Anyone going through this???


So, she got angry and hung up. The world did not come to an end, did it?

Poor woman. Her vision is impaired and she's no doubt lonely. Perhaps one of the places her son could drive her would be a senior center. There would be activities she could do there even with limited vision. Most of them serve a hot lunch. She needs some things to think of besides her health.

But as much as I sympathize with MIL, she should not be allowed to disrupt your lives. You deserve to enjoy your retirement. Shop for her on shopping day. Say no to requests for more shopping than that. Or rather her son should say no, and mean it.

She cannot manipulate you if you are not willing to be manipulated. Let her get mad. Let her hang up. Do for her what you agree to do. Say no to everything else.

BTW, getting very specific with the shopping list does not seem weird to me. Why shouldn't she get what she wants -- as long as it is available without making trips to other stores?
I have a family member who suffers with obsession over multiple aliments as you describe your MIL. My LO was diagnosed though and does see a psychiatrist as well as her primary doctor for these psychosomatic ailments. (They are real to the patient and cause just as much pain as an actual ailment. I learned that trying to convince them that nothing is wrong if pointless. Only, the doctors and medication really help, imo.)

There are varying reasons for it, anxiety and depression are two. Medications can help, if you can get them to take the meds. If your husband has the authority, he can discuss it with her primary. The primary is probably already aware of the issue. I learned that if the family member can be in touch with the doctor, attend appointments together and encourage her to work with just one Primary and a psychiatrist, it can help with the aliment obsession. They can set up a plan for her care, in light of her perceived condition. It's very challenging to deal with, so I do understand where you're coming from.

Also, a number of things can cause people to be rude, self centered, demanding, etc. Maybe, she's just that way or it could be a part of the mental thing that causes her to have psychosomatic illnesses. In many, I think it's attention seeking. My cousin got that way when she got dementia. So, I'd work with the doctor. It might be an indicator of something that she can't control.
Joy, you and hubby need to sit down and put together a list of all that you do for Mom.... now take that list and cross off half the items... then cross off some more. What is left is what you will do for her.

Otherwise you and her son are enabling her to continue to live in her house. Why should she move, her lifestyle hasn't changed because you are filling in the blanks.

And it will eventually only get worse. I remember my cousin's Mom, who was in her 90's, wanted him to sleep over at the house because she was afraid to be home alone at night. So here was this married son, who was in his 70's sleeping on the sofa.

As for the doctor appointments, they are mainly for reassurance that everything is ok. My Mom would do that. She was in her 90's and she felt good when the doctor would say "see you next year" :) In the mean time, I didn't go to my own doctors for several years as if I sat in one more waiting room I was going to scream :P

After my Mom had passed, my Dad [94] moved into Independent Living and he really enjoyed being there. These places are expensive but it was within my Dad's budget. It cut our running around time in half.  And he was around people his own age, more new ears to listen to his stories :)

Hope everything will work out to make this a win-win situation.
Joysuthe, my mother is a hypochondriac. Generally she avoids contact with people, but she loves to go to the doctor. A few years ago we were going to some doctor two or three times a week and there was rarely anything wrong. This was a serious problem because it was making me very bitter and it was costing Medicare a lot of money. If everyone did this, then Medicare would go broke in one year!

There were a couple things that curbed this "need" to go to the doctor. First, her PCP retired and we found another doctor she didn't like so much. Second, I started tuning her out or saying that something, e.g. a red spot on the skin or a bruise, was not unusual. I'd show her my own spots and bruises.

I think that going to the doctor is like a social outing to certain older people. Mom and I usually go out to eat after going to the doctor -- something she expects, regardless of the time of day. I also think that many older people feel that going to the doctor keeps death away from their door. For trivial matters, we know it's not the case.

If your mother's sight is poor, Joysuthe, it will probably be hard to find things to involve her. What I would do in your husband's shoes is to go shopping for her and maybe take her out to eat once a week just to spend time with her. He could probably be a good judge whether her ailments justify going to the doctor. Does she call the doctor herself to make appointments? That is always a problem.
We have tried to get her involved with others but she doesn't want to do anything....just lie around and watch tv. She has no hobbies,, no interest in going anywhere, doing anything and, as a result, her world has become very small and that is why she is obsessed with her skin, her health, her looks, her this, etc..........She has been given an alarm to wear around her neck in case she falls.....she won't do that. She recently fell and complained to everyone that she was lying on the floor for two days. This was not true. We check on her everyday. She acts very sharp at the doctors office, but when she gets home, she acts like she can't see, can't hear, can't remember things and acts very feeble. She insisted on a wheel chair the last time I took her to a doctors appt. When I brought her home, she opened the car door by herself and walked right up to her door, no problem and thanked me for a lovely afternoon. It was like it was a social occasion. We have purchased many things to make her life easier and have gone over and over the movements that will throw her hip out. She knows what she can't do, but she continues do the same stupid things over and over (she knows better) resulting in numerous emergency room visits and my poor husband spending nights with her at the hospital. She always seem to do this around a special event.....a holiday, my sons graduation party, etc. This is really starting to get on my nerves because I believe so much of this is a game. She claims that she can't see, but picks lint off my husbands shirt and comments on how pretty the flowers look when we're on the way to the doctors.
MIL really can't do right for doing wrong, can she?

She fakes being frail. She stupidly does too much and injures herself.
She makes an effort socially (show timing). She sabotages social occasions.
She exaggerates her ill health. She plays down her ill health.

Joysuthe, you find this woman extremely tiresome because and therefore (both) you don't like her. She eats up attention and time from your husband; this annoys you; and that is fair enough. Fortunately, she's not your mother. Support your husband in creating humane but firm boundaries with *his* mother, but otherwise leave him to get on with it. Then she won't get on your nerves nearly so much. Oh - and if your husband complains to you about her, smile sweetly, sympathise broadly, and recommend he consults a counsellor about setting healthy emotional boundaries. Don't let him make her your problem.

From your descriptions, especially the fall and the not using her call button incidents, I would say the game she is playing sounds suspiciously like dementia. Does she have any known medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes?

Anyone else going through this... I'm fairly sure my SIL's description of my late mother would have resembled your own in many ways. Manipulative, clingy, controlling, passive aggressive blah blah blah. My mother loved my brother, her favourite child, and adored seeing him. She was just evil like that.
Thank you for your input. I know she doesn't have dementia. She passes the memory tests with flying colors at the doctors office, can miraculously write her name 'on the line' perfectly, can tell you the latest political news, knows when her prescriptions need to be picked up. She's sly as a fox.....then acts very needy with my husband. I think you hit it on the button.....I don't like her or her antics. I'm normally a loving and compassionate person, but not when someone fabricates situations and is not authentic or appreciative. It does help to vent, though.....so thank you for listening......
Joy, you really can't " know" that she doesn't have dementia unless she's been checked out by a team qualified to do a comprehensive dementia evaluation, not just a superficial memory test. One can ( my mother is a good example) get a perfect score on those mini- mental exams and still have a significant loss in reasoning ability, which might result in the sorts of behaviour you are witnessing.

My mother's team consisted of a geriatric neurologist, a neuropsychologist ( 3 hours of paper and pencil testing), a psychiatric nurse practitioner and brain imaging.

My mother was " sharp as a tack" but increasingly anxious about quite irrational things. The geriatric psychiatrist who was treating her anxiety pushed me to get mom cognitive testing. Mom's memory was quite good, but an undetected stroke have made mincemeat of her ability to reason.

I'd encourage your husband to pursue some real answers.
Joy, you'd be amazed how many elderly can fake being cognitively fine. My Mother for instance, bless her heart was honest to a fault but even so managed to fool her doctor. I explained my fears to him before her appt. and she had him convinced she was sound as sound can be until he mentioned refilling her tylenol 3 prescription which she had been taking for some time. My Mom said "tylenol 3's, why I've never taken them" Gotcha! These little question, answer sessions that doctors use to test whether dementia is a factor are so benign as to almost be an insult to the caregiver. "What city do you live in?, Do you know what year it is?, blah, blah, blah" Give me a break. He asked my Mom to write a sentence out so he could analyze her handwriting. She wrote "I want to go home now" I have to say, my siblings and I had a good chuckle over that one.

But, all that aside, it sounds like you just don't like your mother-in-law. Fair enough. I don't like mine either. If Hubs wants to rush over there to babysit her and take her and father-in-law out every day to eat, go to it I say, just leave me out of it. Know one can push your guilt strings without your permission.
Joy, it's not unusual for those who are limited in their environment to become VERY self centered. It is up to us to push back and set boundaries. When my friend was in the early stages of ALS (she was early 50s at the time), she had everyone who visited picking up 3-4 grocery items. I quietly explained that she needed to make a shopping list and have ONE person do that shopping. This followed me having to stop at the supermarket on a Saturday morning (think mob scene) to get 3 bananas!
Then she wanted to change her curtains and bed spread with each season. Again, I had to explain that most of us don't do that for ourselves and it was too much to expect from friends, no matter how much we wanted to help.
At another point in time, she wanted me to drive 45 minutes from my home to a deli and then drive another 45 minutes to her and bring the purchase. This drive formed a triangle. I was working full time and helping a spouse with chronic issues. I had to get past my desire to help her or I would burn myself out.
Push back and begin to take messages from MIL and push back with her. Gee, husband is busy tomorrow I'll check and see what day he can stop by. You should be able to enjoy your retirment and if she CHOOSES to stay in a house that no longer works for her, the consequences are hers. Stay strong.

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