Husband going up to see his folks on his own need advice.

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I started this discussion last year. Really appreciate everyone's advice, but never really resolved it: https://www.agingcare.com/Questions/father-in-law-less-independent-181558.htm. Long story short, we've been suspicious there's been some underlying health issues with my ILs. FIL acts odd and needy when we visit. My MIL's parents are both still alive (96 and 99). They seem to be able to get around and even drive still, but my MIL is taking care of a bulk of their medical arrangements. I think the stress is wearing her down at the least...possibly killing her slowing. She used to call me up and sometimes cry about it, but she never talks about it fully to her own son (DH is an only). This year she has become very aloof and that is what worries us most. I think DH is scared. He oscillates between calling them every day to every other day to going a couple weeks without really talking. We were supposed to all visit in a couple weeks with DD (she is 7) and our dogs. MIL has told us they don't want dogs over. She mentioned she worries the cats will puke up their meds and the dogs will eat them, but I think it's truly FIL has become more and more fearful of the dogs hurting the cats—even though two of them have have visited before and are gentle with our cats (the third is big and we don't take him to their house). She's also said there are loads of appointments they are going to. I believe the last. I think they are very stressed and perhaps this is not a good time to visit with DD (as much as everyone wants to see one another). But maybe it'd be a good idea DH go up on his own? He could talk to MIL then (they've always had trouble finding time to talk when DD is there with us). I think his parents need to see him (and perhaps vice versa). Are there quick resources I can send him that can give openings into these discussions? Also, what kinds of things should he look for when he visits?

45 Comments

What do DH and DD mean?
Dear Husband and Dear Daughter.
I would recommend just being himself and going for a visit. Make it as long as he can without wearing out his welcome. He'll notice things that are off. Are there bills out that haven't been paid. Are the conversations making sense? Is everything still logical? If there are irregularities he will notice them. If you've heard them on the phone, he'll probably notice them even more in person. I think it is a good idea that he go up alone. That will reduce the stress on them and there should be less showtiming.
Thanks. to be honest, the only thing I can think of is STAY a WHILE, like a few days.

It is VERY, VERY COMMON for elders to mask their problems and deficiencies for a few hours. It is only when you are under the same roof a prolonged period that you can see what is really going on.

Go with him. You nee dot see this, too.
You might want to look at leaving the dogs home from now on - I've noticed that when the kids bring the granddogs for family gatherings, it's a bit chaotic for our elderly parents. Plus adding movable tripping hazards. It may be more commotion than your inlaws can handle.
Greta, I'm just trying to get a sense of the back story here. How old are your inlaws? You mention MILs parents are in their 90's so I am guessing they are in their 70's? And just how far apart are you, is this a once a year visit or is it doable more often?
This article may be helpful:
www.agingcare.com/Articles/signs-your-parent-needs-help-143228.htm
MIL is in her 60s, but she's been through a number of surgeries (hip and knee). She still limps, but takes care of most everything—including bringing food and water to FIL when he's in the basement on his computer (he used to take care of himself). FIL is in his late 70s. He's had 2 heart attacks and a back surgery, but he seems healthy/in decent shape (moves around okay). MIL does *a lot*. She waits on him, she cares for her parents, and medicates, feeds, and cleans up after their gazillion house cats. This is part of why I think there may be a senility issue going down.

It is a 5 hour drive. It is very hard for us to leave all the dogs home. We have 3 dogs. One does get left behind (or I stay with him while DH takes DD). Another is very geriatric and would not do well with a pet sitter (she has stress seizures if she doesn't come with us). She has been up to visit the ILs for 12 years and never caused any problem. The other one has terrible separation anxiety and he is tiny (10 pounds). All of them are very well behaved. The older and little dog have been visiting for years. DH's grandparents love seeing them and are sad if we don't bring them both.

But FIL has strangely become obsessed with dogs killing his cats. Our dogs live very peacefully with our cats (and have been with theirs), but FIL is convinced they will hurt his cats—even our little dog who is smaller than their cats. Once he randomly told me if he was ever walking his cat (he's never walked his cats) and someone's dog attacked the cat, he'd kill the dog.

Later, he yelled at our little dog, because he did a play stance (bowed on front legs) and wagged his tail at a cat who was bigger than him. This is not at all like FIL. When we had 2 other dogs (who passed away), he loved them as much as we did for 10-11 years. No one has tripped over the dogs.

I try very hard to schedule trips several times a year, but it's very hard. DH is the one to finalize things as my job is a lot more flexible than his. He perpetually puts off making time to see them unless I hassle him (which I *hate* doing and don't feel it's fair I have to do—but I still do out of guilt and feeling the ILs need us to visit—MIL seems lonesome and we need to talk). This makes it difficult for me to secure pet care (we have a couple cats—as well as the dog we leave home).

But—pets aside—this is a very small part of our concerns. Each time we go to visit FIL does weird things like he keeps repeating the same things....like this horrible story about a baby relative dying when he was a child. He's also said a few inappropriate things in front of DD. Most of the time she's been little enough it's gone over her head, but she's getting older now and we worry she is going to pick up on it. He's always had strong views, but he used to have a better filter around kids.
Oh my, it sounds as though FIL does have dementia and poor MIL is run ragged trying to care for 3 people. I think it is definitely past time for a face to face, serious conversation about this. Is she in denial, is she aware but trying to sheild that knowledge from the family for some reason, or is she just so overwhelmed she can't begin to think straight? As much as you have the urge to ride in like white knights to solve her problems you are really powerless without her support.
I would make the trip with your husband, I think it will take both of you voicing your concerns to get through to her. The dogs and DD will be a distraction but better to take them all then not make the trip. It sounds as though it is way past time you had "the conversation" about their future needs and plans and getting all the legal documents in order. Don't push, she may react by throwing up emotional barrier, simply state the things you have seen and ask her what can be done to help. It may be helpful to go armed with some information on resources available in their area. Number one is to figure out a way she can get some respite.
I agree with cwillie.

It is time.

What you are describing is very common: children have an inkling but are far away and visit only every few months.

Move. Act. Trust me on this.

Right now you are up in arms about dogs and cats. But as you say, there is more and it is already happening. Snap into action! Don't wait until they have done something irrevocable with money. Then you will truly be singing the blues. It can be ruinous.
Leave the dogs at home. Your brief description indicates that they are high-maintenance. This is the wrong occasion for that level of distraction.

Things to check (and do not feel bad about snooping): Is the cleanliness of kitchen and bathroom below their usual standard? Does the house smell musty (or worse)? Check fridge for expired food. Do they rely excessively on processed food/take-out/microwave meals?

Are mail and papers in disarray? (Check mail for $ solicitations, religious or otherwise.) Are there pointless multiples of non-perishable food, OTC meds, first-aid supplies and household gadgets? Are store purchases (in bags) and gifts (in bags) stashed in odd places?

Look for excessive and/or unaddressed to-do lists. Look for notes to self and/or how-to write-ups -- such as "turn off stove" or written directions to operate the microwave, etc.

Take note of odd "hacks" such as taping a light switch up or down, piling a bunch of crap in front of a door "for security," etc. Do they insist that a phone, remote or small appliance is broken, when the truth is they can't figure out how to operate it?

Is car registration, inspection & insurance current? Check the car for scrapes and dents.

A biggie: Check dad's browser history. Most guys his age don't love technology all that much. There's a very good chance he's ordering weird crap online, screwing up their bills, engaging with scammers and such.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

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