Live-in mother-in-law needs more care than we can deliver.

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My 81-year old mother-in-law resides with myself, my wife (her daughter) and our three young sons (ages 7 and 5 year old twins). She has Parkinsons Disease which has progressively affected her mobility. Her health has declined to the point where she either wants, or needs, almost around-the-clock care. She is a serious fall risk, has incontinence issues, sleeps most of the time, and only really walks to come to the table for meals. She uses a walker but should probably be in a wheelchair, which she has refused. She does not interact with our family, does not speak to any of us at meals, and treats us like we are her staff. She refuses to do anything for herself and makes us feel like we are mean if we tell her to get her own drink. She pays a caregiver during the day when we are not at home but will not consider hiring overnight or weekend care, even though she has the resources to do so. We have begun discussing the fact that she needs more care than we are capable, or qualified, to provide. I work full time with odd hours, my wife works three part-time jobs, and the boys are becoming more and more socially active with school, soccer, baseball, cub scouts, etc. We feel like we have become trapped in our own house and are denying our kids the things we've always wanted to do with them. My mother-in-law has always played the guilt card on my wife and is doing it again. Now my wife feels like we (she) did not do enough and should do more so she does not have to go to a SNF or assisted living facility. It is beginning to have a negative impact on us as a couple and as a family. My wife does have a brother who is local but other than a cordial visit now and then he has washed his hands of it. Any suggestions how we get my mother-in-law to stop driving a wedge in our family and realize that moving to a facility is the best thing for her, as well as us.


My sympathies. This is a difficult and, unfortunately, not rare situation. Has your mil always been self centered? Some people are all their lives and some become more narcissistic as they become ill and age. That she treats you like staff speaks volumes to me. My mother is narcissistic and expects me to be her "servant" .People like this will always make you feel that you should be doing more. There are no thanks for jobs done, just expectations for more, and often feedback that what was done was not done quite right.There is no consideration for how your life is affected - it is all about them. Narcissistic people used FOG -fear, obligation and guilt to manipulate family, and friends to do their bidding. Your wife has nothing to feel guilty about. You and your family have been doing what you can for your mil. She has a progressive disease and it seem to me, she is narcissistic. That in itself is a serious issue. You say "Her health has declined to the point where she either wants, or needs, almost around-the-clock care." Whether it is the PD and/or the narcissism, (both of which are illnesses) you and your family cannot supply round the clock care, and maintain a healthy family unit with 3 young children. You and your children come before your mil, in priority and I think your wife needs to come to terms with this. I understand the "hooks" such a parent has in their children, and the buttons she pushes to get what she wants, which is largely attention of one sort or another. Dealing with the buttons is a life time job. My mother is 100 and in an ALF, and I am 75, and I would never have taken her into my home. She would have ruined my home life and my health. As it is, I still have to maintain firm boundaries I am going to suggest a few things.

1) google "daughtersrsofnarcissisticmothers" and find the website of that name. I and others have found it very helpful. Show it to your wife.There are other sites, obviously, but that one is a good place to start. I think you will see some familiar things. I am not in complete agreement with the author's method (EFT) of healing from being the child of a narcissist so my second recommendation is
2) go for counselling - together preferably - your wife can be helped to understand how her mother manipulates her, and how to deal with that and the guilt etc, to set limits, and how it negatively affects your family unit, which should be her priority. Hopefully an alternate plan for your mil's care can be developed. She (mil) does not have to agree to it. Nice if she would but, that may be difficult to achieve. You are NOT obliged to look after your mil in your home.
3) start researching facilities in your area. Has your mil had an evaluation as to what level of care she requires? Your local agency on aging may be able to point you to resources. Social services may be a ble to help. A social nworker could come to your home and talk to your mil about a move to a facility.
4) Draw some boundaries - set some limits. You need your weekends, and evenings together as a family. Your boys need to be involved in sports and other activities. I have 4 children, and know well the time that is needed for that. Your children are only young once, and you, as parents, have a duty to them, which comes before waiting on the mil. You also do not want to deny yourself the enjoyment that comes with this time of their lives. I am going to suggest that you draw up a list of caregivers that could be hired to come in weekends and evenings and present them to your mil, stating that you will be taking more time away from the home, and that she will need to hire more help. Make phone calls for her if that works. She will not be happy about this, but don't let that and any sharp words or guilt games from her stop you. As I said - a counsellor can help your wife to set healthy boundaries.
5) encourage your wife to come to this website and read about others in similar situations and how they are coping.

I wish you the best of luck. You and your family are on a slippery slope which is all down hill, and major change is needed. It amazes me, when I read it again and again, to the extent to which adults allow their lives to be run by their aging parents, who are often not mentally healthy.Yet, I know I have battled that in my life too.
You and your wife have to stop the wedge. Your mil probably can't. It is how she is wired. By becoming informed, getting healthier, and setting boundaries, you can stop the wedge. You may not convince your mil that a facility is best for her -after all she has two adults waiting on her hand and foot, she has what she wants - BUT - I repeat and emphasize - you are NOT obligated to care for her, not are you "bad people" if you decide you cannot do it any more.
Let us know how it goes.
So many times it seems that the issues on this site encapsulate the eternal emotions of feeling like one is a terrible, unloving or heartless person when we can't give the one we are taking care of everything they desire. All the stories are varied but the theme is often the same - we are letting 'them' down while we continue to do our level best to care for them and still have marriages, raise children, work (and often that is not a choice but a necessity), and try to keep our sanity.
Again, all of this is about feelings - their feelings, our feelings, our spouses and children's feelings. And most of the time everything is hanging more and more by a fragile thread.
I was in the business world for a long time, I have been divorced from an abusive manipulator and I was raised by a narcissitic mother with a father who tried to make sense out of crazy. I also raised three kids (29, 33, 35) through the sleepless nights of babyhood, the terrible twos and up through teenage (sometimes) hell. The common denominator in all of these life experiences was negotiating my path through some very self serving (at least at times) folks who just wanted what they wanted. I had to learn that first, I examine my motives, pray about doing God's will in the situation I found myself in and then have a steely mindset about doing what in my heart I knew was right and had to be done. It is absolutely necessary to find your center and trust yourself. Also, the more opinions you ask for the more confused you become. Opinions come from those other folks' life experiences, built in guilt, on and on, but very often not from places that are appropriately evolved.
What I am trying to tell you is that, even though this is hard, place your priorities appropriately, realize you are just one person and you can't do everything to everyone's satisfaction or approval, and then execute a plan once you devise it, knowing you are not running a popularity contest. Try not to take everything personally and if you must, limit exposure to those who have only criticism with no viable help or solution to offer.
Your family - children and spouse - have to come first. And put that list the other way around, because a family functions best if a marriage is strong. Take care of parents, meaning get them a safe and decent place to live where assistance is available and then monitor their care and visit them often.
Way too often families end up almost torn apart due to this kind of stress. Life is inevitably going to end in death for all of us. Make sure the last years of your parents' life is lived with dignity and care, set an example for your children for how YOU want to be treated when they need to take care of you and make decisions for you, and be good to yourself. Your children, your life together with you spouse have a lot of years ahead. Don't wear those things out while trying to please someone who is probably unappeasable unless you do exactly what they want. She will adjust and it is best for her.
My father became like your MIL after he had a stroke at age 88, although he had always been self-reliant and funny before. Since joining this wonderful website a few days ago, I have read about so many problem parents with personalities that sound identical, or similar. I truly believe that when old age and disease rob people of their mental and physical abilities, some can't avoid the anger and bitterness that this causes. Misplaced pride can make it worse.
There are professional "facilitators" you can hire to come in and counsel her about making a move to an ALF. I haven't used one yet, but there are people I know who rave about them, and say they work magic. They act like a counsellor; they listen to the person's story and concerns, and then they explain how and why a change is needed and how much better it will be for everyone. The magic, I'm told, is in their ability to do this and have the senior feel like it is THEIR idea. I'm discovering that one of my mom's biggest fears in moving is she feels like I'm making her do it and she wants to be in charge (she really can't be incharge of anything any more).
A good idea is a good idea. but just like when we are kids, and everything sounds smarter and better when someone besides our parents say it, now, to a senior, everything sounds smarter and better when someone besides the kids say it. Ultimately, I think 99% of moms will do what is best for their kids, but they don't like their kids being the one to tell them what that is. I'd say get some support from outside the family on this one.
All too often on this site, I read stories where one spouse is lost in the F.O.G. in relationship to their parent and because of being blinded by Fear, Obligation and./or guilt, they don't see how they are enabling their parent in driving a wedge in their marriage and in their family. I think this is the case with your wife and your MIL who plays the guilt card on your wife.

Possibly by going to therapy together seeking a third party, objective opinion for dealing with this with help open her eyes to what is going on. That will be much better than telling her that she is the person needing therapy. I don't think she really sees how trapped she is by someone with what sounds like a narcissistic or possibly borderline personality who are pros at using emotional blackmail on people to get what they want. Since, you say that your MIL has always played the guilt card on your wife makes me think this as been an ongoing trait of their relationship since childhood and that is why it is so ingrained in her and blinds her so.

If your wife, will not go with you for support from a therapist, I would suggest go to one for yourself for you deserve it and will need it as long as she remains blinded by the F.O.G. I wish you and your marriage the best in this difficult situation.
You have so much on your plate right now, that you need to get some perspective on what can be done with the least damage. Understand that no matter what you choose, someone will have to compromise. And that is OK. Not to the ones who must do it, but everyone will adjust. That is the good news. People adjust to new situations.

Since your time might be limited, know that if you simply pick up a phone and call a local assisted living facility who can care for someone with your MIL's diagnoses, they can come and pick her up, take her to their facility and show her around. You can accompany her, or you can take her yourself. She can be given a choice. She can either hire someone to stay 24/7 with her in your home (if you want) on specific days or occasions, or she can move to a facility. Just as you give your children choices, she should not be any different. Your MIL can come home on holidays or weekends as you choose. She can still be very much a part of the family. There should be no guilt in trying to give your family your time and attention. They are only young once. When they get to be teenagers, they will not be around so much, and may not want to do activities with you. You do not want them to remember that their parents had no time, with grandma in the middle of everything, and both parents working. You have a window of opportunity here to get some breathing space. As it is, no one is benefiting from your situation. And if the facility you choose is local, your wife can spend as much time there as she chooses. She can go for meals with her mother, and take her out for lunch, or to go shopping. Once your MIL is out of the home, then your wife may find she has the energy to give her mother more fun time. Right now, it seems no one is having much fun, and the point comes to where you must ask yourself how much longer you want to maintain a malfunctioning situation. If you looked back on this ten years from now, what would you tell yourself? Guilt is part of living, but if guilt is going to cause damage to the family for years to come, why accommodate the guilt? There is no benefit to anyone. There are some fantastic assisted living facilities around, and if your MIL is a surviving spouse of a veteran, call the VA's Veteran's Benefits Office to see if she qualifies for financial assistance for assisted living.
As yellowbird said, give your mother choices. But, there is a limit on her options. She does not have the choice of going on as it is now. The choices she has need to be limited to the ones that are an improvement for your life as well as hers.
It is possible to add a little cottage extension to your home that is both private, yet includes her in the family activities when appropriate? A Night Sitter would surely give your wife much needed rest. The sitter may simply be a trusted person from your church who will have basic care knowledge. Talk with your minister and doctor.
My3sons, My husband also wanted to inhome care his mother, so we did. Moving into her home( It was larger w/2 baths) from ours along with our 14 yr old son. The move itself was hard as I have physical limitations myself and am not able to do heavy lifting. Anyway we moved in and hired in home caregivers for every 3 days or so we thought! My MIL was far more progressed in her dementia than I was told, she is also a fall risk and has had several that have caused major damage to her face and wrists! So the inhome caregivers had to come everyday at 6hr shifts instead of 4hr shifts. Mom had a sroke last May too. We were doing what we thought we needed to do, because that's what you do when an elder parent can no longer make those decisions for themselves. We did not have a clue what to expect but we sure had our eyes opened FAST! We spent the next month taking care of mom and only mom...there was no time for any of the rest of the family at all! We weren't even able to sleep, mom was up at all hours she didn't remember schedules because of the dementia, it works like that. She did not know who any of us were 90% of the time. Mom was also very strong at 94 you woudn't think they would be..... but they are! trying to get her to bathe was awful...we could not coax her no matter what, she would kick hit, bite, cuss me out (I'm the daughter-in-law) etc.!! Her only Daughter couldn't have even been bothered with taking any kind of resposibility in helping to take care of her own mother!!! So mom's son took the initiative and did what anyone who loves their parents would do... be responsible. We are no longer doing in home care as it was not enough care for mom ' she needed more supervision and help than we could give her here at home. We have her in a very nice place where the staff can check on her and let us know if there is any problem. We talked it over because we needed a solution for both of us and mom. It dose not in any way mean that you are a failure!!! It means that you have enough of a mind to know that you can't continue to care for her, and that she needs more than you are able to do yourselves right now !! It takes a wise person to know when they are unable to do the job at hand! And an even smarter person to give it to those who are able to do the best they can in this situation. I admire all of you who recognise this fact! It's the best care you can give when you can't do any more than place them where they can give the best care. You have done all the right things so don't feel guilty for any decision you make.. it is the right one. Good Luck and God Bless your decision =) Lisa
All of the previous comments have one thing in common: Letting you know that outside help is needed and no stigma should be attached.

I know first hand how difficult it can be to change how you respond to a parent's demands. I have been on that emotional roller coaster for decades. I can relate to your wife because I had grown accustomed to putting my mom's needs/wants before anyone else.

I have been able to make some changes by approaching the situation from perspective of love. For example: My mother no longer lives in our home because we found her a place to meet her physical challenges. She didn't want to go and rebelled but in the end she admitted it was for the best.

I shared that because I loved her I only wanted the best care for her and home could never meet the high standards she deserved. I also let her know how much I missed our times of just being together. You see being a caregiver took so much time just being her daughter fell by the wayside.

It's also because of my love for my family that my mom had to move out. We too were prisoners in our home. There was plenty of guilt when she left but spending more time with my husband and children has been a blessing.

Whatever you choose, counseling, more caregivers, or a living facility, your mil will be unhappy. Make your decision for your family and your mil from a place of love, and you will have done your best.
Wildred..we are there now and my heart felt every word. It is horrible to believe that trying to take care of your parent turn syou into a prisoner in your home but it is the absolute truth!

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