Would like your opinions on being primary caregiver for MIL for the long haul.

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When she first came here 5 yrs ago after surgery, she lived with us first, then sr housing with a lot of support from me, then fell and ended up in assisted living a yr ago. She recently turned 80. She has had a few falls recently, and this last one resulted in a significant wound. Her heart, lungs are good and she may be with us for quite a long stretch yet. She is fully incontinent and loaded with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis and these are the things that really limit her. She is minimally ambulatory now, needs someone with her to walk safely with her walker for short distances. She has 3 children, two out of state and my husband. He has zero patience for her at this point....she has lost her sense of time really, and tends to call often. Her anxiety is also a bit increased lately. She responds well to reassurance and tlc. I am back to spending time there daily with her and I do not mind doing this. When she called this morning because she was wondering if I was on my way yet ( I had spoken to her about an hour prior) my husband answered the phone and was very annoyed with her for calling. He said that she needed to chill out, that she seems to have nothing better to do than worry about herself and that she is one step away from having to go to a nursing home if she doesn't stop calling staff so much (this is true, but my increased time there and some private cg starting next week should do the trick). I decided that if he and his siblings really can't commit to caring for her then I just need him to let me do her care, without complaining about it. Her daughter calls every so often and visits for an afternoon every few months (she lives a couple hours away) and her other son way out of state visits once a year, calls once a week or so. It really saddens me how little attention she receives from her own kids. I just want them to leave me to it at this point.
I have instructed her to call just my cell phone, not the house phone here or my husband's cell phone, to avoid further confrontations.
Anyone have experiences like this? If it was my own mom I can't imagine letting my spouse care for her and me checking out. It's really sad! and I really am turned off by my husband's attitude.


I've not had an experience like this, but some questions do come to mind.

What has his relationship with his mother been like over the years?

Do you think he might be feeling depressed over his mother's health situation?

Have you been able to talk with your husband about why he is so impatient with his mother?

It sounds to me like some heart to heart conversation about what is going on inside of him in response to this situation needs to be talked about.

I wish you the best in dealing with this. Keep in touch and let us know how things are going on.
They had a really nice relationship over the years. His dad was a very difficult person, but with age came a better relationship between father and son. Today I said to my husband that it would be really helpful to know what he wants this situation to look like...ie what level of involvement he wants to have. I didn't really get an answer yet except he seems pretty good with being "let off the hook". His family was not terribly close as the kids moved into adulthood, maybe a weekly phone call. For me, the bottom line is that she needs care and no one else is going to step in to share that responsibility. She has always been good to me and we get along well. I work in home care as a PT and have a good understanding of things from that perspective. My husband's frustration tolerance is not too great for a lot of things. Thanks so much for your response, I really appreciate it.
Wow, is she lucky to have you! Any chance that the other kids have a better understanding of her increasing needs as she ages?
Not really. Her daughter tends to approach things from a fix it angle...mom you need to do this/that. Not a real listener. Her son in CA is really good with her but only available to be here one week per year. Travels a lot for work. He used to be a little in denial of her limitations but not the last couple years. He is very empathetic. I am really thinking that some couples counseling might be helpful for my husband and I . We could be in this position for quite some time and I feel like I'm not getting anywhere with understanding his position. For a long time he was woefully unaware of how much care I was really providing...cleaning up after her bowel incontinence etc. I used to want him to be more involved but now I'm just content if he leaves me to it. Assisted living is really the most attentive place for her to be and I think it's feasible to keep her there for a while. I think that the "old person stuff" grosses him out...whether her incontinence or how she eats.
By the way, her oldest son (the one in CA) is the only one of the three who ever has expressed appreciation for the care given to their mom. He verbalizes it every time I talk to him. That is sure appreciated by me!
Yes, she is lucky to have you. It's great that ya'll have a good relationship.

His feeling ok with being "let off the hook" sounds like he has more of an "emotional cut" off relationship with his mother which is not a healthy version of detachment.

Maybe his dad being a very difficult person impacted his struggle with being more tolerance with frustration. It's good that with age that their relationship improved.

I hope that whatever is at the heart of his feeling ok with being let off the hook with his mother would find the healing that it needs. That kind of situation with such a primary relationship between parent and child does tend to impact other adult relationships without resolution. Your description does make me wonder where the his siblings may be in their sense of connectedness with their mom which would impact their ability to understand her increasing needs as she ages.

Take care of yourself while you care for your MIL's increasing health needs as the more emotionally connected and understand person in the equation.

Love, prayers and hugs!
I was leaning toward saying what you said " am really thinking that some couples counseling might be helpful for my husband and I." Yes, it would if he is willing to work on things. If not right now, at least get some counseling for your own support and maybe he will come along in time.

Sorry to hear that the daughter is more of a "fix it person." It's good to hear that the oldest son is far more empathetic. A very interesting family system dynamic indeed.
I think your husband's family is taking advantage of your sweet nature. We all would love for a person like you to come along and take care of our parents and responsibilities. Let them take care of their own mother, you should help your husband, but not take over his family's burdens. My mother's assisted living did everything so our visits were only social. If you MIL's level of care is not enough, the family should change that so you do not have to do it.
You work in home care, and appear to be providing a lot of hands on care to MIL. Are you being compensated for this? Most ALS do not accept incontinent patients. Your being able to take care of this is the difference between AL and Nursing Home costs.

Is your husband cranky because he wants you to be around more? Is mom anxious and in need of some meds for this? Just some questions to chew on.
Thanks all. My husband did visit with her , with me on Sunday and it was better. She is anxious, but I am reluctant to add more meds...she is already on quite a lot...hoping that it can be managed with more attentiveness and so far that it working. She is really one teeny step away from nursing home....her mobility has declined severely in past couple of weeks and we are looking at a wound vac for her thigh (fall related wound development). I won't risk the staff getting hurt trying to mobilize her...think she's going to need a mechanical lift soon. One of the girls had to lower her to the floor last night. Babalou, I think you are right on about my husband feeling cranky because he resents my time being spent with her instead of him. I have a feeling that the decision to move to a nursing home won't be an option soon. When she was there temporarily for short term rehab a year ago it was a really difficult time. She called our house about 10-15 times a day/night..."I called for the staff , nobody's coming" etc. Will have to set some boundaries.
Boy it's tough to get old for some folks.
My grandma is 98 and physically agile (memory's going though, in the last year). When I used to take MIL to my family's with me, my grandma would be rushing in to try and help MIL out of a chair, etc despite being nearly 20 yrs older. The contrast is remarkable.

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