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My in-laws have been living in an independent living apartment for about a year now. Our plan was to move them closer to us where they could live independenty but we could frequently visit, check in on them and spend quality time. The problem is that my father-in-law is an absolute controlling monster, and it's so bad that we hate the thought of having to visit. Even in his 80's he's jealous and overbearing and will not let my mother in law out of his site. When others are around he acts as sweet as he can, but when he's with us, he's mean, jealous, disrespectful, and controlling. My mother in law has lived her entire life in fear of his reactions. (not physical, just emotional) She makes excuses for him because she's use to having to live like that. She's terrified to even go to lunch with her own daughter because she has to get his permission or lie to him in order to go. Then the entire time she's with us, she's nervous and anxious to get home so he won't be mad. We took her out for mothers day brunch two years ago to a very upscale restaurant and he called it a beer joint and got mad because we were gone so long. My wife wants to spend quality time with her mom while she's still healthy enough to do so, but we're at our wits end. Nothing we do or say helps because she is so very much under his control, and he's been so mean to us on so many occasions now that we really can say nothing more to him than hello and goodbye. This is such a frustrating situation. Right now the more pressing issue is her mothers medical power of attorney. There is no way my father in law could ever make sound medical decisions on her behalf. We have begged her to sign this power of attorney over to my wife, but she's yet to do it because of him. Any advice would be welcome.

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I would also suggest having FIL evaluated for cognitive change. Unreasonable and unfounded paranoia and suspicion are hallmarks of degeneration. There is medication for it, but it absolutely requires the help of geriatric specialists who are trained on aging issues beyond what a regular family doctor would be.

Tell him he has to go be seen by this other doctor to keep his insurance or because the government said so, or you got a call and you don't know why he has to go in, he just does - blame Obama if it helps. Whatever it takes.

My heart goes out to all of you. The lifelong behaviors of a person tend to exaggerate in old age, so watch out for FIL becoming MORE controlling, suspicious, accusatory and don't just take it lying down.

Protect MIL from him. You may have to be the one to tell him things, as the Man In The Family. He may accept information from you better than his wife or daughter. Even if he's not conscious of it, he probably has you in a different category than the women-folk.

Like GardenArtist said, do what you need to, to ensure the ongoing wellbeing and your ability to work on behalf of MIL. Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directives are two excellent tools. Maybe start a separate checking account for her at a completely different bank. MIL's designated "attorney in fact" on the DPOA does NOT have to be same person FIL would put for himself. These are two completely separate documents - one per person. FIL never needs to know diddly squat about it.
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Okay, i was at work before. This guy is mentally ill, but MIL has lived with him for many years. SHE has to want to change the tune, if she wants to be able to live without fear, and enjoy some time with her children.

HE might be improved by antidepressants. Would he consider going to see his doctor to discuss these issues as part of a comprehensive evaluation?

But at the very least, please get her to a geriatric psych to discuss these issues. This level of stress is very bad for anyone, and can lead to heart and bp issues.
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This situation seems so entrenched that I don't know how your mother could get out from under his thumb, unless she got help as an emotionally abused woman, which might be possible as Babalou suggests through a geriatric psychiatrist.

The kinds of domineering and obsessively controlling people like the step-FIL have been this way for years and for whatever reasons aren't going to change, especially since he's gotten away with it.

Unless you removed your MIL from the situation and moved her in with one of you, he's going to keep a tight rein over her. And I doubt if she would even consider leaving because she's so afraid of him. You'd probably have to get law enforcement involved.

If you can convince your mother to sign a DPOA, I would try to find a way to do it w/o her husband knowing it. Just don't mention it; pretend you're taking her out to lunch and instead go to the attorney's office to get the document signed.

This is such a sad situation; it's always frustrating to learn that one spouse has become the jailer of another.
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You should have her seen by a geriatric psychiatrist for her depression and anxiety issues.
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