Should I try and convince my husband to contact his mother in a nursing home, or just leave it alone?


I've asked questions here befor about my MIL, who refused rehab after open heart surgery at the end of August. Now, she is in a NH, receiving palliative care. She is refusing food mostly and getting quite weak. My husband, her eldest child, simply refuses to visit or call her. We've been married (I want to say only) 10 years, but you get what I mean, she is not my lifetime MIL, nor is he the person who is the father of my children. Should I insist? Should I DEsist? I've gotten very good advice here. Please let me know what you think I should do, both in the interest of "peace in the family" and long term consequences.

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Thanks all for the direction and advice; the situation is complicated. It's not (I don't think) that he hates seeing his mother in a home, it's more like distress that she's put HERSELF there by refusing to do rehab after surgery, and his brothers' agreement with her that she should be "allowed" to starve herself to death. They also won't let her get her hair done, because of the family story that their grandmother (who actually had a fatal disease) got her hair done and died the next day. so you see what level of sophistication we are dealing with! MIL has a long history of hypochondria, histrionics and manipulation. I think that he's trying both to avoid drama with his mother and conflict with his brothers. When I visit, she ignores me. Brothers claim that they have been told by docs that MIL is not depressed (isn't it depression when you're not sick and decide you want to die?), but my husband has no standing to ask to talk to docs or see medical information (BIL is POA and HCP). My husband has no stomach for a fight with his family and so is just staying out of it. From what you've all been telling me here, I think I should leave well enough alone and let the family dynamics fall where they may. Thanks!
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You do not mention what might be motivating his refusal to visit her. My MIL is 92 and in a nursing home out of state. My husband makes what I think is an extraordinary effort to call his mom regularly, we send her flowers and things to read, and we visit together about twice a year, while he also will add a weekend on to a business trip to drive to see her in the small town she lives in (it is always at least a two hour trip to five hour trip from where he has business and then the rest of the expenses of the trip come also out of our pocket, so this is not a cheap venture). He nevertheless gets unending 'not enough' responses from his brother who has never left the small town where she is, as if we can do anything about that. Anyway, my 61 one year old husband is the sweetest man I have ever met. Not a push over at all, just a very respectful son who doesn't dwell on his mother's 'transgressions' nor does he blame her for things that she did wrong (and there were a bunch!). However, in her latest years she is a nice woman who has always been loving to me. And we have been married 'only' ten years. In fact, one of the things that 'eats my BIL's shorts' is HOW MUCH she treats me equally to his wife of 32 years. But I have been a loving DIL to her as well and I think she appreciates my love for her son. He had some bad times due to marital issues when he was younger and since I too have a son (32 and married) I understand that a loving mother wants her son to have happiness in his life.
On the other hand, my own mother is a nasty, self centered person who has told me that she 'never really bonded' with me when I was a baby (!) and never misses a chance to take a swipe at me. My grandmother was more my mother figure and my mother is a petty, jealous person. My dad supports her no matter what. My husband, while so forgiving and kind to his mother, understands why I do not want to see my own. The past is the past. It can't be changed, that's for sure. But while my husband and his mother have made their peace, my mother refuses to have peace with me. My husband is loving and supportive of me and doesn't urge me to see my parents because he has witnessed abuse of me at their hands, even while they vacationed at our home for a month each year (we live in warm weather and have even offered our home to them to invite friends if we were out of town). You get to the point where, despite the fact that these people birthed you, you do not owe them your soul until you die. Or they do.
I tend to think that one's marriage is the primary relationship no matter what. My husband is the love of my life and I am his, so neither of us would encourage the other to do anything that would prove hurtful. But we are also honest and trust each other's advice. Depending on why your husband won't see her I would say, should determine whether you encourage him to or not. If he just 'hates to see her there' I would tell him to suck it up and visit. Some day he too may be in that position, or you may be. What would he think was right then?
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I think it's very difficult for many of us to see our parents or elderly family members get older and lose their independence due to illness or old age. One of the reason I started Write2Them was to provide another way for families to stay in contact when either a family couldn't financially, geographically or emotionally visit their family member who was hospitalized or in a nursing home facility, but didn't want those family members to feel abandoned. I think we have to remember that we shouldn’t be too judgmental about this as we will all be addressing family and aging issues at some point.
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Very good reply treatmenttime.
ba8aluo - you haven't indicated anything about family relationshps and history, and there may, indeed, be something from the past affecting your husband's desire to visit his mum. Or it may be his inability to face what is happening to her now, or a real dislike of visiting hospitals - most likely some combination. My view is that his decisions need to be respected. I agree that asking him "why" gently, would be a good idea., and visiting her yourself, also, if you are inclined. No doubt this is a difficult time for him, and this is his way of dealing with it. My ex's sister was bipola, and in hospital after a manic episode. He refused to visit her -not that he didn't care for her, but he couldn't handle it. I had to respect that. She committed suicide not long after. I don't think he had any regrets about not seeing her - just regrets for what she went through. I hope she understood. ((((((hugs))))) Joan
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Good Luck to you, this is tough and I feel for you!
I am 51 y/o and have known my in-laws for 7 years, married for 3 and the thing to remember is they (your husband and mine) have histories and pain with these people that you and I may never be privy to, their reasons are there own and as wives we are there to support them.
If you feel strongly about it maybe gently ask him why he doesn't want to go see her. Some people simply cannot put their feelings about "those places" aside to visit loved ones. My dad was awful at going in any hospital-like setting. He came to visit me when I was in hospital many years ago by standing outside my hospital room window holding the family pet, which I knew later was an excuse for why he didn't come in.
Have you been to see her? There is a lot to be said for leading by gentle, loving, pressure-free example.
My MIL is in an LTACH getting weaker, choosing not to eat or participate in getting better and it is extremely stressful and unhealthy for my husband to visit her, she is obstinate and he doesn't do well enabling people searching for pity. I fell for her game until the Dr.s proved that there is no physical/mental reason for her behavior so now I visit hospital as often as I can (3 hours away), call daily and share what I learn with my husband - I can be objective where it just breaks my husband's heart to see her give up. I think he is saying to her "if you want to see me, eat, get better and come home and I'll be there"
The thing I have told the family from the beginning is: if we want other people to respect the choices we make throughout our lives, we MUST lovingly accept choices made by everyone else, even when they seem silly and hurful to us. No judgements.
My ILs are messed up big time and it drives me nuts, but I just keep asking the 3 adult children if there is anything I can do to help, and then if the request isn't morally uncomfortable for me I will do it. My husband is holding family together and he doesn't have any strength left at the end of his day, so I "have his back"...happily.
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