Should I try and repair the relationship with MIL or let it die?

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My MIL is 89 with limited vision and mobility. For the last 4 years, since my husband's (her only child) death, I have been her primary caregiver. She has been difficult to say the least her glass has always been half empty. In October, she went into assisted living and is not adjusting to it. She recently was sick with a terrible cough. One day I took her cough medicine that one of her friends suggested. I called repeatedly volunteering to take her to the Dr. Two days later when her phone quit working, I drove there to help fix it. I passed the AL head nurse going to her room and when I suggested to my MIL that I ask her to listen to her chest to check for pneumonia. She started ranting that she didn't need it. When I told her to stop snapping at me she said "when have you ever been nice to me"! I replied - you are absolutely right, I have never been nice to you and left. I hosted Easter about 10 days later and she came with my stepdaughter, acting as if nothing had happened. I did not call or go see her as had been my habit except to drop off some insurance items. After 2 more weeks, she left me a voice mail that she appreciated everything that I had done from the goodness of my heart. After a couple of days, I decided to let it go and call her - she hung up on me twice. So what do I do? My husbands death four years ago was sudden and hard for me and my children and stepdaughter to accept. I had retired to help care for my aging parents and MIL. Mom died 2 years after my husband and I still have 92 year old father who refuses AL and I deal with him also on daily basis. This isn't the first run in that I've had with the really old people- in August I had a heart stress test after arguments with both of them on separate occasions. I took the brunt of helping MIL move 20+ years of stuff in 3 weeks which she made sooo difficult. I really was ready to try and salvage something of a relationship and help someone who really needs it, but I don't have the desire to keep playing her game. She makes me feel guilty because I can see and drive and cook and use my phone to text my kids, her grandchildren. I have included her in everything for 40 years but when is enough, enough? Frankly, I have felt happier in the last 4 weeks without her passive/aggressive behavior but really hate to let everything end this way. My children are not aware of this but I need to make them aware since her 89 th birthday is coming up and I normally host it and Mothers Day also shortly after that. Thoughts?

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"Should I try to repair the relationship with MIL or let it die?

How about something in between?

You weren't happy with the relationship as it was before and you are much happier now, but feel guilty. So, just do enough so that you don't feel guilty and yet don't resent her, either.

If I were in your shoes, I would explain fully and truthfully with the children because your relationship with them should be your most important one.

I would also drastically limit my 'direct' contact with MIL She is in a care facility and all her needs should be taken care of by the staff. You can check up to make sure they provide good care for her.

As for her bd, I would just bring her some flowers and ask the children to visit her they want, but I would not host any more party for her.

And for Mothers' Day, do you normally host a party? If so, then do that. MIL can come too if one of the children can do the picking up and dropping off.

Your sanity and happiness are important, too.
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Reply to polarbear
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It sounds like you have a long history of discord. Is that right? But, with her being 89, I'd wonder if she might have some other issues too? Are you around her often? Have you spoken with the facility staff to see if she's having issues with them too? Forgetting things, agitated, depressed, etc? I might just consider that she's not operating with full capacity. If that's the case, then, my expectations would be lowered. With the seniors I have dealt with, I don't have very high expectations for them to be nice, pleasant or understanding. I have found many, even if they have full cognitive function, to be somewhat selfish, opinionated, stubborn and snippy.

So, making amends so that all is hunky dory.....I don't know. Do you really think that's possible? If so, then, I'd likely try it. I subscribe to the philosophy of being on good terms with all people, to the extent that is possible. But, I'd wonder if she's capable. You may just be setting yourself up for disappointment. (Is she depressed? Perhaps discuss with her doctor for treatment.)

Maybe, a counselor would have some tools to help you cope. I tend to take the high road and just overlook seniors who are difficult. At her age, how many years does she have left? I'd likely do what I was able to do that was reasonable to make her feel cared for and special and expect nothing in return. Our rewards for kindness and patience come in other ways. Not sure how old your children are, but, I think being honest about how people are is a good thing. We learn to cope, accept and care for family members, even when it's difficult. I think that's a good thing to witness in a family.
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Reply to Sunnygirl1
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I'm with Holiday.

In a similar (sort of) way I am dealing with my MIL. She hates me (has told me so many times, I truly believe her) She is kind of crazy, but not the kind you can medicate or therapize away--she's just really mean.

10 years ago, my hubby was going through a brutal chemo regimen after a liver transplant. He was working FT and dragging along, I was working 2 jobs and barely surviving the stress. Out of the blue, one day after work she called me, I was making dinner, put the phone on speaker and let her rant. Long story short, she blamed me for DH's need for a transplant (he had HepC) and a lifetime's worth of vitriol and anger just came bubbling out. Bottom line, she told me she hated me, had always hated me and wished I'd never met her son. (whom, may I add, she never even CALLED in the time he was in the hospital or recovering at home--it was too "stressful" for her.)

OK, that ended any pretense of ANY kind of relationship. I didn't have to fake being nice to her, as she also banned me from her house, her life, etc.

Mother's Day is a hot topic. DH DOES NOT want to even see his mother, but the guilt just eats him alive. He will go see her, sometimes he takes her out, and he comes home angry and sad.

I owe this woman NOTHING but the simple respect due my husband's mother. I don't hate her, I feel nothing for her. She doesn't get anything more from me. B/C it was always so angry and hateful. WHY would we put ourselves in these situations.

Let it go. You don't need that anger and nastiness in your life. IF you can handle it, great, you're a better person than most of us.

Step away from planning the big events and pass them on to the younger kids. I was so shocked to realize that my daughters (ages 40, 36, 34, 31) were amazingly organized and I can hand the baton to them, with no guilt.

You've been happier the last 4 weeks? That's telling. Send her a card if you feel like it. Don't if you don't.

Guilt also nearly put me in a loony bin some years ago. She's SO not worth it.

You have "blood" relatives to care for them. Do that. MIL can stew in her own juices. (This is the 2nd post I've made this am that just hit too close to home!!)

We can only control how others treat us by walking away sometimes. My MIL is never going to change (88) and I honestly do not care. I spend my time caring for people who need and appreciate me.

Good Luck. You are not alone in this.
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Reply to Midkid58
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Let it die in this way. Tell the family they need to have the Mothers Day event elsewhere and hire a caterer if they plan to eat. Seriously.
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Reply to HolidayEnd
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Thanks for all of the thoughtful answers and insight. It isn't a question of dementia on my MIL's part, her mind is still very sharp. Depression, yes, for the last 30 years, more now with the loss of vision. After reading everyone's responses, I did finally tell my daughter what was happening. She is very much a realist & said we've got a couple of weeks before the birthday. I wish that I could have resolved the situation before this, but I couldn't. It is a blessing for me that she is in an ALF now & I can put the ball in their court. If she needs help, all she has to do is pull a cord, 24/7. I can continue a relationship if she wants, but will distance myself as much as possible. It is so good to be able to vent your real feelings on this site & know that you aren't negatively judged. Life is hard & I so admire resilient people, but sometimes you have to know when to exit a toxic situation.
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Reply to pagh8264
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So sorry you're going through this. My MIL is like this too. I have now limited my visits to the AL to Sunday mornings, when I drop off what she needs for the week while she's at church. Don't take her anything she hasn't asked for specifically because she "doesn't need that" or "it's not the right kind" can't please her. She's been this way since she moved to our area about 12 years ago, been in AL for 4 years. My DH doesn't visit at all if he can help it, due to her lies, personal attacks and overall bad attitude.
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Reply to Jellybean
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You and your MIL have had a long relationship and it’s now been touched by heartache neither of you could have foreseen.
Your independent dad has also suffered a great loss.
I think it’s pretty unrealistic to expect the three of you to survive so much loss without major stress and perhaps some disagreement.

You’ve lost your husband and your mom in four years and have been left to manage the elder care for his mom and your dad. The move alone could have worn you out.

Your dad has lost his wife after a hard illness. Your MIL has lost her son, her only child. You have lost your husband and your mom. You are all grieving.

You need to give yourself a break from all this stress. You got a wake up call back in August but the stress has to be managed each day.

Rely on the AL to take more of the load for MIL. Try to get more help for your dad.

If the upcoming events at your home cause too much stress, let your children know you need their help. It won’t be the same. Traditions are hard to let go of but perhaps it’s time for new traditions. It will take time.

Sometimes because we are on automatic it seems like what we are doing is not that difficult, we have done it all before, surely we can get through it one more time. but the stress is cumulative. Sometimes we don’t know how worn down we are until something happens that we can’t ignore. You don’t need a stroke or a heart attack to stop wearing yourself out. You can choose to slow down.

Surely a relationship as important as the one you have with MIL is worth saving for your benefit, her benefit and that of your children.

Pick up the book “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. When you get to the part about the five questions we need to ask our elders, ask yourself those questions.

You’ve been through a lot. Your elders have been through a lot. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just life.
Trust the ALF to look out for MIL. Allow yourself to miss her and to visit in a rested state.
Honor your husband’s memory by seeing that his mother is cared for but realize that your health demands you take a more passive role.

It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.
After 40 years for you to decide to let the relationship “die” seems to indicate just how very tired you are.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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This kind of drama breaks my heart and I finally had to put an end to it. To my surprise my children were fully aware and said they thought I would never break away from it. That alone reassured me I made the right decision. Glad you have your children and perhaps they can best help and already aware of MIL difficult actions toward you.
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Reply to SpiritDancer
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Does MIL have ALZ/Dementia. If not, it sounds like something is wrong. I was my Moms caregiver. We were close. But, she would get mad at me for weird things. And be OK a little while later. This is how it goes with this disease. Are there other children? If close I would tell them you need to step back. That the care for ur Dad is taking up most of the time. You can drop in occasionly when u feel you can deal with her. If she starts on you tell her since she is being nasty you r leaving.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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The two birthdays my mother spent in a nursing home we celebrated there. The facility itself has a monthly celebration for all the birthday folks, and they get a balloon tied to their wheelchair, there is a cake, etc. For our family celebration we reserved a community room, asked for tables & chairs, brought in tablecloths and centerpieces and arranged a pot luck. Everyone got to see Mom, she saw everyone, and nobody had to have an extended conversation with her. The youngsters said Hi to great-grandmother and then took a table to play games. An aide was available if Mom needed to use the bathroom. We gave cards with contributions to her hairdresser fund. We also brought small gifts to give to Activities to use for bingo prizes. Mom was proud when they thanked her. There was no chance of getting the wrong size or color or something she wouldn't use.

We did it this way because of Mom's mobility issues, but I could see that it might work well when there was risk of some conflict or animosity. This is a limited-time event. At the end everyone helps clean up and goes home. If the guest of honor starts getting crabby with a guest, another guest comes up and takes over. This could be catered instead of pot luck and/or could be limited to cake and punch. This would be a way to honor the occasion and minimize the stress. It leaves the possibility of an ongoing relationship on the table and also signals the change in the nature of that relationship.
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