How do I tell my elderly mother-in-law who has severe dementia that she is going to be moving into a nursing facility?

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My ninety-three year old mother-in-law has been living with us since her husband died in hospice three years ago. When she first came we had no room for her. I took the kitchen table out and we put her there. After living like that for about eight months we were able to buy a small house where she had her own room with a half bath. But after living with us here for about two and a half years she began slowly slip into what has been diagnosed as severe dementia. At times the stress is impossible. As much as we love her and each other our relationship began to suffer. With friends and family proclaiming what a "hero" for taking her in... I have hit the wall. Yesterday I had a full blown panic attack (never knew what that meant until now. I ended up on the ground at Wallgreen's surrounded by paramedics. I caught my husbands cold and it culminated in my lungs. I went to the doctor and he prescribed meds. I drove over to fill the prescription, laboring for air and coughing my head off the whole time. When the pharmacist told me they were out of stock something in me snapped. My lungs shut down, I couldn't draw a breath, I began to shake and was pouring sweat. The next thing I knew I was out! I won't go into the details, but that was the deciding factor. I was no longer good for anyone...not even myself. SO...we found a long term care facility that we're both satisfied with. We even spoke to some residents and got good feed back from them. The question is we're not sure how or even IF we should tell her about the impending changes. She forgets everything anyway. We stopped telling her about any appointments she may have with doctors, etc. because once she knows she's scheduled to see one she never stops asking about it. When am I going? Where am I going? Why am I going? It doesn't matter if I write it on her chalk board, she STILL asks over and over. But somehow surprising her on the day she's scheduled to go seems so sneaky and wrong. My husband said maybe we should tell her we're going on vacation for a month and she'll be staying there, then she'll forget and just get used to it. Any feedback would be helpful.

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Hugs to you, you have been through a lot and it is time for changes. You have been a wonderful daughter in law and so glad you have made this decision. My MIL was very similar to yours, forgetting everything we told her about
appointments, etc. and asking over and over and over again. It was very sad how she could not remember anything. So, I understand why it would make no sense to tell her now as she will just forget.

I think the idea of telling her you are going on vacation is a good one; but it could possibly confuse her. Whereas, if you tell her a day or two in advance, the actual truth, she might adjust better if you can see her frequently and settle her in with her things surrounding her. She would keep asking the staff when you were coming as she would forget. Is she on any form of anti-anxiety medication? If not, it might help her with the transition to quiet her nerves. Will keep you in my prayers, take care.
Thank you so much for your supportive reply. It seems that just by writing the question and posting it I came to my own conclusions. About an hour ago I went to her and sat on the bed. I took her hand. She opened her eyes and said, "I'm so sorry to put you through all of this. This is exactly what I didn't want to happen but I can't help it. I don't know why this is happening to me. Maybe it's time to put somewhere so you can be happy again". Can you believe it? I was overwhelmed. I told her we found a lovely place where she could be cared for properly. I told her we felt helpless. I apologized for loosing hollering at her sometimes and she didn't deserve to be yelled at. None of this was her fault. She said she understood and to not worry about it. Fact is, she probably doesn't remember the yelling anyway. All it does is make ME feel bad about ME. I told her she's very lucky. That she had a wonderful life and a husband who loved her deeply. She had a wonderful career as a commercial fashion illustrator for thirty five years (had my husband at 42!) I told her she raised a great son who loves and cares for us both. I held her hand and told her how lucky her life was, how much her own parents supported her decision to become a professional woman in a time when that was rare. We hugged. I'll tell you what...we should ALL be so lucky as she has been in her life. She said she knows it, she told me she appreciates all we've done for her and was ready to go. She said she would trust our decision. WOW. Like I said, I'm overwhelmed right now. So it's in the works, and she knows. Whether or not she'll remember all that we said is another story, but it's ok. I'll just say it again, as many times as it takes to make her feel better. This has been the hardest journey of my life. We have no children (by choice) but my husband is a planner...I don't know where he got it from because his father was not. He left nothing but his wife and a tiny house in Kansas that we sold for $8000. last year. Maybe my husband watched and took notes on what NOT to do. But he has planned for our future and I think we'll be okay. In the mean time we've done the best we can for her and now the wheels are in motion and changes are underway. Again...thank you for your post and all the best to you as well!
Jackie, I am soooo happy for you and how well this went for you today. Your conversation with her brought tears to my eyes as it just went so smoothly. You said all the right things and MIL is a lovely lady who understands what you are going through. You are right, she might forget, but at least she was able to give you those encouraging words as they came from her heart. Again, truly happy for you and hope all goes well; you deserve it. Blessings and take care.
Thanks again're pretty special yourself. Take care!

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