My mother in law is getting mean. she doesn't want to spend money on necessities like getting her heat fixed--even though she has plenty of money. Her husband died a year ago. She has 3 sons and she treats them like there still little boys ,she will not trust them. She is 80 yrs old and lives by herself and still drives and cares for herself. I think it is getting tough on her, but she will not ask for help or anything. She is so stubborn. No one can get through to her. She thinks she is so tough. But I know something is going on with her. She doesn't show emotion very often.
My first advice is stay calm, it's hard but you are going to lose it if you can't take one step at a time.
I see a red flag here.... from my experience with elders and from what I have read, when any Drama, such as, a loss of someone "especially a spouse" this could set off a dementia situation. Some things you mention are signs to me.... not trusting, refusing help, not realizing a normal need for a situation out of order (heat not working). These are all very early signs. She may be just stubborn, but the good news is, if it is, a mental problem, early diagnosis is key to a care plan and a better quality of life for her.
Talking to a person that is stubborn is not easy at all. I know this because I am stubborn, if I am told you have to or you can't.... you might as well be talking to the wall. Thanks to my family telling me these two things my Mom will probably out live us all. I have a Mom who is the same and suffers dementia. Well I learned this the hard way that's what motivates me and my Mom. You sort of, have to be creative in your thinking, use her personality to your advantage. Example If she won't agree to having the heat fixed, tell her "OK" you could always live in a cold house and wear a coat and sleep with a lot of blankets. BUT...Wow!!!?? getting a bath or shower is going to be tough. though." Do you think Dad (her hubby) would have let you live in a cold house?" or say "what do you think he would do if the heat were broken?" You know she's not agreeing with normal reasoning... so play her game. This is an emergency situation so if this does not work you may have to go at it by the need to know basis. Don't ask don't tell just do what needs to be done for her safety.
I do recommend that she see a Dr. such as a neurologist for a diagnosis if there is a mental issue. Use the same attitude, offer to take her to lunch and swing by the Dr. or something to that effect.
I always use this example ... if you were watching a child and the child was in immediate danger, such as running in the street and the child insisted on doing it... you would not think twice about stopping the child you wouldn't have a discussion right???.... your first reaction is the child safety. When It comes to a parent in danger, we tend to look at it as a respect issue instead of a safety issue, emotions come out of habits, no one is used to protecting a parent from harm, the opposite is what is natural. The most important thing is their safety and health... they will and can verbally abuse you, give you a guilt trip, threaten you in some way but the bottom line is your doing what is right. Not taking action is the wrong thing to do. Keep that in mind, It helps if you reduce your concerns by making an "emergency/priority" list, one thing at a time. Hope I was helpful and Always here to help. Keep us posted. Wuvsicecream