I'm looking for help for my husband who is now the sole caregiver for his mother.


I'm looking for help for my husband who is now the sole caregiver for his mother. I've read several discussions here and I'm so impressed and touched by the amount of compassion and great advice shared here. I am really looking forward to your help.

My husband's mother is very sick, physically disabled, and needs assistance with daily living. She lives at home by herself after refusing to stay with/being tossed out by her daughter several months ago. Her daughter has completely extricated herself from any participation in the care of her mother.

My husband now goes to his mother's apartment every day, several hours before work (he works nights) to tend to her daily needs, and then returns to her apartment after work before coming home, to do the necessary chores and clean up. Two nights every week he stays over (she lives over an hour from us) so he can get her ready and bring her to the doctor's for her early twice weekly treatments, necessary appointments, and to pick up her prescriptions.

Unfortunately, lately she's been extremely difficult, uncooperative, oppositional, argumentative, and has actually accused him of hitting her, which of course he hasn't. She doesn't want his help but unfortunately she's not able to function safely on her own. She is convinced she is fine by herself and will not consider the assistance of a home health aide.

My husband's dilema: how to keep mom safe and well cared for, get her to her appointments, run her errands, without aggravating her further (particularly since she's making false accusations of being hit by him). Also, what could happen if he calls in a professional, mental health or otherwise, and to retaliate, his mother repeats her delusions of her son hitting her (which may explain why her daughter is no longer in the picture)? That can't be uncommon for a very angry, very sick, very difficult patient. Any suggestions?

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Wonderful advice here, as usual. I would also suggest keeping a log of her behaviors, events, and accusations. Maybe you could keep the written record for your husband. Periodically share log or items from it with doctor and others who may need to know. I believe a wtitten record protects everyone and will be useful for possible future interactions with medical, legal, or police staff...as well as other family members.

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?

The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve, 1697

SavingGrace, My husband and I were taking care of his mother in much the same way as your husband and you are. My husband would stop at his mom's home everyother day after work( he works from 1:30am to 4pm) to help her with chores, cooking and cleaning up the mess from the dog(a do her daughter got her that wasn't potty trained??!!) because his sister wouldn't! This went on till she was diagnosed w/demenia and had several bad falls. Not to mention the fires that were started because she forgot somthing was cooking, good thing her son was there. Yes this takes a toll on all who REALLY care! We did feel guilty too, since we thought we weren't doing enough to help her....And yes people who DO care also can feel guilty! It's the ones who do nothing and SAY..they care, who's intentions are uncaring!!!!! You are on the right track,...keep going. There is very good advice here and help from those of us who have been and still are in the trench's!! My prayers are with you both....God Bless and HUGS

SavingGrace I believe that what I experienced with my Mom, my family, etc., was an education no teacher can teach, no book to follow and all homework... but it makes it is worth it all, and a pleasure to be able to pass on hints and guidance to those who are struggling and as you put it overwhelmed. Pass it on to your husband that guilt is only a feeling if your intentions are uncaring, don't feel guilty about doing the right thing. You have to do what you have to do! The best feeling in the world is protecting your Mother even if she hates you for it! (she knows your doing the right thing) They test the ones who care because they know you won't give up on them. Oh and music calms the savage beast!!

Thank you all so much for your help, advice, and compassion! Can't wait to share your comments with my husband. He will be so relieved to get such thoughtful feedback. (I think he's feeling a bit overwhelmed). Thanks again.

SavingGrace you are a good person for not adding to the tension and looking for help. That's the foundation your husband needs right now, someone just to understand and take proactive motives. I wish I had you on my side when I needed help. That's exactly why I am here for you now, as well as others on this site. My first concern in your situation is daily needs. You need a plan for that even if it's temporary until you resolve all the issues. You both sound like warm loving people, so keep in mind whatever she say's is not always what's best for her and no matter how bad she makes you feel, YOU are doing it for her sake and well being. I am telling you this because words never speak louder than actions, and save your strength for the action, your going to need it. With that said it sounds like she needs a mental evaluation. I made this judgement because of the false accusations. She needs a proper diagnosis of her behavior . Once you have that in check you know how to treat her behavior. A neurologist is probably the best Dr. to bring her to. I also suggest that you do not let her know what the plan is, keep her on a need to know basis. It may sound cruel, but your intention is her health and your husbands peace of mind. If there is a mental issue the meds for this need to be taken on a timely routine schedule and may not work overnight, sometimes weeks before you see a difference in behavior. Once mental stability is better she will be easier to deal with. The next step is to have legal papers in order to handle bills and funds on her behalf, such as power of attorney, if not already in order. Than you can organize a plan for care according to finances and care needs. Tell your Husband not to give up and try to keep his cool and not to show negativity Mother's have a way of seeing right through you and know exactly how to get to you even if they can't remember what they had for lunch. In his favor he knows her weaknesses, likes and dislikes too. Instead of trying to get her to agree let her think she's in-charge. For example she say's he's hitting her, tell him to smile and agree and go away from her even if it's a few minutes. She wont stop if she's getting his attention about the subject. I could go on and on. Fill me in and I can help anytime.

It sounds like perhaps part of your MIL's illness is dementia. If her "difficult, uncooperative, oppositional, argumentative" behavior is something new and not just a higher level of a basically abbrasive personality, and she believes her delusions of being abused, then I would suspect some mental decline. This might be something your husband can talk to her doctor about.

I am definitely in favor of elders making their own decisions about where they will live and what risks they are willing to take, when they are in their right minds. But if dementia or other mental illness robs them of the capability of understanding the risks they face, then we must step in and protect them from their own vulnerabilities. It is a very fine line to try to straddle!

I suspect you are right about why Daughter is no longer part of the picture. I doubt that Son can hang in there very long trying to do this single-handedly. Additional care arrangements must be made for your MIL. Perhaps in-home care will be sufficient, supplementing some continued care from your husband. At some point it may be necessary for MIL to be in a professional care setting.

Does someone have POA and medical proxey authority for MIL? Does MIL have income/assets/insurance to pay for additional in-home help? Is she going to need to apply for Medicaid if she needs a care center placement? It is time to consider all the practicalities, and well as the day-to-day care needs.

Good luck to all three of you! (And to the daughter who may be feeling either bitter or like a failure or both.)

Contact her doctor and ask about Home Health Care. They usually have a particular provider they prefer. Caseworker, who is an RN, will come out for an evaluation to determine the kind of assistance needed. They also have social workers who can discuss long term arrangements. Medicare will take care of these charges. This is more than one persosn can handle. Sometimes an outside person is listened to better than a family member. Good luck!

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