I need advice my mother-in-law is 90 and as hardheaded as a kid.

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My husband and I are at wits end. My father-in-law passed away in Feb of last year. We have found out the hard way that he was the one to keep both of Mom's feet on the floor and was the one who made the decisions. Mom is 90 and is sound of mind I would say. She pays all her own bills, keeps her checking account balanced and still drives. You would think she was in her 70's. But....her body is wearing out. She has surgery scheduled for a knee replacement. My husband is retired and goes with her to her appointments. He went with her when she talked to the surgeon and scheduled her surgery. The surgeon told her that he would do the knee but reminded her that she was 90 and might not even make it through surgery or might end up in a wheel chair if she couldn't do the PT afterwards. He suggested she not do it. But....she thinks that she's going to fly through this and have both her hips done after that. Not sure how she didn't hear the surgeon say he would not do her hip replacements.


She lives at home and has fallen several times. She doesn't listen to anything said to her and is doing things that we have asked her not do, which has resulted in her falling. And as far as making a decision, she can't do it. One day she's selling her house and renting an apartment, the next she's moving into the same place her sister is, then she's going to buy a small house....it's never ending and we don't know what to do. She lives in a ranch house, but it has a finished basement and she is always going downstairs even though we've asked her not to. I'm afraid that she will fall down the stairs and who knows what might happen.


My husband is an only child. He isn't the type of person to just tell her that she needs to do such and such. He is wanting her to make the decision and she can't do it. I know there are others out there in the same circumstances that we are and would like to hear from them.

8 Comments

Make it clear to both of them that she is NOT moving into your home after she fails to progress in rehab. Tell both of them to pick out a nursing home. The next step is her primary has to do some pre-testing and certify she is healthy enough for surgery. Hopefully he won't do that.
I can sympathize with you and your husband. Some older people think that if they can have a certain procedure or if they take a certain pill, then they will be 40 again. They don't really grasp that their bodies are wearing down. Your MIL sounds like she may feel that way. Since she is still competent, all you can do is try to talk to her and steer her in the right direction. She may not listen. It may be that a crisis has to happen first. I hope that it is not something that is very bad. If something does happen, I hope she'll consider going into a safer facility so you won't have to worry as much.
I don't want to diminish your concern. I think your MIL is doing great considering she recently lost her husband and is in pain with her knee and hips. Imagine having to decide on new living arrangements after having shared those type decisions for many years with her spouse. I've never had to do that but have seen many recent widows who rushed to make decisions and later felt they moved too fast. Perhaps she's trying out the different places mentally and then realizing there are pros and cons? You and her son are understandably anxious to care for your MIL in FIL's absence but she is obviously still functioning appropriately. A 90 year old who pays her bills and balances her own checkbook is still capable to weigh pros and cons. After all her best judgment has gotten her to a lively 90. You are frightened for her hip surgery. Let her get through the first one. I've had two family members, one in her 70s another in her 90's who have had knee surgery and felt it was the only thing they could do and felt great having done so. In Fact for the 93 yr old it was a second knee surgery. Have some very detailed conversations with her and your husband. Does she have a DNR? An updated will? Does your husband have her DPOA for medical and financial ! Where would she want to have her rehab? Have she and your husband visited it to be sure it offers the services she will need and is a place she wants to be and takes her insurance? Is she in good physical shape now ? Some say it's good to get a round of pt before the surgery to be stronger for rehab afterwards ) and give her an idea of what is to come). Her dr shouldn't object to that and can order it. And talk to her about what's in the basement that keeps her going down there and have it moved upstairs for her. One last suggestion. Know that the anesthesia can affect her mentally. Be sure to ask your husband to talk to the anesthesiologist in detail before the surgery and if she comes out confused give her plenty of time to recover before deciding she has dementia. If the plan is for her to go back to her home after rehab then make sure she gets ongoing rehab at home and sign her up for home health. You can research home Healths ahead of time also. Medicare pays for this. You might also look for a housekeeper to come in and help her with her cleaning and laundry and meals for awhile. Tell her it will help with the hip surgeries later to have someone onboard beforehand. I know it's scary but you can't sit her up on a shelf. She's got the rest of her life to live and sounds like she is looking forward to it. People of all ages can have surgeries go wrong. Surgery is always a risk for anyone. More so at 90 no doubt.
Thank you all for your answers. It's very helpful to hear other peoples experiences and comments.
Let us know how it goes. We learn from one another.
Let us know how it goes. We learn from one another.
You don't do knee replacement surgery purely because your patient will survive the operation. You do it because her knee is causing her so much pain and immobility that the benefit to her health and wellbeing of replacing her knee joint outweighs the considerable risks of surgery.

Your MIL is driving, and scampering up and down the steps to her basement. What does she think she's going to do once she's got the new knee, learn to ski-jump?

Can your husband ask for a second opinion?
Melsbrat, I would ask the knee surgeon about the process where instead of surgery, there is this gel that can be shot into the knee.   I believe it is good for a few months and has to be repeated.   I would go that route first.   If the surgeon isn't familiar with that, look for an orthopedic surgeon who is.

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