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My Father in law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year ago and he is beginning to show obvious signs of decline. My mother in law is doing a great job taking care of him and keeping up the house, even driving the two of them around to run errands and keep appointments, but she reports that she now has to give him very detailed directions to complete even the simplest tasks. She simply can’t keep this up. She’s exhausted and emotional. My husband helps them out fairly often but I fear it’s not enough. He himself is under a lot of stress between work, our family, and 2 elder households to be concerned about. There is very little communication happening among the family members (on both sides) and my husband doesn’t even like to discuss these things with me. No one seems to have a plan. I’m caring for my own family (I have two kids still at home) and spending a lot of time helping my elderly mother who moved across the country to be with me so I feel I shouldn’t have to take care of my in-laws as well. How do I get the family to get together to make a plan? I suggested a meeting with all three siblings when everyone was together last year but it just never came together. I might add that there is little money left so a nice assisted care facility is out of the question. Has anyone here experienced this type of situation? If so what do you suggest?

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Eyerishlass is right. Decades ago when my FIL had Parkinson’s, no one did anything. Dad fell, his sons would get the call to come pick him up and, even if he had injured himself and was bleeding, Mom refused to call an ambulance. They lived in a huge house with a huge lot. We kids had to do all the gardening. Finally, when Dad fell outside once, my son ( age 10) found him lying in the garage, semiconscious and bleeding from a head wound. He ran in the house and called 911. The family had to do something then. It was obvious that a 10 year old boy had more sense than the adults. Dad was in a facility in a month.

Anything you do will have to go through your husband. Unfortunately, he “outranks” you in his family. Start the discussion with him first.
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If you, as the daughter-in-law, become the ringleader/manager/coordinator, you might be pulled into your in-law's situation more than you'd like to or need to be. Your husband or one of his siblings needs to take the reins and get some things figured out. You can encourage your husband but you can't make him do anything he doesn't want to do. Right now it sounds as if you're more concerned than your husband's family. That's a slippery slope.

Encourage your husband to meet with his siblings to discuss their parents. Even communicating by email would be better than nothing. Sometimes, in families who don't really seem to know what to do, a decision gets made for them when there's a crisis. Also, many families who are stuck and don't know what to do intentionally wait for a crisis to see which way the wind will blow. A crisis could be an illness or a fall, anything that brings the person to the ER where there is help.

So doing nothing is an option. Waiting to see what will happen.
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Yippy, this is for your husband and his sibs to work out. If they choose not to - or they cannot work together - they won’t be the first family that rolled like that.

A caution for you: When you express concern about MIL and FIL, make sure your speech is peppered with “you, they, them.” Make a deliberate effort to NOT say “I” or “we.”

I know you care about MIL and FIL, and you hate to see them struggle like this. But you are not in a position to take this on. Keep your boundaries firm.

Can you read between the lines with your husband? Many a “good son” earns such status by burdening his wife with the nitty-gritty caregiving of his parents. It starts with an errand here and a bandage change there....then it mushrooms.

Q: Is there a chance it will go that way for you?
A: Yes. “Mission creep” is real. And only you can stop it.

Even if you do not get these vibes from your husband now, be pro-active. Remember - “you, they, them.”

Make a few common sense suggestions That Do Not Involve You Or Your House, then get back to your originally scheduled programming.

I know I’m making a lot of assumptions here. But it’s very common for an adult son to “deal with” his aging parents by using his wife as his human shield and his sin-eater.

I get the impression you don’t want this fate for yourself. And that’s OK. (((big hugs)))
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Does your MIL talk to you but not her kids? She needs to talk to her kids. She needs to make them realize what is going on with their father so there r no surprises later. You have your own hands full. Your Mom is your priority. Something will happen with FIL and thats when the children may finally realize Mom needs help. If MIL cries on your shoulder, be sympathetic but tell her she needs to tell her kids what she has told you.
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She doesn’t talk to me exclusively, she tells all of the kids. I think the inaction is due to not being able to face the stress; no one wants to take it on. What about bringing in an elder care consultant? Good idea or no?
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We were dealing with a similar situation. Denial is the family's coping mechanism. They did allow the assistance of an Aging Life Specialist which was somewhat helpful in getting ready for a Medicaid application. They are not rich people but there were steps they could take to protect the well spouse and so they did those. The Aging Life Specialist was not cheap- I won't say expensive because she has saved them much more money than she cost- but there was an outlay of money that might be a hurdle for your in-laws.

I agree with Eyerishlass. You can encourage them to plan. Keep your boundaries where you want them, though. I found my "help" as an in-law was really not appreciated. It's hard to watch people you care about struggle. But you can only do what you can do. You have your own mom and your children. You can't be the point person for this situation too.
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Wow Thank you all so much for taking the time to answer. I wish I had signed on to this site a long time ago because ive been wrestling with this for quite some time. I’ll heed the sound and consistent advice from all of you, know my boundaries and lovingly encourage my husband to take action. Thank you.
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rocketjcat Dec 2018
My only suggestion is to perhaps couch the help needed in terms of helping your MIL. Perhaps they will have more sympathy for her exhaustion and struggles, without having to deal with/accept/acknowledge FILs issues. The end result will be the same.
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I think that I'm confused as to what getting the family together will solve. Do you envision that other family members will realize dad's progression and suddenly volunteer to help with his care? Even if that happened, could they care for him around the clock? I don't know his status, but, one of the more exhausting things about caring for a person who has dementia in the home is the constant supervision, repeating, rambling, questions, confusion, direction, etc. It's exhausting and even if another person is in the house to help, that behavior can be exhausting.

And, how would the group help with decisions if no one has legal authority? Has someone been appointed Durable POA or healthcare POA? Are they still able to do it? I might see if they can do that so someone could step in, do the research, make the decisions and keep the others posted.
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Yes, been there. I just kept telling husband that I didn't want him to do more than he was able, same for his mom and brother, but that I couldn't tell them what to do--not that I could "tell" him, either, but he would usually listen to reason.

Your husband has responsibilities to the family he chose to make, which was something that also weighed on my husband's mind. Even though his kids were grown, he wanted to spend time with them, too. I really made a point to not be demanding of his time for my needs or anything I could handle myself, but I never mentioned that to him.

I researched options for his dad's care, sometimes printing out articles to give the family. I called home care agencies and arranged for prospective visits, but Mom declined. Since Mom and brother didn't want to use hired help, I pointed out to my husband that the help he was wearing himself out to provide could be obtained elsewhere, and that was his mom's and brother's problem if they didn't want it.

All this helped very little. They were all exhausted and not inclined or able to be reasonable, perhaps as a result of exhaustion, or from whatever sense of duty and responsibility was making them crazy. But, my husband did take some time off for himself without as much guilt about it.

The solution, of sorts, came when Mom needed surgery. So Dad had to go to a facility "for respite," which became a permanent placement. I jumped on board at that time to promote the long-term stay, help with Medicaid application, etc.

So, as others often say, sometimes it takes a crisis. My mantra is to be prepared.

My advice to you--suggest that Mom hires help or starts looking at outside placement. Don't take on responsibilities for them that YOU don't WANT to do, especially since you have your own parent to look after. Don't nag him, but show him the options that are available. If your husband starts moving in a direction that looks good to you, be very supportive, even helping if you can by doing research, etc.

You might try a group email or a Christmas letter to his siblings where you mention that Mom needs a lot more help; but be prepared to be disappointed. Then you can be pleasantly surprised if any good comes of it.

And, by the way, what are the "two elder households" your husband is concerned about? If he's doing stuff for your mom, you need to get that taken care of elsewhere unless you want to take on equivalent care for his parents.

I wish I could tell you where the magic wand is available to fix this, but this is all I've got.
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When I say that all three siblings are in denial, I am including my husband. maybe he figures if he starts talking about a plan, he will be expected to execute it. I went over to my moms to help her last night and asked my husband to touch base with his folks. His response was “why”? When we’ve had conversations about possibly moving my mom in with us (another thread) I’ve told him more than once that I wouldn’t want to make a move without making sure his folks were taken care of and had a plan in place. (Their situation is far more of a concern, given his father’s diagnosis and their lack of money) But he won’t have the conversation with them. He loves his parents and in the past he has been very happy to accommodated them, sometimes more often that he should have, from my perspective. I just don’t understand it. He will not make a move.
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Unfortunately many time it takes a crisis to open eyes of loved ones. Emotions are involved making it less painful if ignored.

I would seek out a professional care manager in your area. The area aging agency is a government subsidized program that can help as well.
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MIL is the role model for burn-out. 
First of all, in fantasyland in marriage everyone is one big family, i.e. you would help your mil and hubby would help with your parents as needed too...

Since your husband sounds like it's not too accepting of any outside ideas it makes it tough.

You might find it helpful to connect with a local Alzheimer's Assn to see what they offer in educational programming and support groups.  Getting your husband or anyone in his family there is another matter.  They may have caseworkers to help in individual situations.  Also contact the local Area Agency On Aging which all states have.  There may be many resources that allow you to have assets so that your mil could get some assistance and help relieve her of the burden.  She too needs to gain an understanding of the disease and how it works, and possibly learn to lower her expectations of what her husband can do.  Maybe a day program.  Maybe meals on wheels so she doesn't have to worry about that.  Would your own mother be able to be of some company or help?  Everyone wants to feel needed.
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