I have posted on this forum several times and am really feeling at a loss about how to make what feels like an impossible situation tenable. Recently I have been extremely down about my 90-year-old mother-in-law who has been living with us for the past three years. She moved here from France and my husband is an only son. She does not speak English; we live in a small town where it's hard to find people who speak French to help in caregiving or provide us much needed respite. Also, she does not qualify for Medicare and we cannot afford to put her in an AL/nursing home.

She has dementia, is legally blind (macular degeneration), has significant hearing loss, has congestive heart failure and according to her cardiologist, she should be in hospice by now. But she is quite a hardy and sturdy woman who has smoked for 70 years. She shows no signs of distress.

For the last three years, I have put up with her smoking (even though she smokes outside, a day doesn't go by that I don't smell cigarettes; it is absorbed in everything and I hate it), her angry outbursts about others stealing her personal items, her delusions about constant noises, chronic complaints about her health, ranging from itchy skin to doctors who "ruined" her eyes. She also hovers over me and tells me how to wash the floor or prepare a dish. I get this sense that she wants to be the woman of the house. More than a couple of times she has almost knocked me over trying to get to the sink while I am loading the dishwasher. My patience is wearing thin, and whereas before I would smile and say nothing, now I let her know that I am not happy.

I have officially reached my limit of what I can handle. People tell me that I am such a kind person, but I feel that I have reached a saturation point. I feel angry, bitter, and resent that my friends can just pick up whenever they want. I feel that I am tethered to this woman, a woman who by the way was never very nice to me and made my life as a young married woman quite miserable. She never cut the apron strings from my husband and he feels a tremendous obligation to take care of her.

I can't help but feel that the stress from her presence in my home is taking years off of my life. I had a serious brain injury 8 years ago, that has left me with chronic 24/7 headaches and cognitive impairment. I have been unemployed over the last year, so that has left me in the position of being home with MIL. I feel sleep deprived because at night she is often agitated... and the next morning usually starts with an angry outburst about losing something that always reappears. One night recently after she was particularly agitated, I felt mini-shocks as I lay my head on the pillow at bedtime, it almost felt seizure-like. I will have it checked out soon by my neurologist.

So the conversations with hubby usually go like this. That I am just complaining and not coming up with solutions that can make the situation better. That MIL returning to France or moving out is not an option. He has even so much as said to me if someone has to go, it's got to be me. Once he even told me that I should suck it up. I am considering finding an inexpensive short-term rental in a nearby town for about a month so I can get my health and sanity back. I am so snippy and snappy lately that I do not feel that I am doing anyone justice. In the past, I have gotten away for a couple of nights by myself, but I don't feel that's enough of a break for the level of exhaustion I am experiencing. My husband truly sees my nerves are shot and that I am not myself; he is supportive if I take off for a while.

Everyday I tell myself that I can handle this, but the truth is it's much bigger than I can handle. And I guess it's finally okay to express these emotions and somehow find a path to feeling less stuck instead of just hoping that I can muddle through. If anyone has inspiration, I could sure use some now. Thanks for listening and caring.

So sorry you are in such a difficult situation. I think you're right in getting away for a good long break. My care giving situation has never been as intense as yours but I too have felt exhaustion and backed into a corner with no good choices as I helped my Mom care for my Dad with vascular dementia while working 50 hours a week in a high pressure job and also caring for 2 young children. I took a 2 day break. Checked into a local hotel with a big whirlpool tub, slept without interruption or listening for someone needing me, walked to a couple of restaurants for some good meals. It made a tremendous difference for me!

Many extended stay hotels are available at a weekly or monthly rate with a kitchenette or full kitchen and on-site laundry. Check out some Healthy Choice Simply Steamers frozen dinners - they're good and not loaded with salt - so you can have some good effortless meals. Don't put off seeing the doctor either - you must take care of yourself.

Going forward you may need to take a break outside the home on a more scheduled basis - maybe 1 day a week? Do you have any family or friends you could rotate through staying over once a month or so? The social contact might be as good as getting a full night's+ sleep.

One suggestion for finding French speaking respite care givers: consider looking for a college with a French language or literature program - students may need the work and might consider MIL's native French speech a good learning opportunity.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to TNtechie

Do you have your own source of income or can you access enough money to go to a hotel that rents suites by the week or month? Your husband needs to be taught a lesson. He is insensitive and boorish. He needs to be left alone with his mother for a while, even if it involves time off from a job if he is working. These two are using and abusing you and you are very accepting of their treatment. When you are done with your meal, I would just sit back and say, “Alright, Mother. Charger le-lave-vaisselle.” (Load the dishwasher) It concerns me that she may be smoking in bed at night. That’s a tragedy waiting to happen.

You can only be used if you let yourself be. Your husband is not your master. Lincoln freed the slaves. Even if she did qualify for help, your husband wouldn’t put her in a facility since he seems to think you’re the problem. So take a little unannounced vacay. Good luck.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to Ahmijoy

Hi Sunnygirl1, Thanks for your very kind and thoughtful message. MIL was hospitalized for congestive heart failure/ fluid build up about 5 months ago. The doctor increased the dosage of duiretics and that seems to have done the trick, at least for now. She does not appear to be out of breath, though she had quite some difficulty breathing at that time. To give you an example of why I say she is tough and sturdy, she brings in heavy boxes from Amazon when they get dropped at the doorstep. It just blows me away.

I am pretty sure that she has to be a resident in the U.S. for 5 years to qualify for Medicaid as well as Medicare. She has health coverage under Covered California/ACA. My family lives on the East Coast, and my dad is also challenging in similar ways to my MIL, but he has the financial resources to have an aide who comes to take care of him during the day. He lives in his own place, not with my siblings.

I think my husband would work more from home if I took off. We have contacted health care agencies and geriatric specialists but the problem always comes down to language issues. He realizes that we have taken on more than we can handle, but it seems that neither of us have been able to generate many options for outside help. We took MIL to a local adult daycare and she got up and walked out after 5 minutes. She had no interest in attending.

You are a gem - I really appreciate your insights.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to sorryselma

I do feel for you that you are in this situation. It has to be so exhausting and frustrating. One thing that I wonder is how your MIL can be so hearty is she's 90 years old and has congestive heart failure and has smoked for 70 years. Over the last year I have seen 3 women who were heavy smokers or had been in the past, and who appeared otherwise healthy, die from sudden cardiac arrest. If the doctor thinks that she is ready for Hospice, then I would explore it. He must think she will not live more than 6 months, if she continues to progress the way she is.

Have you applied her for Medicaid? This is different from Medicare. I'm not sure of her immigration status and if that matters for purposes of Medicaid. But, I would contact your local social services and try to find help for her. Do you think that your husband would accept help for her? He doesn't sound very sensitive to your needs. How would he care for his mother if you left him? Do you have family that you could go to and have them help care for you? It sounds like you have your own health issues. You're smart to recognize what is reasonable and that you and she both need help.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Sunnygirl1

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter