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I'm curious how others have dealt with a similar situation. My wife is disabled with mild to moderate dementia, long-term (49 years) type 1 diabetes, and a whole host of other physical and neurological ailments. We are both 70 years old. I'm in good health and have been her caregiver for more than a decade. Her health situation is slowly, but inevitably deteriorating. She had a serious fall last year resulting in bleeding inside her skull, and while I did all the right things (ER, hospital, doctors, numerous safety devices post-fall, post-hospital rehab, etc.), I've been mercilessly criticized by her sons (one in particular), at the time and post-fall for not looking after their mom properly.


This even happened in the ER itself when I notified them of her location and of what had happened. Note that neither son has ever visited more than once a year during our 25 year marriage even though they live under an hour away. (One doesn't even know the way here without me providing directions.) Once when their mother was in a physical rehab facility for 3 months, they never once even visited her. My own children (3 of whom are local) love my wife and help frequently. Until the falling incident, while I was disappointed in their lack of support, I'd never exchanged even a cross word with the stepsons. My wife won't say anything to her sons to let them know they are hurting her and me. She just can't bring herself to do that. I've tried several times to mend things with them, but it's been completely fruitless. So now I just choose to avoid as much contact as possible. I'm curious what others may have done in a similar situation.

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This is called a “write-off”. They are her sons in name only. It sounds like your children are more her’s than her birth children. Her sons most likely feed off each other. Strength in numbers and all that. You have extended yourself to make peace with and get them involved with their mom. It hasn’t been successful. You’ve gotten zero cooperation from them or from your wife. Stop trying and concentrate on your wife. If you have contact with them via text or email, give weekly reports on their mother’s condition but don’t expect answers. Ignore any criticism. If an answer contains denigrating remarks, immediately delete it. If you happen to speak with them on the phone, if the conversation turns to criticism, you have something on the stove that suddenly needs your attention. Hang up. These “children” deserve no more than that. Treat them like the annoying housefly that right now is buzzing around my head and swat them away.
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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jacobsonbob Sep 15, 2018
No, it would be good to keep the negative emails somewhere as a "record" of how they treated PeterP. Some day he may want or need evidence of their behavior.
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They probably never wanted their mom to marry you and are still harboring resentment. I agree with all the posts above that tell you to consider the source. I do have one warning. If she has her own money, keep accurate records. When she passes they could come after you. Keep all records. I have seen some genuinely mean hateful people in this world.

Hugs to you and your wife. Remember, to take some time for yourself.
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Reply to MaryKathleen
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You tried to include your stepsons into your wife's life. Obviously they don't want anything more than the yearly visit. Your wife sees the differences between your kids and hers. She will rationalize that your kids are there for her because they live closer. She will accept her sons decision to visit her once a year. She doesn't want to rock the boat by asking to see them more - because they may decide to not visit next time. She knows. She sees. And she doesn't want to face the reality that your kids care for her more than her own kids. It's time to back off. The stepsons made it obvious that they are happy for the yearly visit - no matter what happens to their mother.

I agree that you should still update them by email preferably of their mom's status. If ever a time they decide to accuse you of hiding things about their mother's health, you have the email trails as proof that you did tell them.

As for the one who constantly criticizes you.... As long as your family, friends and the medical community knows that you've been doing your best, then take note of their opinions... For years, people have criticized me for not doing more for my mom. I cried a lot because I paid attention to their opinions.... I tell you this much, when my bedridden dad (5 years from stroke) was in the ER, the ER doctor was amazed how his whole body's skin was in very good condition. No rashes, no bedsores. She was very impressed with me. So, as long as those people important to you think you're doing a good job, then ignore the steps.
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PeterP Sep 15, 2018
Thanks for the information. It is helpful to me. My wife's primary doctor and her brother have both told me they are fully aware of the good care I provide for my wife. Your note confirms to me that I'm doing the right stuff and that the stepsons have just decided to not be involved and have strong feelings of guilt. Thank you.
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My brother lives in VA and I live in FL. I took care of my late parents. Mind you, I have severe cerebral palsy. It was very hard to take care of them and especially when I had to make the decisions for them. My brother is 13 yrs. older than me. He has a family and a job in VA. He used to come down to see us about once a year. However, when our parents have gotten worse, he still visited once a year because of his job. However, he did call my parents once or twice a month to check on them. Still I felt like he did not come as often as he should when he knew that it was at the end of our parents' lives. My mom called my brother about 5 days before she passed away and told him that she needed him. So, my brother came and visited, but he arrived too late and he really felt bad about it.

So, continue helping your wife and don’t worry about her sons. What is goes around comes around to hunt your step sons. Think about hiring an in-home agency and hiring an extra caregiver because since you’re in 70s, you’re going to get worn out quicker than you think.
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Reply to Madtoe
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Dear Peter, I live in Europe, am active as a caregiver to caregivers and a longtime caregiver myself. Here we would say Chapeau, I take my hat off for you. Your story sounds very familiar, you hear these sad stories everywhere. So across the ocean... do not spend to much energy to this. I know from experience this non nuanced criticism hurts, it is unfair. Try to not let it get to you, it is hard, yet practice makes perfect. People tend to throw accusations in order to justify their (bad) behaviour. Take good care. Brussels, elena.
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PeterP Sep 15, 2018
Thank you Elena. It's been a difficult year. I appreciate the feedback. Nearly everyone has been quite supportive. Most importantly, my wife and I are happy with each other and the support that is provided.
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Peter P ... Your stepsons bad behaviour is very disappointing especially when you don't deserve that. I find it handy to remember it is THEIR bad behaviour not yours and they don't define who you are. I think you are wise to avoid much contact and I was pleased to read you have your 3 children nearby who do give support you and your wife. You are doing a what is sometimes a difficult job with love. Keep those who show their love and support close and keep distance from the troublemakers.
Wishing you and your wife the best.
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Peter, they are psychologically projecting their own feelings onto you. Don’t buy into it - safeguard your mental health.
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Personally, I would have no contact with them. If you get a phone call and they want to know how their mom is, either hand her the phone to talk with them or you tell them if they want to know then come and see her. You are through being the middle man. They are not worth the stress or effort. If they text or email you, I would respond the same way. I wouldn’t give them any info unless they were standing in front of you and your wife. If your wife wants to speak with them, dial the number and hand her the phone. To me this is elder abuse on their part. Sorry if I sound harsh.
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PeterP Sep 15, 2018
You do not sound harsh at all. If one of them calls, I screen the call and then let my wife know they called so she can call back. I just can't handle hearing their voices. But I don't want to stand in the way of their communicating with their mom. Thank you for your support.
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Hi Peter P.,
By now you've realized that the best offer you will get from your stepsons is advice. Your wife is unable to voice her disappointment, and you are not obligated to them, other than trying to remain civil. These part-time sons, or perhaps, seasonal family members, ALWAYS know what to say. Their words can be hurtful. So, you can calmly tell them they have succeeded in that respect, however, when it comes to your wife, actions, not words, are helpful. I had two brothers, whom I loved, but didn't like...the younger one has since, found reality. The stepsons have no say, unless their mother's care is part of their day. If their hands ever had to provide ANY personal care for a full 24 hours, they wouldn't be so judgemental. I'm guessing that they feel as if they're not going to inherit anything, so, why should they pretend to care? You and your wife can honor those feelings by leaving them some sound advice,"take care of your elders".
Remember, you are taking care of your wife, they are not taking care of their mother. My parents are gone now, but I sleep well...my brothers will never be able to make amends. Their regrets are already made with their indifference.
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Reply to aloneincare
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PeterP Sep 15, 2018
Once when I left my wife in the care of one son while I took a much needed break (before the falling incident last year) I told him all he needed to do was three things: make sure she didn't go up and down stairs alone; make sure she took her medications; and make sure she tested her blood sugar and took her insulin. His answer to me was that "he wasn't going to be her nursemaid." I've never left her with him again.
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I have a difficulty with a daughter, and the conclusion my husband and I have come to is that we are better off with as little contact as possible. When I think about it, it stresses me out big time, and the stress correlates with illness even when you can't pinpoint causation. Your wife may be doing the right thing by avoiding a confrontation. I'd suggest one snail mail letter saying 'please let me know if you would like any information, have any suggestions for her care, or are planning to visit', and just leave it at that. I say snail mail, because emails do get swamped and somehow they don't pack the punch (at the time or as evidence) as a copy of a signed dated letter. Then try not to talk about them or think of them. Heal your hearts, don't pick at the wound.
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PeterP Sep 15, 2018
Hi Margaret, Thnaks for your reply. I've tried the snail mail reply three separate times. It has not helped. The one response I got from the most antagonistic of the sons was that "he was in a good place and wanted to keep it that way." I took that to mean he's washed his hands of things and was done with me. He also finish by telling me "he just didn't like me." Not much to say versus a reply like that. The gist I'm getting from most of the replies here (which I do very much appreciate) is to just ignore the step sons, but cover my butt. So noted.
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