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My husband and I have lived in the same town as his parents for decades. When our children were young, they helped care for our children as both my husband and I worked. None of my husband's siblings (older brother, sister and younger sister) live nearby. Flash forward decades...in December of 2018, my 93 year old father-in-law and 88 year old mother-in-law still lived in their own home and were primarily self-sufficient because of my father-in-law. He basically was my mother-in-law's caregiver for the past three to four years. My MIL suffers from numerous health issues, COPD, arthritis, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, impaired hearing, congestive heart failure, anxiety and depression. Her vision has deteriorated to the point that she does not see well. Her lifelong love of reading lost as well. In late November 2018, my FIL was diagnosed with cancer and passed two-weeks later. Following his death, we, as a family, had to make difficult decisions as to the care of my MIL. We sold my in-laws longtime home and most belongings and moved my MIL into an assisted living facility in January 2019. There were some difficult adjustment "pains", but we were pleasantly pleased at how well my MIL adjusted and adapted. Much of the everyday responsibility (i.e., medical appointments, grocery needs, going to church, etc.) falls upon my husband and I as we are the only local family. My MIL has been hospitalized numerous times since January due to her COPD - one involved a 10 plus day stay at a nursing home for rehab. When hospitalized, we visit daily, (oftentimes, multiple visits per day). Within the last month we have noticed a significant change in my MIL. She is ready to leave this world and doesn't understand why she is still here. She threatened to take pills she had in her room which led to the med staff at the assisted living facility removing all OTC meds from her room. She later stated she would never take her life, she was just looking for attention. Her anxiety can be off the charts but she can turn it on and off like a switch which makes me wonder if it is real or attention seeking. She wants all her children (including me) to call her daily...I flatly told her that I am not calling her everyday (I didn't speak to my own mother on a daily basis). Her older son and daughter do not call daily, but do call regularly. Her youngest daughter does call daily and of late, my MIL either calls my husband or he calls her daily. Most often she is calling my husband multiple times per day and will call me as well but not at the same frequency. Her latest ER visit was basically due to her being "tipsy" (forgive the pun) from her community Wine and Cheese day and she fell off her walker. Fortunately, she was not injured. She tried to rationalize the situation as having been from "getting too much oxygen". I was FURIOUS!!! I could go on and on. My MIL has always been a very "strong" personality. Historically, my MIL can be manipulative and intrusive, particularly with her children. I know her world has been turned upside down, but so has ours. Everything that now happens in her life impacts my husband and I. My husband and I have not really had an opportunity to grieve for his dad as we have been so involved in his mom's care and affairs (my husband is the executor for his dad's estate). I should also note, that my MIL's Pulmonologist suggested palliative care as an option due in part to her frequent ER/hospital visits. My MIL made the decision on her own to utilize palliative care as she fully trusts the doctor. You would think this would be a good and helpful thing, but it seems ever since, my MIL's obsessing, overthinking, anxiety, depression etc. has increased. Yet, I refuse to cater and feed into some of her demands and sometimes feel we are "being played". I do not feel that I am being unreasonable, but do feel badly at times, I have a good relationship with my MIL, but frankly, she is wearing us out! Am I being unrealistic?

My husband tells me all the time how my mother is playing me. Me and everybody else she can get her hands on. She's been to the ER countless times, never for life threatening problems though; vertigo, bad nosebleeds, once for a bunch of black & blues on her arm (I kid you not). My dad was in the hospital for a broken hip and she wasn't getting enough attention so she was making a federal case about her bruises her bruises and her BRUISES to the point where I told her I'd have to take her to ER if she didn't stop. Well, she didn't stop so off to the ER we went. Dad was upstairs and mom was downstairs. The ER doc said to her, pretty much, 'what are you doing here, you have bruises for petesake?' Dad passed in 2015 and mom continues to live in the Assisted Living Facility where they both resided. She continues to have chronic issues that go on and on and ON, and is now in Rehab after a bout with pneumonia. I'm the only child, believe it or not, who's trying (and failing) to care for a chronic complainer who's never happy, never satisfied, never feeling as if 'enough' is done for her by ANYONE. I call her once a day, and now visit once a day in rehab, as I did while she was hospitalized. It really is all too much. TOO. MUCH. I wish I had some great advice for you, because then I would have followed it MYSELF and not be in this predicament! But I can tell to create boundaries and rules, and then do NOT break them. Set up a schedule of when you will call/visit or provide her with a service, and then stick to that schedule. Allow the ALF to do the rest.........that is what they are being PAID to do! I had the head nurse at mom's ALF tell me that EXACT thing, so I'm telling it to you. Let THEM do their jobs with her and try to stay out of it all as much as possible. As far as the ER/hospital/rehab visits go, I really have no idea what can be done to avoid them. Sigh. My mother has chronic vertigo and after the last trip to the Ear/Nose/Throat doc, I told her NO MORE, because they were unable to help her. So now she's wheelchair bound and I'm praying to God that the vertigo is at least reduced as a result, because there is NO cure for it except another trip to the ER and an IV of Valium.

I can go on and on here for days, but I won't. All I will say is that I feel your pain, dear woman, and I'm sorry we're both going thru all of it. Make sure to plan dates with your hubby so the two of you don't get lost in the mother drama and forget about one another. The stress of the situation can destroy the best of marriages. I'm particularly lucky to have THE most patient husband on earth when it comes to caring for my mother, but even HE has his limits!!

Best of luck
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Reply to lealonnie1
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No you are not being unreasonable.

I think that she is having a time adjusting to her new reality and looking for reassurance that she has not been dumped.

I think that there are people in every facility that tells the newbies how there families forced them to move and just never come around or call, true or not. This can fuel anxiety and fear in someone that has just had their lives turned upside down.

Each member of the family needs to do what they feel led to do, call when they choose, visit when they choose and enforce their own boundaries. I understand that you are upset that you feel like she is playing your husband, but he is going to have to set his own boundaries. The only time I would say anything is if it starts impinging on plans the 2 of you had and he is neglecting you for her. Then I would say that boundaries with me are being disregarded and that is not okay. Otherwise he needs to do what he feels led to do.

I am sorry for the loss of your FIL and I pray that your MIL finds her way in her new reality.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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I don't see any problem in a call once a day. Maybe after dinner before bed. By ur husband though. When he goes to hang up say, I will call you this time tomorrow Mom. She really needs to get involved in what is going on at the AL. Not calling you and husband all the time. You should not have to much more than visit. If u visit that day, no need to call. She gets her meds thru the AL. She is fed 3x a day with snacks. If u have opted for it, they do her laundry. All u need to do is get her toiletries and favorite foods. Before it gets too out of hand, tell MIL unless its important what she wants can wait till the daily call. Get her a white board for when she remembers she needs something.

I didn't care for my MIL. I respected her and was always nice to her, but I didn't love her. DH called her every Sunday and each time he would ask me if I wanted to talk to her, I said no, u said it all. Don't u think after a few times of this he would get the hint. No. Kept asking.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Kukinana Jun 6, 2019
Thank you for your reply JoAnn29. I appreciate your feedback. The whiteboard is a good idea. Unfortunately, due to my MILs vision impairment her ability to read and write has declined to the point where it just causes additional anxiety.

I totally understand your feelings toward your MIL. I am also respectful and nice to mine but do not love her like I loved my own parents. The MIL / DIL relationship is so complicated. I know my feelings towards her have changed in the short period of time since my FIL passed. I feel so bad for not having known how much he was dealing with on the homefront with my MIL.
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Unless your husband has an issue with it, why not do what you feel is reasonable and leave it at that? He can respond differently, if he chooses.

If she's still competent, she can decide if she wants Palliative Care. It might avoid some trips to the ER. If she's competent, there's no need to show up at the ER at all hours of the night. She can authorize her own medical treatment. People who suffer with anxiety, obsessions, attention seeking, etc. really never get enough of what they are searching for. So, it's a vicious cycle. You can keep playing or just get off and let things be. I'm not sure what you feel bad about. You haven't done anything wrong. When, I'm the long suffering, giving, attentive, caring person, I have no reason to feel bad. But, I will say that mental illness is a disease and not really a moral issue, so, I try not to assign blame to those who manipulate, even if their complaints are of a mixed nature. (Granted the patient also has actual illness, like COPD. But, you do have to protect your own mental state. To me, that's very realistic. ( I will say that I wouldn't fault anyone for indulging in the wine and cheese spread though.)

Repeated calling can be a signal of more than insistence. Some people start forgetting they already called. To me, it's not rude to tell a person, I'm at work, in meeting, driving, etc. and not available during the day. Leave a message and I will call you when I can. Then do it on your own schedule.
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Reply to Sunnygirl1
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Kukinana Jun 6, 2019
Thanks for your reply Sunygirl1. My husband is understanding of me doing what I feel is reasonable...just hope it doesn't create a rift between us at some point. I often feel he is being "played" and it ticks me off.

You are so right about those who suffer anxiety, obsessions, attention seeking...it IS never enough and a vicious cycle. I don't feel bad as the one giving attention, etc...just getting to a point where I know there will have to be some changes...for my own physical and mental health. Thanks again for your input...much appreciated!
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I don't think you are being unrealistic - this has been a chaotic time for all of you. Sounds like she is still adjusting to her new situation. She has very little that she is in control of, so trying to get all of you to attend to her (phone calls, visits, etc.) is all that she can still orchestrate. All she has is time on her hands now, and so overthinking and obsessing is going to get worse I would fear. If she has always been intrusive and manipulative, this is not new - just getting worse because she has one less person to point it at, after her husband passing.

Can you and hubby step back some? Let her know you love her of course, but that you have things that need attended to, and simply can not be there every day. Maybe set one evening to be there for an hour and visit after dinner, or Sunday afternoon when you bring her home from church? -- then she can look forward and know that this will be a good time with all of you?

If you know that the staff will alert you when something important happens, can you let her phone calls go to voicemail? With my MIL, when she doesn't get action from one family member, she moves down the list and calls the next. Problem is, then there are three or four people all moving their schedule to get to the pharmacy and pick up an RX or some other errand that can really wait a day or two. But her world is so small, and she has this one task to obsess over, so she does.

In our case, MIL accidentally revealed that she does "Play" us -- (forgets important things on purpose, requiring another trip to town the next day, etc.) Once we found out, we all make a better effort to set those boundaries and let her know that, for example, I WILL go pick up the milk you forgot when we were out yesterday -- but I will do it on my way home from work, I will not be taking you to town to do it, or I WILL go get that RX, but I know you still have 5 pills, so I will do it this weekend when I am planning to be at the pharmacy for my needs.

No matter what you do, she'll probably be mad and not feel it is enough -- but try to draw some lines in the sand that work for your family. I've seen the book "Boundries" by Dr. Henry Cloud I think, recommended many times, and that might be a good resource for you. Best of luck, it's a tough road!
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Reply to calicokat
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Kukinana Jun 6, 2019
Thank you for your reply calicokat. My husband and I have thought about/or implemented some of the same things you suggested but good to know an uninvolved party sees and feels the same things. Can't tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts and response.

Appreciate the book suggestion too...I'll look into that as well. Thanks again!
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No you aren’t being unrealistic. She was placed in assisted living for a reason. You do not have to call her every day. You don’t have to be fully involved in her care anymore. If her anxiety and depression has gotten worse, that what I would do is strongly encourage your husband to get that addressed by her doctor. But other than that, it is fine for your to step back and uninvolve yourself, she is fine where she is at. If there is a problem, her children can take care of it.
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