A little background information about my situation…four years ago it became clear that my in-laws could no longer care for themselves. MIL had advanced dementia and FIL was showing signs too. He was also becoming increasingly frail physically and having repeated UTIs. After one particularly nasty one which landed him in hospital for a week, we finally convinced him to move (they were living two hours away at the time). He absolutely refused to consider AL so we found a senior condo complex about 20 minutes away from us. It is a very nice place with a la carte services (nurse on site, etc.), as well as some included, such as light housekeeping. I quit my job and was over there usually 4-5 times per week, helping with cooking, cleaning, appointments (FIL has a LOT of them), laundry…the regular stuff.
After about two years of this, MILs dementia progressed to the point where she was becoming violent when sundowning. We begged FIL to let us place her in memory care but he refused. Finally, staff at the condo intervened and insisted that neither he nor she were safe with her there. They told us that they would have to get social services involved if we did not place her. This was enough to finally get FIL to relent. She went into a nice home but unfortunately fell after a few months there and broke her hip. She passed away about a year ago.
While I was caring for them, I was also taking courses for a career change and working part time. I also burned out. Shortly after MIL passed, my husband quit his job and started his own business. The main reason was so that he could be more available to help with his dad (his previous job required 3 hours of commuting per day, minimum).
My MIL had mental health issues before the dementia, but for the most part we got along. It was not fun taking care of her, but doable. FIL, unfortunately, is a different story. I know the word “narcissist” gets thrown around a lot lately, but I really think that if you look it up in the dictionary, you will find a picture of him. He is horribly racist, sexist, and mean. The last time he was hospitalized for a UTI and my husband went to pick up some things from his condo, they called me asking when he’d be back because of how nasty FIL was being to the nurses. He has been telling my husband that he is worthless for his entire life. If my husband backs away from him, he will sob and say he is sorry, then start the whole cycle again.
At this point, he has become so frail that it is difficult for him to walk. If one of us is over there, he will call within an hour of our leaving to demand that we come back. Sometimes because he is afraid of falling, other times because he wants a glass of water.
He is completely dependent on us. He really can’t do anything for himself any more. His dementia, however, is at a stage where he can usually “showtime” and seem lucid around doctors, etc. Around us, he often seems lucid as well, but other times he says that he’s trapped in a foreign country and can’t find his passport.
Here’s the thing…his doctor states that he has the right to make his own decisions about how to live his life since he is not yet incompetent. I do understand that. However, I don’t understand why he has the right to decide how we live OUR lives. He has completely consumed us and it will only get worse. He does not care what this is doing to us. He states that it is our duty to care for him, even though he never took part in caring for his parents. He will never agree to go into nursing care, which the nurse at his condo agrees is where he should be. Living with us is out of the question, even though that is now what he states that he wants. I do not like this man and if he moves in here, I know he will never leave and he will destroy my marriage. Most importantly, I also have a ten year old son who deserves to have a childhood.
I suppose my question is this: why do the rights of the caregiver matter so little? I believe that elders should be treated with respect, certainly, but not at the expense of others. I think that you get one life: your own. No-one has the right to lay claim on the lives of others, parent or not. Thanks for letting me vent.