I am new to this forum so forgive me if this is the wrong way to ask follow-up questions. (I posted last week about how we recently moved to a new state and suggested to my husband’s 78-year-old mother that she might move in for a while so she could save a couple hundred on rent and still be close to us, as we are her only family and she seemed to be having money problems. That post has more context about how she quit her job and broke her subsidized lease immediately, forcing us to bring her in before we had even gotten unpacked and settled, and then we learned she lied to us about her income.)

This week I was able to get her a doctor’s appointment, get her car insurance lowered by more than half, and insist that she give us $500 toward shared living expenses. The amount agreed upon originally was $600 plus a share of individual household bills (electric, water, etc), and we understood that she would buy her own gas, groceries, car expenses, etc, but since she lied to us (either purposely or due to cognitive difficulties, we don’t know which), it now seems that taking this $500 from her is already too much, and we are left paying for all her food and daily needs. As I mentioned in my post, she had been working fulltime and had an active social life, and we assumed that would be the case here, but since she got here she has proclaimed herself unable to work or manage money and wants to be supported. She stays in the house with me 24/7 and I am beside myself.

My husband is so beyond fed up with her that he isn’t even acting like himself. He comes home and, like me, pretty much hides in our room. It’s difficult because we are so frustrated with the situation but we also don’t want to lose our tempers with her. I tried having a talk with her this week and told her we need to establish a budget for her so she can put some money aside for her own place, and I basically told her this is going to be limited to one year. She got upset and said she never would have gotten rid of “all her stuff” (honestly, she just donated a few pieces of cheap furniture that didn’t make sense to rent a bigger truck for) if we were “just going to put her out in a year.” I was shocked to learn that she honestly did think she was moving in with us for the rest of her life (we are still a relatively young family; I’m 35, hubby is 42, daughter is 9). We just don’t know if this is manipulation or if she completely misunderstood the plan due to early dementia or something. Somehow we are the bad guys in this. She does not see this as us helping her... she feels that we are somehow taking advantage of her by making her contribute $500 a month. She is also walking around the house making passive aggressive comments about how the house is not unpacked and done yet (she apparently feels I’m being lazy). I’ve asked her to chip in by doing the many loads of laundry we have to sort and either hang or donate, and she seems very resentful of this. We took her to a breakfast at the local senior center (despite her protests), and walked her around introducing her to people and trying to get her to make friends. She will not return, despite our asking her to each day. Our 9 year old just told us that Grandma has been saying she doesn’t want to go spend time with “those old fogies.” What she wants is to stay in the house all day, eavesdrop on my phone calls, mutter under her breath, and be cooked for and fed. If she needs to find a doctor or take care of any of her business with her bank or find insurance quotes, she tells me I have to do it because she “can’t.”

In the space of a month, she has become a completely different person, unrecognizable to even my husband in her neediness and refusal to do anything on her own. Literally 3 weeks ago, she was working 50 hours per week. I am still struggling over whether to be angry (she’s always been a manipulator) or whether this is cognitive, but either way it can’t go on. Any advice on what to ask the doc Monday when she goes

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Hi Jomichelle, How incredibly frustrating! :( . It was quite generous for you and your husband to move her in like that. I have seen this work with families but the
grandparents in these scenarios had a vastly different attitude, ie they pitched in
with child care, and household chores without complaint and also knew when to give other's their own space. I've also seen how in healthy and harmonious families, aging parents seem to intuit when to either downsize or start hiring out
for additional help instead of putting the whole burden on their adult children.

I don't know but given her attitudes and behaviors, I don't see any healthy resolution for her continued living with your family. There are seniors that appear
to become attached to making younger family members wait on them hand and foot while they do nothing be complain and criticize. And if they are encouraged to take a healthier attitude, get out and get involved, they will steadfastly play victim. So this thing is definitely an unhappy syndrome in some, dementia or not.

I've also seen a few dementia diagnosed individuals maintain their manipulation
skills despite impairments, but in your MIL's case what strikes me as odd is the
sudden change in functioning. I frankly am a bit suspicious that she is less incapable but rather unwilling. I'm so sorry that you and your family are suffering like this but I'd say that, given what you've described, even if you do manage to get her to pay some rent and contribute some to groceries, your life will be filled with
stress and unhappiness while she remains under the same roof.

Perhaps a consult with an elder care attorney would be helpful. Best of luck to you and your family, I hope you can find a better living arrangement for your MIL.
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Really surprised that MIL worked at the age of 78. I would call her former boss and ask if they had seen changes in her and her work. Would help with Dr. evaluation.

OK, I think 500 is reasonable if she has it. Utilities, are they really that much higher because she is there? And food, you are cooking anyway. Now, if there is something special she wants or likes and her toiletries, no you are not responsible to supply them. Anything personal is her problem.

You need to sit down and go over her financials with her. Need to see what she receives in SS and any savings, checking etc. She is on Medicare so she just needs a suppliment. If she is considered low income, you maybe able to get her Medicaid. My Mom received PADD for her prescriptions from the state. Her AARP was only 100 a month. Then you need to start looking into Senior housing in you area. We have HUD housing where 1/3 of her income goes for rent. Electric and TV are her responsibility. There is also low income apts but they tend to run a little more.
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Honey, it is TOTALLY okay for you to tell her that he is on the hook for 1/4 of living expenses. Rent, heat, hot water, food. Etc.

If she can find cheaper, she is free to do so. I wouldn't make this comfortable for her at all.

She sounds like a taker . Can DH take a hard line with her? For the sake of his daughter? She is doing damage to your child.
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polarbear Mar 2019
Ditto - don't make it comfortable for her. In fact, make it uncomfortable enough that she prefers moving out.
Jomichelle - Regardless of how much she contributes to the household, the fact that she invades your space, your sanctuary, your marriage, and you and your husband have to hide in your room, that's a big sign that the present situation can not continue for too long.

She will have to move out. The sooner the better, otherwise, the longer the harder it will be to get her out.

She was working a few weeks ago, that means she can still try go find another job to support herself, even part-time. She should go find a room to share somewhere else. Did she save any money for her retirement? If so, it may be time to tap into that until she gets her financial bearing.

I would also recommend you and your husband make it clear to her that her living with you is TEMPORARY.

MIL and DIL famously do not belong in the same house, and when they do there are always conflicts. Granted there are exceptions, but those are...exceptions to the rule. Your 3 bedroom house is too small for 2 women, especially when 1 is taking advantage of the other.
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In terms of fair price for her living with you, you should divide living expenses by 4 and she should be paying for 1/4.

You may need to see an eldercare attorney to set up a rental agreement.

Does MIL come from a culture expectation that children should care for elders? That is the norm in many places within the US ("you don't pay family", one poster's mother famously declaimed) but the reality is that since there is no longer this expectation that all women will stay home and care for children and elders, paying for care has become the reality.

The evidence for this (should anyone need it) is the marked change in the "spousal benefits" regulations by the SSA. For folks born after 1954, the CLEAR expectation is that both husband wife will have worked enough quarters to have earned their own benefit and not rely on that of their husband. THAT is a huge change in societal expectation.

I think that you and DH need to toughen up a bit and ignore her passive aggressive behavior. "Don't you want the dignity of paying your own way, mom? Gee, we thought, that having been such a hard worker all your life, that you'd WANT to contribute and not burden your children with the financial responsibility for your care. OUR responsibility is to our child".

Please say this out of earshot of your daughter.
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Jomichelle Mar 2019
There is no cultural thing that we know of that would lead her to think we are responsible for her care; however, my husband did say that his mom’s own (abusive loser) husband took in his mother their entire life, who was apparently morbidly obese and mean as a bulldog and insisted on being cared for since she was in her 50’s. So, in other words, my MIL lived for many years with her own MIL, but according to my husband she used to say how backwards and unhealthy it was and how miserable it made her. Ironic.

So if our rent is $2,100, it’s reasonable to ask her for 525? Shouldn’t she also be paying for her own groceries and day to day needs? Is it reasonable to ask her to contribute to bills? Or should this $525 be all inclusive?
Again, I don’t mean to sound callous. But really, my husband moved out on his own at 17, and she did not contribute to his education or ever help him in any other typical parent way. She was for all intents and purposes a single mom, and hubby feels badly about that, but I feel that she made her own decisions in life (often at my husband’s expense) and that it is unfair and unreasonable to burden a youngish family with this. I keep going back and forth between anger and guilt over the possibility that she’s got dementia.
Also, any advice on what is a fair amount to ask an aging parent to contribute financially? Again, we are not in a position to support her, but somehow she is making us feel terrible for insisting on this contribution, even though it is less than what she originally agreed. Is $500 too much to ask (her last rent was $854, and our rent here is $2,100). Should we not expect her to kick in for bills or buy her own groceries? What is fair?
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