How can you give up involvement with your loved ones when they don't want help?


DH is an only child, and ILs may be in a potentially dangerous situation. For about 8 years, I noticed FIL has had signs of dementia for years—memory loss and hallucinations. I've seen a lot of weirdness (like my ILs would buy a new car every year!!!), but DH was in denial for a long time, and MIL was not forthcoming about it until recently.

In Jun, she had a fall...or hurt herself lifting something (the story is different depending on who you talked to) and ripped the muscle off her arm and messed up her rotator's cuff. That's when she ended up telling us about it, and we found out it had been going on longer than I noticed (10 YEARS).

She told us their family doctor downplays FIL's symptoms. He did at least get checked for a UTI (he doesn't have one) and he had a clear MRI.

So, I asked if she wanted help and she said yes. I spent a week trying to find them resources—including a difficult-to-get-into memory study at their local college. They were going to do it, but cancelled their appointment (which was made 2 months in advanced) 10ish days before FIL was to be seen, because FIL was freaking out about thinking he'd get a lobotomy.

DH doesn't know what to do. I'm emotionally fatigued as I've been told I "imagined" this for years and ended up being the one person to try to do something about it. DH and I are trying to make some big future decisions about where we are going to live in the next couple years (which will make a large impact on us and our child)—and this situation has him paralyzed.

It seems they really do not want help. I feel resentment because when things do fall apart for them it could really hurt my husband and our child—and probably me. I feel they are being horribly dishonest and inconsiderate to their son—and I'm tired of DH and I feeling like we are caught in limbo with planning a big step in our future.

Is it wrong to give up? If so, how can we step away in a fashion that protects DH from having to deal with things if his father ends up on his own and needing emergency care? We live 5 hours away and want to move. It may be further away since ILs continue to deny help.

MIL seems to believe we'll magically and quickly find a "temp" to live with FIL quickly if something happens to her—and that is all we will ever have to do (and she is in complete denial her own health is having serious issues). I am surprised she doesn't know better since she and her brother care for her own parents. We don't know what to do, but I am tired of the stress of us feeling paralyzed.

DH just wants to keep trying to talk with them, but I am not sure it will really help (and neither does he really).

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Some super excellent advice here. I don’t have too much to add, just:

What Sendhelp said: Reschedule the appointment, tell them it's a condition of you helping, and stick to it. This last is the hard part - FIL and by extension MIL may try everything they're big enough to do to manipulate you out of it. But you have to stand firm if you're going to get anywhere with them at all.

Also, this from sue888, x 1000: "Unfortunately we can't always force our parents to do what's best but it helps to have all the research done ahead of time so you can react quickly when it's needed." I'm in the process of finding out what I'm going to have to do to qualify my mother for Medicaid. It's obviously not anyone's first choice, but she took retirement at 55 and burned through all of her savings taking vacations and such, and I *am not* going to spend my own retirement savings on her care. Keep us posted.
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Greta, I'm sure you're right - your MIL must be terrified. The other thing I was thinking is that although you've been having growing (and correct) suspicions for some time, it was only really her wake up call in June that made MIL face up to the reality of this - she's still adjusting, and DH even more so.

As long as DH doesn't commit you both to any irrevocable decisions (and anyway there's not really any such thing - it's not like anyone can control the future) you can afford to give him enough time to get his head round the issues. If I were you, meanwhile, I'd focus on not letting MIL stick her head back in the sand now that her immediate crisis has passed - lay it on thick about how sensible she was to talk frankly (at last! - but you don't have to say that) about her concerns, and how important it is for her to look at a whole range of options now. But she's going to need coaxing and reassurance, so how's your patience?! - let her get used to the idea that she can tell you anything without anything dreadful happening, and with luck she'll come to listen to your advice.
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You do what you CAN.. then walk away. I've battled with mother over so many things, and I am so tired of it.
If she needs more care, then she can call me or talk to brother about it. She needs it NOW but "fired" the agency before she even MET anyone. That was the last straw for me. I have pulled back like 90%. She was making me so sick, with her fussiness and problems--I'd solve one and then the next one popped up with just as much significance and wringing of hands as the one we'd just "fixed".

I have the "plan" should she have another big fall, or stroke. To the hospital, then rehab, but not back home. She gave up that choice when she fired aides. Now she is stuck at home, all day except for one when someone takes her to Bingo.

As far as your MIL thinking something miraculous will happen if one of them needs help--it won't. If you haven't already researched and put something into "place" nobody magically shows up to take over.

I guess just a real face to face with both inlaws, explaining that you are moving on and away and what can you do before you move to help them? Do that, then leave.

Many elders are quite delusional about what will happen when they's not fun to think about, I know, but failing to plan is planning to fail.

I know my MIL just plans to move in with my SIL when she gets "that way". She obviously is missing the fact that SIL's daughter and 2 children are also living with them, in the MIL apartment, and that's the plan for the forseeable future. MIL will go to an ALF, and she'll hate every second. Hubby only has 2 emotions: OK and angry. She's HIS problem and I am not on board with anything. They have not and will not speak of the future needs she may have (and she's 88, so the time will come).

Truth is, you cannot force anyone to do anything. But don't put your life on hold for them.
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Greta, I'm dealing with similar parents, not as difficult as your guys but totally stubborn and refusing help. And I'm 600 miles away.

Hubs needs to accept how bad this is and get his ducks in a row. Does he have POA? Wills? Financial info? Living wills? If they will cooperate at all get as much of this done as possible.

I doubt you're going to be able to reason with these guys. If not, be prepared to step back. Soon there will be a crisis. Bad fall, hospital to rehab to facility care. Sadly this is often what it takes with stubborn, demented old folks.

Be prepared to call Adult Protective Services to intervene when the living situation becomes unsustainable.

I sort of inherited my folks care about 6 years ago after my siblings died young. Like your hubs, I was freaked out, stressed out, angry and all the rest. I've calmed down now. I do what my folks will allow , which is not much (don't want anyone in our house etc) and have accepted that something bad will happen that I can't prevent even if I lived next door.

And that is when the delusion of independence will end. Depending on the crisis, there will be in home help or a move to facilty care. I'll use APS if I have to.
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Sue888 - I love your sense of resourcefulness. My concern is being able to secure a good care facility during an emergency (I've heard good ones can take months-to-years to place a family member in), and having to deal with my FIL having an ugly temper tantrum about it. I believe this is part of why MIL is scared to bring someone into the house. She said she's worried about how he will react (he's always been bit reclusive). He also doesn't want to leave his pets behind. He's told us he will happily spend all their retirement money on them. I will be very angry if (or when) this all falls on my husband. He takes stress on physically (like many men), and I fear the stress of dealing with this kind of crap will give him his first heart attack.

Jeannegibbs - I think my MIL is very afraid and embarrassed. Her family is very supportive, but FIL has a tendency to make others uncomfortable to begin with. He has very different political views than most of the family, too, and lately he spends his days listening to toxic talk shows.   

Sendhelp - I would love to, but at this point I worry it'll just be cancelled again, but maybe it wouldn't hurt to give them a nudge. DH was planning to attend the second appointment where they tested his father at the university (the first appointment was going to be in-home). I will talk with him tonight and see how he feels. 
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Reschedule the appointment Fil cancelled. Make attending the appointment a condition of you giving them help.
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If MIL predeceases her demented husband, he will have to go to a facility with the appropriate level of care. You cannot supervise live-in help and the backup needed for days off and vacations from a distance. MIL can believe what she wants, but a care center is the logical next step for FIL. It is generally less expensive than live-in care, also.

Why is she trying so hard to hide his behaviors from her family? Are they mean and uneducated people who wouldn't accept someone with dementia, as common as that diagnosis is these days?

You are right that this situation includes far more stress than it really has to. I am sad for you that this puts your beloved MIL's health at risk. Would it help for her to have some in-home help now, while she is caring for FIL?
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I noticed my MIL was having dementia symptoms for years. I told my husband, SIL and BIL. They were all in denial and kept putting things off. MIL lived by herself and refused to leave her home. BIL was in the same town. SIL was an hour away. We lived across country. I did all the research and found an assisted living community and encouraged SIL and BIL to check it out. I encouraged MIL to get a medical alert necklace. She said "she wasn't old enough" (she was 80). She'd had two car accidents and I insisted that she should no longer be driving. Everyone agreed but no one did anything. I finally went ahead and got her a medical alert with the fall technology and she agreed to wear it. Within a week she fell, the medical alert automatically notified help. She'd broken her hip. Without the medical alert who knows how long she would have laid there until someone found her.
After her hospital stay she went to the assisted living community I had researched. After the occupational therapy the social worker said she could not go home and live by herself. She started in AL but within months was moved to the nursing home. Three years later she is still in the nursing home with late stage dementia.
The moral of this story is you have no control. Be prepared and get all the information you can because you know what the future may bring. Unfortunately we can't always force our parents to do what's best but it helps to have all the research done ahead of time so you can react quickly when it's needed.
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DH and I have tried talking to her repeatedly. She seems to believe it will be easy for us to handle (and I am betting she doesn't believe her health is going to fail). She *should* know better given she tried to get helpers at her parents' house and went through a few—and they weren't live-in help that she thinks FIL would require if something happened to her. And, yes, she is probably under FIL's thumb. He is a lot older than her. Sadly, you'd not guess it with the way her health has been going South. I feel very angry about it, because my husband will be robbed a mother and my child a grandmother...and I will be robbed of the only woman in my life who is a mother-figure—and it shouldn't have to happen. Their lives could be so much less stressful. She told us hasn't seen her family much this past decade because she is trying so hard to hide his behaviors from them. What a terrible, sad, and lonely way to live. :(
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Has MIL actually looked into getting a "temp" and what is really involved there? Talked to some agencies, etc. She is probably in denial of what is involved in making that work. Can you talk to her about specifics? What she might need in terms of her own health? Frankly I doubt you can do much with FIL. Is MIL under his thumb?
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