Hi, I'll try to be brief with my backstory: I have been living with my husband, Don, for 8 years and his father, Ron, has been living with us for 5 of them. Ron was in a nursing home for a couple of years before hubby pulled him out so "he wouldn't have to die in a home." Don and I only make around $15K a year combined, so you can imagine how nice of a (state-funded) nursing home it was. Five years later, Ron shows no sign of dying, and as Don works longer hours than I do, I end up taking on much of Ron's home care.
Ron is overweight, diabetic, and suffers from unpredictable drops in blood pressure which can cause him to fall or experience brief periods of time where he's "out of it." He has trouble feeling, which results in him knocking lots of things over and dropping lots of things without noticing he has done so. He won't wear his hearing aids or glasses. Diabetes has claimed many of his toes so he is none too steady on his feet, but he won't use his walker and frankly, there isn't really enough room in our 2nd-story walkup 900-square foot apartment to maneuver a walker or wheelchair. He has broken two toilets so far from sitting down on them too hard and rocking them back and forth as he gets up. I recently purchased a toilet aid with grab bars and a raised seat for him, but he finds it difficult to use due to his weight. No matter what I try, there is always a big mess in the bathroom and a quarter-inch of (water? urine?) on the floor waiting for me when I get home from work each day.
I wouldn't mind all of this and I wouldn't be complaining if Ron was someone I loved. But he's not a loved one. I don't even like him. But I'd like to. I think my job would be much easier if I could perceive him as a human being with a personality instead of an inconvenient lump of flesh. He just makes it so difficult. He spends all day and night in his room, watching TV or playing computer games with the door shut. He must be prodded to bathe or even wash his hands after going to the bathroom or before coming to the table. He resists getting haircuts and fingernail trims. Sometimes his undergarments fail and he wets the bed, and he never tells us when this happens. He offers very, very little to the conversation at the dinner table, even when asked conversational questions. He doesn't have any hobbies or seem to have any interests, aside from the occasional day out with his lady friend. He refuses most offers to take him somewhere, and when we do get him out of the apartment he doesn't seem like he's enjoying himself. It's like he just suffers through it and is grateful to get back to his room, never mentioning the outing again. I don't really think he's a danger to himself, as he is still doing fine mentally. He's left the coffee burner on a couple of times but heck, my 26-year-old sister has done it twice, too. He doesn't use the stove or anything.
I want to love my father-in-law, but I'd settle for just liking him. What can I do to change my attitude towards him? I'm having trouble seeing him as a human being; Don tells me stories about Ron's younger years and it's like hearing about a completely different person. Ron isn't stupid, I'm sure he realizes how I feel about him. I must sound like a broken record, "did you wash your hands," "did you have some trouble in the bathroom there, you know you really need to let me know when that happens," etc. Am I wrong in thinking we should be holding him to a higher standard, demanding more of an effort? Or is this just how it is, how it goes? Is it just an attitude problem on my part? On Ron's part? On both of our parts? And how do we air this? Don and I have had a few family discussions with Ron, but the problems are still happening just the same as they ever did, and I wonder if Ron feels like he's being ganged up on. How can we prevent that? We try to be as kind as we can be, but it seems to have had no effect.