My mother in law lives with us and I’m having a hard time getting her to respect my boundaries in regards to my time, in the past I’d respond quickly to her every request but now I realize she’s manufacturing issues in order to get interaction/attention. I am busy and have a life and cannot entertain her all day, and no longer want to enable this dependency. For example, she will interrupt me working to ask where a pan is, or where something in the fridge is , without even looking. I will tell her, I’m busy now maybe look again? Etc but it seems she’s pushing back. Another example, she will ask if she can help with something and then ask the most ridiculous questions every step of the way, like is this how you want it? Is this enough? Etc. It is like she is forcing me to stay with her, when the whole point is to take a chore off my hands. or she will drag on basic conversations. For example, does the food need salt? I reply no it’s good. She will literally keep asking, so it’s good? Doesn’t need salt? Etc etc
how can I gracefully curb this attention seeking behavior? I also have young children who she will literally talk over with her unnecessary questions. I've tried being direct and isn’t working
I should add I’m also an introvert who needs my quiet time, and rarely has any. So I find this behavior extra difficult because I feel my needs are not being considered, only hers.

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You are being polite to MIL, and it is backfiring on you. Be less polite. Say ‘Please be quiet’. Then just ignore her. Worth a try, to see what happens?
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hariver18 - reading what you wrote here and what you wrote in your other thread,

all I can tell you is that you can not change her behavior. YOU MUST GET HER OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. If you don't, she will ruin your family, your marriage, your life and your children's lives. She is like a cancer in your home. Eventually, the cancer will kill the host.

Find her another place to live, senior independent living communities where there are people her age, and plenty of programs to keep her entertained, and plenty of people to talk to and make friends if she so chooses.

As for you question of how you can gracefully curb her attention seeking behavior? Gracefully, NO. You invite more of the same behavior by being graceful.

You can try to bluntly tell her "I need quiet time right now."
You can bluntly tell her "NO, I don't need any help."
"NO, I can't talk right now."
You can tell her to "please stop asking questions."
You can tell her "your questions are giving me a headache."
You can bluntly tell her "please do not interrupt when I am talking." or "please do not talk over me/your son/your grand kids.' then give her the 'look' and hold your gaze until she looks away.

Will she feel uncomfortable with the above comments? I would hope so. That might encourage her to keep away from you or better yet, move out of your house.
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Llamalover47 Apr 2020
Hariver18: I get that - it is very hard to live with someone. I had to live out of state with my late mother. Prayers sent to you.
I can relate to what you're saying. I have felt that way a lot before too. After a certain point, it's beyond annoying. First, I didn't see any description of a profile about your MIL. Do you know if she has any cognitive decline or dementia? Even if she functions pretty well, I'd keep a close eye on certain things to see if she's having something like that going on. The reason is that some people show signs of dementia in the early stage, in the way you describe her. Repeating things, repeating questions, asking a million questions, etc. My LO did that in the early days and I didn't know why. She did other things too, like make up stuff, argue for no reason, neglect hygiene, etc. If that is the culprit, there really isn't any way to prevent it. It's due to damage to the brain. And, it will progress. Maybe, you could get her to a doctor for an evaluation of physical and mental health.

Then, there are those seniors who do not have dementia, who are very bossy, nosy and chatty. They ask a million questions about stuff that doesn't matter. I think it's boredom, loneliness, and a desire to be important in their senior years. So, I try to tolerate it. I couldn't do that long term though. It's too hard on my mental health. lol Could your MIL go to a senior day program, get involved with a hobby, do extra work, like laundry, organizing, etc. I don't know the answer. It's a tough one. Maybe, set up an oasis in your bedroom with a sign that says, Do Not Disturb. lol I have found that some people just love to talk A LOT. It really annoys me. I don't get it. For me, it takes a lot of energy to talk that much. ON and ON, hour after hour. Asking detailed questions over stuff that no one cares about. So frustrating......I have noticed it a lot in seniors and not just my parents. Does anyone know why they do this? And what about nosy behavior that's off the charts.....omg. Who really cares what the neighbor 2 doors down is wearing or what time they came home for lunch? lol
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anonymous871557 Apr 2020
Yes you really understand what I’m dealing with. I’m not sure if it’s early dementia but I will say I have noticed the neediness getting worse every year.
i want to be empathetic but I feel like every time I give her an inch she takes a mile. I want her to stop seeing me as her entertainment, she’s still fairly young and is choosing to be like this
also giving her something to do usually backfires because she wants an audience and company, so I think that while she does need a purpose what she seems to be needing more is socialization ( but won’t go make friends of her own).
You tried having your mother n law live with you. It didn’t work out. Start looking for a facility before she ruins your life and your marriage. She could live for YEARS!! My mother is 95 1/2. I will never live with her and she will never live with me. She lives alone in her own house.
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You said she "can’t figure out how to use the microwave, coffee pot , dishwasher ect even tho We have shown her a million times over the years. I even made Labels and videos! I want to be empathetic I do, but I feel the more If I give an inch she takes a mile.
could this be an early dementia sign? Or just loneliness" I believe from your descriptions it is probably a combination of both. Often seniors in early stages of dementia start forgetting how to do simple things--operate a remote, use their cell phone features, operate a microwave, etc. Watching a video and/or reading instructions don't help because that part of their brain is broken. They also can't figure out things to do to entertain themselves. I had someone explain it to me is that it's a backwards regression of skills---So your MIL is very similar to a 5-6 year old at this point when it comes to those things. She will continue to regress. Maybe you need a family meeting with your husband and then add in your MIL and come up with a routine for her that you can write down and start enforcing to build some good boundaries? Times you are available and times youre working? Let him take some of the responsibility of "filling her tank" with attention in the evenings. Maybe a walk, maybe a 30 min time for them to do something together--go for a drive, something to help her fill that tank. ALSO the not going out is also a red flag. She feels unsure of her abilities to handle the social situation. It's possible she is having more issues that you are seeing and she's using all her effort to try to cope/hide those deficits.
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Sounds like it's time to get MIL out of your house and into a place of her own. Independent Living if she's capable of it, or Assisted Living if she's not. Of course, right now with a pandemic on our hands, nobody's moving anywhere. But it's a good time to plan your next move, the way I see it. Talk to DH and see how he'd like to proceed with moving his mother out.

People who are seeking attention constantly are not going to change, they are only going to get worse and worse with age and as dementia either progresses or develops, let's face it. Give her chores to do or projects to work on, I guess, but don't expect the questions to stop............this is apparently part of her personality which generally doesn't change, especially if she doesn't see that a problem EXISTS to begin with. Most of them don't.

Growing up in a house with my grandmother was THE worst childhood ever. All my mother did was fight with her, and the histrionics were unbelievable. I actually kept a notebook for when the 'men in the white coats' came to take my mother away, they'd have a log of behaviors to diagnose her by. That's not to say your situation is even remotely like mine was, or that your children are being subjected to such a stressful environment, but it's something to consider about their lifestyles as well. Everyone suffers when there is discord in the house.

I like Gemswinner's idea to put on a nice pair of HEADPHONES which is your way of saying you're not available for your MIL. But then again, she could wind up tapping you on the arm to ask her questions ANYWAY, who knows? With my mother, she'll make herself known no matter WHAT. She has GOT to be the center of attention at any cost. Fortunately, she lives in Memory Care so she's using her attention getting strategies on others. I only have to deal with her drama on the telephone, which is bad enough, I'm sorry to say.

Is there any way at all that she has enough mind power to get onto a computer? If so, you can set her up with games like solitaire or Facebook or the games offered on Facebook, etc. If she has the ability, she may spend hours and hours each day on the computer getting lost in the maze of stuff to do, and Oh Boy Wouldn't THAT Be Nice? :)

Wishing you the best of luck moving forward.
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sadly, sounds like my mother :(
My mother has always wanted attention, even if negative. She has pushed away everyone around her. siblings dont call, or visit. One aunt sticks by her and I am not sure as to why. Mom is always throwing the past in her face (and everyone else).

I joined today with hopes of getting advice or just to find support. I dont even know where to begin. :(
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Kittybee Apr 2020
Post a "question" describing your situation. Soon you'll have lots of helpful responses!
Your mother n law is in her late 60’s? She could live another 25 more years!!! Do you want her in your house for another 25 YEARS??? Move her into a facility!
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Is there a chance that it is premature dementia? The questions sound very basic. Does she need assessing? Sometimes what we think is deliberately antagonising is a symptom of something else. Good luck.
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Isabelsdaughter Apr 2020
I agree with wiseowl
Anon, I would get her checked. Everything that you say leads me to believe that she is having mental decline.

Not knowing where the pan is, even though it is in the same place for 15 years is an indication of dementia.

Once you get her diagnosed it will be easier for you to understand what is happening, but the behaviors will not change. So maybe it is time to reconsider the living situation, because she can't help what is happening to her and she obviously bothers you a great deal, it either works for everyone in the house or it doesn't work.
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