How do I get my sister-in-law and brother-in-law to spend time, resources and help Mom and caretaker?


Sister-in-law (actual daughter of aged mother-in-law). My husband (son of aged 93 yr-old mother) and I (the daughter-in-law) live 750 miles from the aged mom. She had always been very independent and cared for my father-in-law until his death over two years ago. They were very close and had been married over sixty years. My sister-in-law lives in the same city as her mother but ever since her father died and concurrently my mother-in-law's health began to decline dramatically from spinal stenosis and now both of her hands and arms are 90% useless. My sister-in-law has done nothing in all that period of time to spend any significant time at all with her mom - except once a week short visits to get her and take her to dinner with hef husband, my brother-in-law. Meanwhile, my husband and I have spent over 70 days for each of the last two years (over 140 days total) traveling and staying with my mother-in-law and helping her cope by totally cleaning, organizing and making her 3 level townhome as accessible as possible for her now infirm condition. On all of our eight visits to the distant city where my mom-in-law and sister-in-law lives (10 miles away from her mom) my sister-in-law never once came over to visit her mom's place while we were staying there working every single day to get rid of my father-in-law's clothing and clean the accumulated filth, clutter, and general disorganization that happens when old people live alone. My sister-in-law seems to have no empathy for her mom (or for her twin brother who is my husband, and certainly not for me. In all those visits she never called to ask if she could help - she seemed to consider us being there as her time off from her once a week usual visit to take her mom to dinner. Her mom always liec to her daughter on the phone and told her daughter that she was "fine" but it should have been clear to my sister-in-law that her mom was in deep deep grief and severe depression after her husband (sister-in-law's father) died. Sister-in-law never came once in all that time to spend even one morning or one afternoon with her mom. Not once. But sister-in-law seems to believe that she does much more for her mom than my husband and I do (and have done with our 140 day visits to get the house into shape for a caretaker - who my sister-in-law found for my mom. Caretaker is great in all aspects - except she hates/"doesn't care for" my sister and brother-in-law because they do nothing for the mom - except the once a week out to dinner routine and making sure the mom goes to family occassions - where the rest of the family has no idea how much my husband and I have been there for the mom and spent our $$$ to gix up place and clean and organize it top to bottom and buy the mom new clothes and many "gadgets" (as sister-in-law disparagingly calls the adaptive tools). My husband is a professor and I am an attorney but we are made to feel like we are stupid household help who can do nothing right (when we are actually very handy with simple tools and power tools).
So finally I had a meltdown and complained. Sister-in-law told all family the all completely true things I emailed my sister-in-law and now they all totally take her side and husband and I are outsiders and were publicly told by only cousins - that we should have paid to get things done in mom-in-law's house and not be "martyrs." Maybe - but mom-in-law appreciated what we did and while we were there on every visit she changed from being deeply depressed with no food in fridge to her old fiesty self again but then went back to depressive mode after we left. The cousin had noticed and commented and asked me what was my formula for getting the mom-in-law back to her old self - so I know this cousin is aware of sister-in-law's neglect but she still publically sides with sister-in-law and her defense that she "is there" year round and we are not. My brother-in-law was incensed at what I wrote and I am speaking to neither and my husband does only when absolutely necessary. The mom knows the situation but won't confront or stand up to her daughter who is so mean to her mom on the phone as a matter of course that the caretaker finally cried in front of sister and brother-in-law and the mom about how mean the sister-in-law is to her mom. The mom much preferred me to help her organize her house and get rid of her deceased husband's things instead of her own daughter. But now my sister-in-law told all in the larger family a big lie - that I had been insensitive to the wonderful caretaker and upset her and made her cry so I am not to ever speak to caretaker any more. Caretaker actually likes me and dislikes the daughter - but sister-in-law has Power-of-Attorney - just recently in last month took this to write the checks at caregiver's request so caregiver could never be accused of stealing. I am upset at mom-in-law (although we had gotten along great - even as I carefully and slowly went through all her stuff) because she won't stand up for me & her son. So relatives are clueless. Help!

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It isn't a competition. Families do not realize the importance of having a family meeting to discuss expectations and responsibilities. This is not to say everyone is going to uphold what is expected of them but it is good to have the conversation and make plans. This way the entire family starts out on the same page.

This is between your husband and his sister. If they are okay with what has transpired then let it go. We did many things for my Mom and never expected a certificate or applause. We were able and wanted to make her life as comfortable as possible for the last three years.
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Hmmm. This is your mother in law. Your husband and his sibling may have very different ideas about what level of care their mom needs, or, YOU may have a different idea about what level of care their mom needs. I know this is true of the family I married into.

I would say this. Don't make this a competition into who can do it best. Let your husband and his sister discuss this and come to an agreement. You don't know, after all, what your mother in law is saying to her nearby relatives after you leave, do you? For all you know, she's telling them that' those nosy so and so are here all the time, taking away my "stuff" and stealing me blind". ( it's been known to happen). The caregiver may be telling you what she knows you want to hear.

Yes, it sucks that you are spending your time and resources and no one appreciates you. Don't do this for recognition. Mom's resources should be spent on her care, not your money. And let your husband work this out with his sister.
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I wish I had an answer for you. You want recognition for all that you and your husband have done, and no one will acknowledge it. Sucks, doesn't it?

I don't know why your sister in law and her husband aren't more intuitive where her mother's need are concerned, but some people just aren't natural caregivers. They think what they are doing is enough, but others can see differently. It will probably take an "event" to happen for the SIL to see that her mother isn't all right with just weekly checkups and dinners. At least she has hired a caregiver who seems to have some sense. Maybe you guys could just back away for a while. You (or your husband) don't have POA, you don't live near enough to be a regular help. Just be sure to keep the lines of communication open with your mother in law and keep good thoughts in her mind about y'all. Send cards and little gifts occasionally. Visit when you can and maintain the sweetest attitude (kill 'em with kindness). Some hills aren't worth dying on. This may be one. Best wishes.
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