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My mother in law lived with my husband and I for 2 years. That was 2 years ago. I wasn’t able to handle all the unforeseen changes that came into my life with living with her. I’m 47 my husband is 62 and my MIL will soon be 86. He is the only living child now.


She lives alone in a condo 45 minutes from us. Looking back we had her live with us way too soon thinking it was best for her and easier for my husband who still works full time to have her with us.


She doesn’t drive and is hard of hearing. Otherwise she’s in fair to good health and has her mind still. She spends almost all of her time completely alone. She now says she wished she was living with us. Initially she hated it and constantly said she wanted to return to her condo until we actually had her move back into it.


She’s manipulative and demanding and it nearly broke up our marriage. My husband is not in great health and it’s only getting worse. It is very hard on him to work full time all week then care for her on weekends with grocery shopping and picking up scripts etc.. yet he feels extremely guilty that he doesn’t spend more time with her. He had a great many issues with her while living with us as well.


We’re both nurses and he is adamantly against her ever going to any kind of a facility. The thought of it brings him to tears. The thought of her having to live with me again brings me to tears.


I don’t know that my marriage will survive it again. I have a lot of resentment towards her for many reasons. Mostly that she is so selfish and demanding.


I don’t want to have her living alone if she is she is unsafe either. I also feel guilty for my husband having to care for her over a distance but he completely agreed that it was best for us all.


When is it no longer ok for her to live alone? She refuses to go to groups for elderly people or ride a bus. We didn’t entertain her when she lived with us either. That was another issue, her constant need for interaction when we are simply too tired after working all day and want time to ourselves when we’re not working which is not often.


He will probably retire when she moves back in and I’ll be the only one still working due to my age and our finances. Physically he won’t be able to care for her once she needs physical assistance of which he’s in denial about.


She’s had 3 hospitalizations in 5 years with altered mental status and she’s insulin dependent diabetic with hypertension.


This weighs on me constantly. I feel responsible but so angry. I’m accepting of my feelings about my situation but I’m not so horrible a human that I don’t still care how this is effecting the two of them.


How would we change the dynamic of the living situation to make it better for each of us? I need house rules and boundaries but the mention of anything like this upsets her greatly. She’s a nice Christian lady who tells you about how she looks at the world constantly. It drives me nuts!


Sorry for ramble but it’s a complex problem.


Any advice or insights are welcome!

It's time when you SAY it's time. Period. If you cannot go on with the current situation...then it's time. There's no magic number.
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Reply to Rattled
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We have not heard from the op since the 19th. I wonder where they are?
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Reply to cmagnum
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Is she eligible for any type of aide through medicare or medicaid? Personally I would never tell my spouse/significant other to choose me or their family member. Are there no support groups that she could attend? Being alone/lonely is quite devastating. I am sure depression is playing a huge part in this for her. In my opinion even if she were to live with you she needs some friends/family/neighbor/Church members to visit & spend time with her. Does she have any other relatives or friends that can spend an hour or so with her a day?
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Reply to Buster57
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"She doesn’t drive and is hard of hearing. Otherwise she’s in fair to good health and has her mind still. She spends almost all of her time completely alone." Not wanting to live alone and no longer being able to live alone are two different things. She's lonely and that makes her situation worse for her. But it's her choice to avoid engaging with life.

What transportation for seniors is available where she lives? If she's hard of hearing, what safety features may need to be installed in her home? Deaf people still manage to live independent lives with some modifications.

I would not move her away from her church. I quite like the idea of asking her pastor to include her in home visits. Perhaps they have transportation to get her to church? Do they have weekly Bible study? It is very important for old people to be around their peers just as it is important for you to be around yours! I also agree that your husband needs counseling.
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw
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Being a nurse and being married to a nurse, I imagine that you can shed light on a question that I have.

Is it true that Doctors do not treat their own families because it is to difficult to be objective when you are emotionally involved and attached to the person you are treating?

Please let me know.

Thank you.

I read that he cries when you talk about putting her in a facility, could he be mimicking her manipulative behavior because he saw how effective it was?

I also wonder if a small travel trailer on your property could be a solution to 2 households. You can put a ramp on it, hook it up to utilities, you would have to help her with the black water tank as you don't want to leave that open, you will end up with a pile of crap, litarally, but that is a pretty easy chore compared to biting your tongue off to be pleasant all the time.

We have actually done our landscaping and hardscaping with the idea that we may have to have facilities available for family. We even planned an enclosed yard around the trailer so animals could come if need be.

Hugs, this is your rock and a hard place.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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Not sure how to help, but following, because I am in a similar situation myself.
But I would say if she comes, I leave. You have been through the same situation before and you both know that the outcome isn't any good.
If you have a possibility, put your well being to the first place.
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bigsun Dec 29, 2018
Right on. Good
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Tell hubby you’re out of the picture if she moves in again...you will probably end up being caregiver to his mother and your hubby too since he is so much older. She’s probably your grandma’s age. She needs minimum ASsisted living. & hubby should continue to work ft in order to pay for it
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Reply to CaregiverL
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You are being more logical and realistic than your husband. Your prior experience with living with your MIL should speak for itself. I would definitely get counseling for you and your husband. She shouldn’t be part of it because I’m sure she will appear as a sweet little old lady in counseling and neither of you could be honest in front of her. You will not be able to set boundaries or schedules on an 86 yo. If she has lived by herself for some time, she is used to only catering to her own whims and needs. The lack of social skills will maker her impossible to live with. She doesn’t have the social skills necessary to live with others in close quarters. She will be completely dependent on both of you for entertainment and interaction. And since she will be giving up her independence, she will have anger and resentment issues. I just moved my 99 yo mother in a small guest house. It has been the worst mistake of my life. She is so angry and she is making us miserable. I wish we had just hired people to assist her. She would rather have died on the bathroom floor than moved here.
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bigsun Dec 29, 2018
Thank you for answer
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I would be very tempted to say, look we have been through this once before with bad results. So, if she comes, I leave.
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Reply to cmagnum
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There are so many of us that have found ourselves in a similar position. Since your husband is adamant that he wants his mom to come to your home, I would have have some things in place before she moves in. I was ina similar spot. I had a senior center’s bus come pick mom up 3x a week. She loved it! She was there 5hrs. Games, lunch, parties, entertainment! It was practically free... didn’t cost her much. Then I had a nice caregiver come the other days and take out, sometimes for dinner or Sat. shopping. She paid. It worked for 3 years until she needed 24 hr. assistance and moving to a nice facility was her only option, to which she finally agreed and we all were happy. She actually really thrived. There was always someone to talk to, eat with, etc..A lot of my friends seen to follow this same route. We are all getting too old to be full time caregivers. Let’s face it, we are not the professionals.
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SusanNeedsHelp Dec 22, 2018
Wow the life your Mom sure had a nice life with you and afterwards! Nothing to feel sad about there! Good for all.
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Sometimes the elderly parent has lost their choice of where they will reside due to waiting too long to make a decision, fear of loss of independence and other things. I don't suggest that an elder wait so long that their mind is challenged. Therein lies the adult children to make the decision.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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She most certainly can be “aging in place” if your hubby won’t condider a facility for her. Reduced cognitive abilities may qualify her for an aide in her home, or you can hire a social worker or agency to provide in-home care..... she might enjoy the companionship, and you definitely need the help!
better to start looking now, rather than waiting until something serious happens.
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Reply to Dadsakid
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Oh my goodness, completely understand. We are in a similar situation with my own dad. I also have my times of feeling guilty especially because I feel that I'm not a patient as I should be. One thing you need to remember is that she is in YOUR home. If you have house rules they need to be in place for your sanity. We have had to write everything down for my father. He says we never told him. He's gotten violent with both of us. Probably the dementia talking but my dad has always had a short fuse (he was like this with my mom and my mom same as him).
I support you making sure that you prioritize the rules YOU really need to remain sane--pick your battles carefully just like you would with a child. If you get at least some rules in place that will be a start and make you feel some better. You and your hubby should make a list of house rules (or whatever they are) and post them on the wall if you need to. Write notes to her. If you don't want to approach her, leave her instructions. We do that all the time. Writing something out is good therapy and good for her so she's not confused. Maybe that will help you.
We are looking at facilities now because my dad is incontinent. Great.
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Reply to Janice58
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Is it possible to hire someone to tend to her needs a couple days a week, for a few hours? Take some of the load off you guys. A lot of college students in Medical field could use Xtra funds and it helps them in their field, with the medical exposure as well. It really stinks that it's taking such a toll on your marriage and not helpful to your husbands declining health. I would sit down with him, and brainstorm ideas and to come up with options, to keep her, in her own environment. For everyone's sanity. I don't get why when people get a certain age, they feel it's their God given right to be entitled, demanding, and selfish. Anyhow, hope that y'all can come up with some creative options that will keep her in her home safely, and your marriage in tact. Best of luck and happy holidays 🎄🎁🎄
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TwinRivers Dec 21, 2018
I'm not an expert, but I wonder if the "entitled, demanding, and selfish" behaviors are symptoms of the disease—dementia, etc. I know someone who had a husband with Alzheimer. I remember when I was comforting her after his death, and the words, you must be relieved, slipped out of my mouth. I felt bad about saying it but her reaction was priceless. She said thank you for saying that. Nobody realizes the toll caregiving takes on a person. She didn't feel guilty about feeling that way. It was the truth. She was tired out, angry, and everything else. She remarked to me about how smart her husband had been earlier in her life and at the end he was reduced to carrying a Teddy Bear around the hall. She said in his facility all the men did this. The disease had robbed them of their personalities. I think being able to talk out loud about the subject helped her—somebody recognizing her pain helped. So no, Whataboutme, you are not a horrible person in ANY way. We are here to help each other.
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Briefly, that is really tough. I would strategize to see how you can get her to live a lone. What ways can created so that she can have support (Including from you) to keep her living on her a lone, yet safely. It's going to take time & a lot of thought from both you & your husband, but it can be done. I would also find ways to get her out socially and be part of the local community. That is so vital not only for health, but to one's mental well being. That can be done also. I feel this is going to make the quality of her life better and quality of both you & your husband better too.
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Reply to HappyWill
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Hi, it comes when you know that it is effecting you and your husband, your marriage, and the health of both of you. When an elderly loved one comes to live with you, there is no break from it. You are there 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. If your mother in law is a person who is manipulative, and complains, even worse. You and your husband bear it all.
In a situation like this, you need to consider yourself first. Your mother in law won't thank you, she will just get what she wants.
Make the best decision for you and your husband, not your mother in law.
Arlene Hutcheon
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Reply to Invisible
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It is interesting to me that both of you are nurses and don't want her to go into assisted living. You above all should know that assisted living isn't what a nursing home used to be. What is it that you know now that I don't? My father lived alone for 14 years, probably a year longer than he should have. We put in as many safeguards as we could including someone coming in 3-6 hours a day to cook dinner/make sure he was taking his medication. In the last couple of years, we were nearly all of his social interaction as being hard of hearing and unsure of his balance made him less willing to participate in /initiate social activity even within his apartment building, where he had many kind neighbors and a fine supportive staff that went home at 5 pm every day and was not around on weekends. When he fell, was unable to press his medical alert button and laid there overnight, we moved him into assisted living. It required significant downsizing. He eats more nutritiously and there is someone available 24/7 to check on him. I have more peace of mind. He has less isolation but also less space and privacy. I don't see any way around that. None of our homes can be made accessible enough for his needs. I could not handle his body weight by myself if he fell even though he is only 170 pounds because he can't help himself at all. He isn't as happy as he would be living with family but I go over every day and knock myself out making it homey. Holidays are a challenge. He doesn't realize if he lived with me I could not be there all the time to address all his needs. I was exhausted before, I am tired now.
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Reply to Invisible
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Hi Whataboutme, I completely understand your concerns. My 87 year old father lives with us. I am his 24/7 caregiver. He was a wonderful loving father to me and my sisters but has now become very self-cantered, demanding and sometimes unreasonable. I have learned not to entertain his “poor me” moods. When he launches into a self pity mode, I walk away. To some, it may seem heartless but he has used that approach to get what he wants in the past so unfortunately, I no longer trust him to always mean what he says. There is often an underlying agenda involved. I have learned that when He wants something and I’m busy to say “just a minute”, finish what I’m doing and then do what he’d like me to. I’ve learned that when he begs me for additional meds on top of his scrips to say “no”, no explanation required. I’ve learned that when he says he’s going to leave and go elsewhere where he won’t get the care he needs, to say “sure, you can if you like”. I’ve learned that when he refuses to go to doctor’s appointments to say “if you won’t do your part then I won’t do mine”. No true but sometimes, tough love is the only way. Put it plainly, I don’t entertain his manipulative behaviour. Sometimes he’s unhappy about it but that’s okay. You do have control, remember that. It’s hard to exercise it, sometimes I feel sad about it but it has to be done. Otherwise, the situation would become unbearable and then where would Dad be. Set some ground rules for you and your husband, this is how we will deal with such and such behaviour, and do it, with love, but do it. It’s in everyone’s best interest. I do understand your situation and my heart goes out to you. It’s not easy.
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Reply to PracticePeace
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Sounds to me that you already know the answer.

If you're looking for approval, you'll get about 50% either way. Some will applaud you, some will try to shame you.

But you already know what you needed to do - and you did it.

Speaking from experience, you might need to "retire" early to be a caregiver for your aging spouse. If you expend all your energies on his mother, you won't have any left when you will be your DH's caregiver. My DH was 30 years my senior, I was his 2nd wife. I planned to work until I was 50 and him 80 but it didn't work out that way and I wound up home at 45 to his 75. However, he would never have made it to 80 if I hadn't been home with him. Because our funds were limited, I took him to the VA and they found his cancer in time for treatments. I have never regretted having to quit working early and he lived another 21 years!
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Reply to RayLinStephens
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You could have her live with you, but hire a companion for her. This will keep her entertained while you two are working and perhaps tire her out enough that she will be ready for bed when you are home, or at the least she won’t feel forgotten and will have things to relate about her day. Boredom makes an unhappy person.
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Reply to Glendaj2
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Family counseling with a geriatric specialist sounds like a great idea, they should even be able to set up any evaluations when and if you need them. Some of the things you might consider though are first of all moving MIL closer to you, she needs to be living 5 min from you not 50. I would say move her next door if possible but sounds like that might be too close since boundaries aren't her strong suit and that's probably unlikely to change. My mom is also a diabetic, controlled with medication and then an added boost of long acting insulin at night so I totally get that obstacle, we had multiple BS related ER visits prior to her stroke and out subsequently taking over a closer and consistent overseeing of her medication intake. She also has heart issues and is now on 2 meds (one a blood thinner) that are even more time specific but she was determined to go home and live alone again after her stroke and is now determined to keep it that way as long as possible. While she does have 2 renters upstairs they aren't a part of her day to day life or care so we have enlisted cameras and Amazon Echo's along with her cell phone of course to help us make it possible for her to stay fairly independent. She has 3 things she has to do each morning, weigh herself, take her fasting BS (recording both) and take her medications on time. Then 2 things throughout the day, drink enough water and eat healthy (the 3 meals a day just wont stick). Then 2 things at night, take her meds and administer her shot. We (I say we but mostly it's my brother because he lives close) set up her shot's for a week or more put the 7 days worth in a glass next to her pill dispenser, we have gone to an automatic one that reveals the correct pills at the correct time morning and evening and sets off an alarm, her phone also has an alarm set. This is all set up on her table in front of her couch/bed and there is a security camera set up on a structure attached to the table (on wheels) that shows the table from above. The camera automatically records anytime something moves in it's view throughout the day so we can go back and see when she did things but the main purpose is so we can check in at a certain time each morning and evening to see if she has taken her meds and see her numbers (she records them in a monthly calendar book and leaves the month open under the camera) if she hasn't done any one or all of these things we call her to remind her or if her wt is up, meaning she is retaining fluids, we have a discussion with her about how to fix that, typically it means she didn't drink enough fluids the day before. When everything is done in the morning we don't bother her with a call until a bit later in the day, same thing at night, if she has taken all her meds when I check in anyway I leave her alone and don't call again at night unless there is some other need of course. It's been an ongoing and changing process, we are needing to call her more like 3 times a day now to make sure she eats and drinks fluids but it has really enabled us to monitor her, keep her on track and pick up when something is going wrong well before it becomes an emergency and it has enabled her to live independently. We are basically doing the care we would be if she were living with one of us but via the internet. Now we are able to do this because she is very steady on her feet and moves fine, she doesn't need help to the bathroom etc and we (3 of us, though mostly one brother and I simply based on logistics) share the responsibilities of checking in and calling.

Maybe a combination of monitors and the ability to care for her without living with her and moving her closer would help you and your husband as well? Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try a variety of things on for size, also use your MIL's medical providers to help facilitate, when Mom isn't cooperating or liking something I remind her that our set up is the only thing holding her PC from insisting she be in care.
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Reply to Lymie61
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Can you move her to senior housing/assisted living that is a bit closer to you? That seems like a compromise, she will have her own space, but there will be folks on the premises that are there in case of an emergency and if she is close by your husband can visit often.
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If she can afford it, there are enviable independent to assisted living to full care places. The one I'll move to in 25 plus years, is like a country club, and described as a cruise ship to nowhere. Nothing sad about living there. The place my dad lives as independent care is wonderful. He and my mom didn't want to go.. she died unexpectedly the first 4 months..he is very very happy to be there. He might get depressed about being old...but as long as he's old, this us a great place to be. Very social. He has many friends he'll interact with every morning at breakfast. He doesn't participate in group activities...but many do, and have made joyous lives there. It's not right that your husband, a nurse, thinks these places are bad. I visit my dad, stay in his apartment, with my dog every 3 weeks. Have her go to a place she helps to pick out, and one she's well enough to enjoy!
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Reply to SusanNeedsHelp
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I agree with those who recommended counseling. The very least you should do is help her move to a place that is closer that 45 min away. The extra hour+ it takes to visit her could be much better spent. Meanwhile, ask her pastor to send some of the church ladies to visit her!
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Reply to Bigsister7
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As far as when it's no longer safe for one to live alone, that can be different for everyone, but some of the signs I would watch for are memory/cognitive impairment (i.e. would she forget and leave the stove on? Would she forget to take or forget that she already took her meds? Etc.), does she have mobility issues, trouble performing basic activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, toileting, etc), is she showing signs of isolation and depression or other mental health issues which could make her a danger to herself.

It does sound like she could benefit from an AL facility now, as from what you said she is rather socially isolated at home. You might point this out to your hubby, tell him that you know it's painful for him to think about placing mom in a facility, but that it would be better for her overall health, mobility, and mental health to be around others her age and be more active (you know they say if you don't use it, you lose it), that she is too isolated at home and needs friends. Maybe if he were able to see that this would be better for his mom, and that she would have people around all the time and a call button in case of emergency, he would be able to be a little more open to the idea, and it would give him peace of mind as far as not having to worry about her being home alone.
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Reply to FrazzledMama
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It sounds like MIL would do very well in an Independent or Assisted Living facility. I bet if she were a resident and got to know people she would be more willing to go on bus trips and other outings. It can be frightening to sign up to go on a trip or outing where you do not know anyone just like a kid is scared or nervous the first day at school getting on a bus.
There are a variety of Residential facilities and maybe her clergy person can suggest one that might work for her given her strong faith. That might make her feel better from the start. And you could have her "try it on" for a week and see how she adjusts.
No one WANTS to place someone they love in a facility but when it comes to safety it is no longer a matter of WANT but NEED. He has to weigh Benefit VS Burden. The other motivating factor for many of these decisions is a catastrophic event and you want to avoid that! As she declines are you (and forget emotional stuff here for a moment) going to be able to care for her. Use a Sit-to-Stand? Hoyer Lift? have a roll in shower? have ADA height toilet that will be in a bathroom large enough to maneuver a wheelchair? are there stairs she/you/he will have to contend with getting her in and out of rooms or the house? no carpet so that moving with a walker and or a wheelchair will be easy? no carpet now that might present a trip hazard? and who will be primary caregiver? will he do this or will it fall mostly on you? (now we get into the personal stuff)
I am wondering if, and this is only if the two of you can be apart for a day or two each week. Could he stay with Mom 1 or 2 nights a week. She would get the interaction she wants, he can be a caregiver to Mom and knowing he does not have to rush home he can relax and make the visit more enjoyable. He can also assess how much help she does need and if he is prepared to give it to her. If this would work with his work schedule and the distance from his place of work it might be a bit eye opening for him.
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Reply to Grandma1954
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pcharlton Dec 21, 2018
Excellent thoughts! I too am trying to figure things out about my live in Father N Law. You gave me things to consider.
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I agree completely with Harpcat’s suggestion to get counseling, especially for your husband. He’s obviously got a lot of conflicting issues. He’s also got choices in all this.

What’s interesting is he’s been a hospice nurse so I’m sure he’s seen all kinds of family dynamics. Does he or can he draw on that? This career is ripe for untreated PTSD so that may also be a factor.

Since your MIL is such a professed Christian have her pastor or the church become involved.

Is there adult daycare in your area?

There are many options to help you and your husband deal with this in the most effective way.

Most importantly please take care of yourself. Stay strong with your perspective because you’re obviously a very good woman and wife. A great psychologist once told me I had to psychologically put my hands in my pocket and learn how to shrug. Took me awhile however I got there. A perfect example of this is when she’s “guilting” you. It’s NOT that you don’t care because you do. You have to protect yourself. Your example can be a learning experience for your husband.

Another way to look at this is to think, “not my monkeys, not my circus.” A bit crass and your home is “your tent.” You and your husband deserve a serene home. You won’t get that if she moves back in. And her circus is her home. Your husband, with his mother, is the ringmaster.

The challenge is to figure out what’s MOST effective for everyone involved? It will take some time and effort on their part.

Good luck. I’m in your corner.
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Reply to PMA6479
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Wow...reading your last statement revealed even more. You all need some guidance with a counselor that will objectively listen to the complex situation, help the two of you come to an agreement that you can both live with. It is not fair that one person makes the decision for you both as that will cause more bitterness and resentment and is not going to help your marriage. You have valid concerns and your husband needs help with sorting out his emotions on this. That is my piece of advice. Have you considered doing that?
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Reply to Harpcat
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Setting boundaries is not going to work! My mother has lived with us for 2 + years. I do have siblings (haven’t been very helpful) - my house is different with her there! It’s not a place where we can relax and shut down! Having her there has set a mood where we are always “ON”
we retreat to our bedroom to avoid ( she will actually knocks on door) anyway I have decided she MUST rotate and spend time in her other children’s homes .( I understand you don’t have this option & I’m not sure how is going to work ) she is very upset about this and I’ve been getting the sad and silent treatment ( as if I’m doing wrong) but it’s my life and need to get back to it !! Husband & Children & grandchildren! Good luck with your situation, please remember it’s you and your husband that come first!
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Reply to Patchouli07
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lablover64 Dec 28, 2018
You know what's fun about rotating Gramma to other siblings' homes? They get a taste of what you've been going through. Just before my mother was to go to a memory care facility, she "ran away" from my home, where she had lived for 5 years, to go to my more sympathetic sister's house. I felt badly about it but my brother said I should let my sister get a taste of what living with Mom was like. Well, she was there for not even a full week when my sister called me and said "We have to get her out of my house." Oh really?!

"She gives no one privacy, is impossible to cook for, is a slob, leaves her wet diapers in plastic bags all over the house, is always in the bathroom, says she needs help with just about everything when she really doesn't, answers the phone every time it rings and, when she can't hear the person on the other end, hangs up. She takes too many meds, leaves the lights and TV on all day and night, tells everyone how to do everything and sulks when you don't do it her way. She whines, complains, interferes, and drops guilt trips on everyone. To top it off, we can't sleep because we're afraid she'll wander out of the house in the middle of the night." I guess it was okay for Mom to do those things in my house for 5 years, but my sister couldn't handle it for 5 days!
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