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My MIL is in an assisted living about 100 mi from our home (in town where DH grew up). She was living with us, but that was a nightmare. Unfortunately my husband doesn't have a lot of respect for me and so sets a poor example to his family in how to treat me. I have a chronic illness and physical disability, so unfortunately my husband knows I don't have many options so takes my presence for granted. I finally put my foot down and said it was either her or I when she threatened my animals and tried to hit me; after treating me as a maid for the past year. Surprisingly enough, DH finally put her in assisted living. His mom is 80 years old and in good health physically w/ the exception of some osteoarthritis.


Mentally it is a different story. She is a hypochondriac, and has been her entire life. She is also a recovering alcoholic and has depression and anxiety. She interprets all the normal signs of aging as a serious illness in the making, and will visit doctor after doctor hoping that they will either diagnose her as seriously ill or wave a magic wand and make her 30 years old again. I have been saying for years that DH and his siblings needed to hire someone to give her companionship and get her out doing things. I finally started looking for someone on my own yesterday and my husband is finally on top of it. She has been having them take her to doctor after doctors the past year and simply won't give it up when they each give her an essentially clean bill of health. They did discover a year and a half ago that she has a ruptured diaphragm from an accident almost 10 years ago. She has clearly had this all along, but now that she KNOWS about it, it is consuming her. The pulmonologist told her that she is not a candidate for surgery as her pulmonary function is well within normal limits for her age. However, she drags the chest x-rays to every doctor's appointment and tells them how serious it is and how bad she feels. She is sure that she needs to have surgery to correct it and constantly says she is short of breath when she walks places, but every time one of is actually with her she shows no signs of respiratory distress whatsoever.


She has been to the hospital three times in the last year; never with any concrete diagnosis other than one time with a minor UTI (which I doubt personally that it was ever truly symptomatic, esp since she had no systemic signs of infection at all). She uses the health care system as a way of getting attention. She herself was a nurse for over 50 years, so she always knows exactly what to say to elicit unaware clinicians' concerns (her regular docs have now grown wise to her issues, so I think that has contributed to her seeking referrals to many new specialists and trips to hospital). She also enjoys regaling clinicians with her nursing stories and basically making herself a minor celebrity in the process, LOL. Saying that she is sick also is a way to get her kids to come running and get them all concerned about her. She had an appt yesterday with a gerontoloist that she told us her PCP recommended she see. I got after DH a bit, telling him that a gerontologist WAS a PCP, and suggesting he contact the office yesterday morning prior to taking her to figure out why she referred her. I esp wanted him to do this bc number one, I figured it was a self-referral she just got her PCP to sign off on (none of the kids were actually present for that visit); secondly, that she was unable to give a clear reason herself as to what she was going for (other than he "really needed to review her plan of care to ensure they weren't missing anything," despite the fact that her care has been reviewed by no less than four doctors in the past six months plus the hospitalists) and most of all bc I myself was sick and in a terrible amount of pain due to a flare up of my autoimmune condition. I simply wanted my husband to verify what the appt was specifically for according to the DOCTOR, & if it was nothing urgent reschedule.

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So, my cousin moved from one county to another in FL based on what disability/elder services were available.

While her mom ( my aunt ) was alive and cuz was living with her, she was fine living in the locale where her mom was. As soon as her mom died, she moved to a better county. If your current locale is not affording you adequate support and if your husband isn't making up the difference, I think you should move.

He will need to make a choice then, right?
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Kathrynseton Aug 22, 2018
Barb, It is certainly something I have considered, as I have a sister in CO, but medically it would be a nightmare as all of my treatments are here and it would be difficult if not impossible to duplicate it elsewhere. I won't go into the details as to why that is the case, but suffice it to say that unfortunately it is a huge issue. It would also mean losing my animals, and I can't face that at this point. As far as our marriage, goes, I just am not to that point at the moment. We have our ups and downs. No marriage is perfect, and ours is a bit unusual and with unique stressors anyway. There are absolutely people in far worse situations than mine. For that matter, I myself am far from perfect or easy to live with. I struggle with a lot of depression issues along with the health stuff. Caring for someone is exhausting, (especially when it is both his mother AND myself) so I figure that at the end of the day I should cut my DH some slack. Sometimes I need to vent, and a forum such as this allows for that. I am a prolific writer (if you couldnt tell, LOL) and it is cathartic. It is even better when someone removed from the situation can "hear" what i have to say as well. I appreciate the advice, but I appreciate just being heard even more. Thank you for that, and for sharing parts of your own story.
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I agree with Barb. His siblings have set boundries. I have a disabled nephew that if he could, would have me jumping at every request, I choose to set boundries. If not an emergency, I will do the errand when I am out. My husband "your just sitting there reading/watching TV." Correct, but I am retired and as such I do things in my time if its not an emergency. And, if u jump everytime he asks, it is expected. Been thru that with helping a friends family and it got overwhelming.

Now about ur husband, mine would do the same thing. My MIL had an illness. Everyone talked about it but my husband. I think he knew by some of the decisions he made but he would just say "she exaggerates". She lied. But like you said, she eventually believed her own lies. Because she could repeat them word for word years down the line. She would lie to get out of doing something she didn't want to do and lie to get out of something she said or did. Early in my marriage I would go visit her alone. She would tell my husband I said this and that turning around what I said to make me look bad or her look good. My husband would ask what I said, say OK and walk away. This would make me mad but found out he probably was just confirming what I said was not how Mom told it. A fight with MIL and my DH standing up for me made me know I came first. By the way, her other sons chose to move to GA and Miss. 2 days drive from the state we live in. I was a little mad when she and FIL moved to Fla when she had a 4yr old granddaughter. But, it was probably the best thing for our relationship. I only had to see her 1 week every year or two. Oh, and she complained about my daughter not being closer to her. Really! She had nothing to do with her when she lived not 10 min away and then she moved 1500 miles away!
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Kathrynseton Aug 19, 2018
Thank you Joann. Thankfully almost, I am not in a position to do much with or about my MIL. The problem is that my husband always is, whether she needs it or not, and too often at times when I actually need him a Now that she moved out of our house, she is lonely and misses being fussed over. We all need companionship and I feel bad she is living alone, but I have to remind myself that 1) she actually went downhill when she moved in with us bc she got waited on hand and foot bc that is the precedent DH set, and 2) it isn't my fault she went over the deep end just bc she was asked to a tiny little thing (keep the door to her craft room closed when she wasn't in there so our cats wouldn'the get into stuff, and which most would comply with without a second thought. She didn't want to do it and was being contradictory and nasty because I was the one asking her to do it. 3) she hated my husband's ex too, because she took his focus off of her. It isn't personal, she hates anyone who she perceives has more influence over her son (and sibs to some extend, though worse w/ DH for some reason).
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Kathryn; I have a cousin with MS who was in almost your precise situation. She is in a wheelchair. She divorced her husband. She is independent with the help of assistive devices, technology and good friends.

You can't make his siblings do any more than they are willing to. They have set healthy boundaries; your husband has not.

Find other ways of getting to doctor visits; look into local assistance for the disabled; it certainly exists.
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Kathrynseton Aug 19, 2018
Barb, I have looked. It doesn't really exist in any realistically consistent way unleso you can afford to pay for it. Since my income is only about $1000 per month and my deductibles alone eat up more than half of that, I cannot begin to afford it. At this point, with the only state program that exists to help even a little having at least a 1 year waiting list, my only choice would be a nursing home. That would not be better, but worse. Unfortunately our DHS system is very broken. Handicap accessibility is something we want to believe is a reality, with the disabled having the same opportunities as everyone else; but when you end up actually disabled, you see how much of a myth it is. Also, again, it isn't that I don't love my husband or really want to leave. I just wish he wouldn't take that for granted as I feel he so often does.
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By the way, your relationship with your husband sounds very troubling. He gives you no respect, you say "I told you so", being right and nagging him about how awful his mom is ...these are not indicative of a happy life together.

Set boundaries for yourself. Don't chime in with "What your mother needs". Focus on your own well-being and maintaining your independence.
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Kathrynseton Aug 17, 2018
I definitely hear you, and you are absolutely right--there are certainly aspects of our relationship that have always been troubling. Part of the problem is my husband's siblings, that are practically useless in terms of their mother' care. They are content to let him do it, and he is likewise terrible about setting boundaries for his own well-being and that of our relationship. Further, I should also note that my husband is a traumatic brain injury survivor. While he is extremely high functioning, it does effect his decision-making somewhat. Plus he just constantly feels the need to take care of people in general, to the point where several have taken advantage of him in some pretty extreme ways (obviously including his mom). As far as maintaining my independence, my disability and health issues make this fairly impossible. Unfortunately I truly lost most of my independence long ago. I don't drive and can barely walk on my own over half of the time. Unfortunately this will got worse; not better, over the coming years. As I stated before, my husband is very well aware of this and I think just takes my presence for granted. I don't want to make it sound like all is doom and gloom in our marriage, bc that isn't the case. And also, I do try to have patience w/ him and the predicament he is in w/ his mom. I don't mean the "I told you this would happen" in a snarky way, but more or less out of simple frustration that I am trying to help him anticipate and solve problems before they become absolutely overwhelming. Despite the fact that; more often than not, I again and again end up being right in regards to the way things end up in the long run. Despite this, he repeatedly demonstrates that old classic definition of insanity--doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It is just really difficult watching him sabotage himself constantly! I DO try to disregard the whole situation w/ his mom and let him figure it out w/ his sibs, but it isn't realistic bc his own follow-through and boundary setting is often lacking, to the point that he is constantly running back and forth to his mother (100mi ONE WAY from our house) and situations are also inevitably arising where I desperately need him for doctor visits and ACTUAL medical emergencies and he is not there bc of his mom's constant drama. So; while I certainly appreciate where you are coming from in terms of setting my own boundaries, realistically I am in the classic "rock meet bloody hard place" circumstance.
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Your MIL is mentally ill. Find a geriatric psychiatrist for her to see. Meds may help.
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Kathrynseton Aug 17, 2018
Yes, it is clear that she is mentally ill. I think she has probably been so all of her life. She is on meds, and did recently finally see a psychiatrist for what I think is the first time since her alcohol rehab 30 years ago. She has been in therapy since but unfortunately spent most of the time telling a persistent tale of how she was beaten by my FIL and stalked afterward, which is 110% NOT true (we are absolutely certain of this bc my FIL certainly doesn't have the personality for it, and the kids were in HS and college and living at home when it was supposed to have happened, so they would have absolutely known about it if it were true). However, she has been telling the story for such a long time (again, as a way of gaining sympathy and attention), that I fully think that she believes it herself at this point. The strangest thing is that she always sits and talks with her ex and his second wife for the bulk of every family get together. Anyway, last year I convinced my husband to push her into signing a release so at the very he could finally tell her therapist the truth about her "abuse" and her hypochondriasis. She has a new therapist since she moved, but come to find out yesterday, she has canceled every appt w/ him in the last month. Now that we seem to have found someone who will work as her caregiver, we can get her back into therapy. Med changes may happen eventually, but honestly I don't think it really matters. At 80 years old, she isn't going to change. The objective now is simply, again; to have someone a few days a week that will get her out of bed and doing things, keep her out of the doctor's office and hospital, and take some of the pressure off of my husband and our marriage.
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It sounds like she does need to be evaluated by a geriatric psychiatrist. Her behavior sounds narcissistic but she may suffer from a form of OCD that is causing the hypochondria.

You and your hubby will need to set boundaries with her, or she will keep running you ragged. Like maybe have certain days of the week that you visit, and let her get transportation from the AL to dr appts. Many AL facilities do offer that service. As you said, if it's a true emergency, she can call 911.

The companion sounds like a good idea too. If you find someone that's a good fit, the outings and visits from them may take her mind off of her many "ailments".

I understand where you're coming from. My mom lived with us for awhile too, and it was just too much. She too suffers from mental illness and has some physical issues, but expects 24/7 attention. She literally wanted me to be her sole source of entertainment. And for years when she lived alone, she would get paranoid and call the police, and would call me with some sort of crisis all the time. I can definitely empathize. She is starting to participate in more stuff at her facility but every time I talk to her it's "Oh, woe is me."
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Kathrynseton Aug 17, 2018
Oh yes, that sounds a lot like my MIL, LOL! So sorry that you are dealing with this too. It wouldn't be as difficult if I wasn't dealing with all of my own issues, but that just compounds everything. I totally know what you mean though; I have learned at this point to never ask her how she is doing as she will just launch into a laundry list of complaints and how awful she supposedly feels. Meanwhile my husband chuckles at the fact that every time someone asks ME that question I reflexively say I am fine, even if I am not (you know, the socially conditioned response). If only she would get some social conditioning!😂

(Yes, btw, she does get transportation to some of her appts via the facility, such as to the chiropractor, some of her PCP appts and (supposedly) her therapy appts. My husband only goes to the "important appts." At this point though he says he is putting his foot down and not taking her to any new doctors unless there is a clear new reason that she needs to go. The self-referalls he hopefully will follow through on not participating as he says he finally seeing my point that he only enabling her by doing so. Of course, interestingly enough, while she won't get herself out of bed to do much else, she almost never misses a Dr appt! I of course have no problem with him taking her to see someone if she actually NEED it. The problem at this point; as I indicated, is trying to tell the difference between her "crying wolf," and the real deal).
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She told gerontologist her Seasonal Affective Disorder was bothering her. Btw, it's 80 and sunny here at the moment. Fortunately the doctor also told her that this was not a concern @ the moment,& if she was concerned about it she should take some Vitamin D (which she already does). Anyway, I basically told my husband "I told you so," and reiterated that she was doing this to get attention and that her "maladies" would only continue unless they hired a person for companion care a few days per week as her real problem is loneliness. She will seek attention any way she can unless they give her a more positive way of getting it. My husband and his sibs have started to get the idea over the last 6mos or so that her hypochondriasis w/ her anxiety & depression is only worsening and that she will have then running to take care of her more & more unless they do something (a caregiver is healthier & more economical than constant medical intervenation's, esp bc Medicare could actually refuse to pay if they consider such interventions unnecessary). Unfortunately, part of it is that she tends to get jealous when I am struggling with my health stuff & my husband is tending to that & not her. If I get sick, inevitably she will as well; of course w/ something far more serious, OR with the exact same symptoms that I have! We came back from our yearly winter vacation down south a year ago (I should mention that EVERY year before we leave she comes down with some terrible illness, clearly in an attempt to get us to cancel our trip. Thankfully he has been wise enough to pawn her off on his sibs (he has always been her primary caregiver as his sibs' spouses won't put up with them doting on her the way she wants). Last year, soon after we got home I got an infection & had to go to ER. While we were down there she phoned him complaining of chest pain! I gave him "the Look," and whispered "Don't you dare leave me here-if she'said having chest pain tell her to call 911!" He told her that she should lie down & let him know if she didnt feel better. Sure enough, she fell asleep & was fine we got home. I will also point out that all her adult life (when she was still working), she has really done nothing but go to work, then come home & sleep. She couldn't handle her own bills or even clean her house. She wouldn't even get up to let her dogs out &they would go all over the house (she would also leave that for my husband to clean). He usually wouldn't even allow me to go into her house as he was afraid that with my low immunity I would contract an infection. How she worked as a nurse for 50+ years is unknown, but she indeed seemed to be capable in that realm. So anyway, that's the story. If you've read this far you are a brave soul, ;-)! I just figured that comp. background info may be helpful; sorry for the length. I could write a book-this is the SHORT version! My question for all of you out in caregiver land (this is my first time here) is, 1st: How do you keep from getting consumed by resentment in such a situation? I try to remind myself that she is mentally not well, even if she is physically fine. It isn't w/ her as much that I struggle. It is actually more with my DH, as so much of his time is consumed with meeting her needs. I feel like I hardly ever see him sometimes bc of it. I like that he is devoted to her, bc it shows he is a good person. But at the same time, there are times (like yesterday) that I REALLY needed him and he was busy chasing after her simple need for attention. 2nd: How do u tell diff. between "crying wolf" and a real health problem? 3rd: How do u find the happy medium between caregiving & maintaining a healthy relationship, esp when the elderly in-law uses her child's desire to care for her almost as a weapon against his spouse, whom she clearly resents for "stealing" his attention that SHE feels rightfully more entitled to? Thanks in advance for reading all of this and for your input! ♡
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