Three years ago, I volunteered to take care of my mother in law who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We got her moved in and was told she had weeks, maybe months to live, she was put on hospice care.....well, a miracle happened and she's still with us at 93 and is cancer free (without treatment)! She now has dementia and my husband and I are not handling her behavior well.

My biggest frustration at this point is I can't keep her from doing certain things, like leave the dishwasher alone. She opens it when it's running, she loads dirty dishes in with clean or will put the dirty dishes up thinking they are clean.

It grosses me out and drives my bonkers mental stress to the max ( I'm type A and controlling)! She also will at times "wash" dishes by hand without soap!

What would you do to remedy this? I made a sign for our dishwasher to indicate clean/dirty, she says she doesn't think to look at that could she miss it though. I often feel she does things that irritates me on purpose! She is very passive aggressive, sneaky, quite and at times malitious.


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I feel your pain. My mom lives with me and the dishes are a huge dilemma. Unfortunately, in my case, I don't own a dishwasher. She hates to see a dish in the the event I'm too exhausted to tend to them right away, she will and the result is icky, grimy dishes and my stress level raised to the roof! I beg her to please leave them to me, but she insists. If I point out a flaw, for example showing her the residue left on a glass she'll say "oh I didn't do that one." So, I say, "so why is it on the dish rack?!" Lord, help us all..
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Look into the memory care facilities nearby. MIL will likely reach a point where she's no longer safe living with you. The things that are minor irritations now are likely to turn into major safety issues later on. Dementia sufferers tend to become super obsessed with things, and no matter what you do, you cannot get them OFF the topic. My mother's fixation is the toilet. She insists on wheeling her wheelchair into the bathroom continuously, saying she has to use the toilet. She urinates on the floor and I find her using her foot to run a washcloth over the mess. They also have absolutely NO concept or concern for safety, and wind up putting themselves at risk all the time. The MC place I have my 92 year old mother in is phenomenal and she's as safe as she can possibly be there. I can visit her as a daughter instead of a hands on caregiver, which preserves the tricky relationship we've always had.
Best of luck
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I have cared for Alzheimer's and dementia patients for 20+ years. What you are experiencing with your MIL is nothing out of the ordinary. I am certain she isn't doing anything to be malicious in any way. She probably feels she is helping you without realizing what she is actually doing. Suggest something for her to do to make her feel like she is still able to help out around the house such as folding towels. I had a patient that loved to fold laundry and would fold the same things over and over all day. There are many changes that she will go through that will drive you batty! Have you thought about having respite care for her? That way you can have a much needed break away. I also suggest an Adult Day Care that she can go to during the day. There are a ton of resources online that can be of assistance in finding the best solution for you. I don't always agree with moving them into an assisted living facility and I can only speak from what I know about them. I have worked in many different facilities and witnessed a variety of things which is the reason for me going out on my own and working for families privately in the clients homes. By no means am I saying that they are all bad places but I do know that the aides have way to many patients to try to juggle in an 8 or 12 hr shift meaning that some patients may not have any assistance for the day or very little. Good luck and remember you also need to take time out for yourself
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I had similar troubles with Luz washing dishes. I would just let her do her thing and wash them myself later. She so badly wanted to do things for herself around the house. Along with her dementia she had aphasia and was non-verbal.
I will admit that with her being my wife, I was more tolerant with her behavior than normal.
She would also try dusting the furniture and a few other things. None of which were done correctly.
You might try asking hubby to put the dishes away and he could see how poor the job she does actually is. Or put a dirty dish in front of him at supper.
Until he has actually seen the results he may not accept the amount of work involved.
I wish you luck.
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97yroldmom Jul 6, 2019
Excellent ideas Old Sailor.
I know it’s a bigger problem than this but what if you had something you could roll in front of the dishwasher to get it off her radar? A utility cart maybe that has brakes that you could just roll in front and set the brakes? Put a pretty ivy on it so the dw isn’t as obvious? Even a wheelchair with the brakes locked is hard to move. Then when they are done, you could move it and ask her to put the dishes away.
I just googled “lock for dishwasher” and they are available. Who knew?
If washing dishes is her thing let her wash them all over and over. Some of the pretty unbreakable ones might be fun for her. Give her a dish drain to stack them in. Not clean just wait a few min and pop them back in the sink with fresh suds. Think 5 yr old.
She will not want to do dishes very long. She will move onto something else.
I know I would be very upset with my husband if I were you. He needs to take responsibility for her. She’s his mother. Where is yours by the way? Have you been able to spend time with your family these past three years?
Congrats on the new grand baby. Don’t let this time pass by with you tied up with MIL.
Try to introduce help into your home so that you can live your life.
I am so sorry that happened to you with the police officer. It sounds like some training is In order for police officers dealing with dementia.
But for the small problems try to look for solutions you would use for children. Putting things out of sight and reach. Locks. Disable. You can’t trust her obviously.
Come here and vent. We will try to help.
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Texasblessed Jul 6, 2019
Thanks for the creative suggestions, unfortunately not an option to put anything in front of the dishwasher, it would block the path and pretty much everything I do my husband thinks I'm making a big deal out of nothing. Yes, I realize I paint a pretty bad picture of him, he just doesn't understand any of this. I will however research the lock...thanks!
She has dementia and is almost certainly NOT doing things to be malicious. As to whether you can continue to care for her with this worsening dementia, that is another question, because it is an every second of the day 24/7 job, and comes a time there is not even a lot of sleeping. It sounds as though placement at this time is the only option. Time to begin planning for that.
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Thank you!
Keep in mind that your MIL’s brain is, as we say here, “broken”. People with dementia often act like young children, throwing temper tantrums, being “sneaky”, and making hurtful comments; misbehaving, in other words. Sometimes leaving little reminder signs (like your dishwasher sign) might work, but also sometimes, the sufferer forgets how to read and comprehend what they’re looking at. They truly aren’t responsible for this, any more than a two year old would be responsible for a temper tantrum in the middle of Walmart.

You've been caring for Mom for three years. Might it be time to explore other options? If she can handle her Activities of Daily Living, such as dressing, toileting, personal hygiene, etc., maybe Assisted Living. There are some, I’ve read, for people with dementia. Or maybe Adult Daycare to give you a break. Your local Area Agency on Aging may be able to suggest options.
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Thank you, we recently had a family meeting about her behavior after she called the police at 9:15pm told them I shot a gun off upstairs (my husband was on his way home from work). The worse part... I had just returned from the hospital for hysterectomy surgery and the cop actually yelled for me to put my hands up and yanked me out of the house! I was tramatized . My husband won't face reality though and refuses to have his mom live anywhere else. I am certainly not able to take care of her and he doesn't know how. I don't know what to do without his support.
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