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When I say bullies I mean they physically, verbally and emotionally abused the kids. The mother stopped beating the girls when they were old enough to "parent" the other kids (so she could be off and about).

The father brought verbal and emotional abuse to new levels. He can scream and swear for hours at a time. Everyone is stupid. Everyone is evil. His wife. His kids, The in-laws. His brothers. The Jews. The Blacks. The Germans. Everyone but him. If he's not bitching he's bragging about himself.

The mother has toned it down over the years. She doesn't scream much anymore. She just complains. And "guilts" everyone into helping her out.

Well now they do have some legitimate health issues. Add to that that the father is in the early stages of Alzheimer. He can still dress, eat, shave, shower, etc. But on a bad day he can barely remember his own kids.

So they do need some help. My wife and I have located services that can and will cater to their every need. We've also located a memory care facility if it should come to that.

But the in-laws don't want that. They want the kids to do it. That's what kids are for. (Never mind they did squat for their parents. The sisters took care of grandma.)

So the kids tried and continue to but the care is spotty and largely ineffective. And now the siblings are fighting with each other. (They always got along well).

The siblings have professional careers and can't always help out. My wife and I have low end jobs so the siblings think we can and should do more. They don't seem to understand that hourly employees can't come and go as they please or that hourly employees can get tired too.

We also have grand kids living with us, we help out my mom (nineties) and my wife was recently helping me out with a health issue (I'm seventy myself).

(My mom has been cooperative. We helped her find an independent care facility that provides housekeeping, meals, entertainment, etc. She and us kids have put together a plan should she need more as time goes on. We offer some help but mostly when we visit we get to VISIT!)

But the bigger problem is I think my wife has PTSD! Her parents continuing bad behavior seems to trigger childhood memories and she ... It's hard to describe. She comes home in tears. Sometimes crying hysterically. Sometimes she's hollering and screaming herself (so NOT like her!) Other times not a peep. Just quietly cries herself to sleep. If she sleeps at all. She gets all jittery and nervous when she knows she has to go over.

Her siblings tell her to "just get over it already". I think it's beyond presumptuous to tell someone how they should be reacting to childhood abuse.

Further I think their efforts are simply facilitating the parents continuing bad behavior but they don't want to upset them.

I think it's time to yank his drivers license. (He gets lost, he gets confused, he gets angry behind the wheel, he drives at inappropriate speeds, he pulls out into traffic causing others to slam on their brakes.) They don't want to upset him.

I think it's time to hire house keeping. They don't want to upset him.

I think it's time to hire other care services. They don't want to upset him.

But it's OK to upset my wife and demand more from her?

I don't see anyway out.

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Helpless, you are anything BUT. I suggest you change your name to Helpmeet, which is certainly what you are.
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To All:

I was pleasantly surprised at the kind, thoughtful and helpful replies. I haven't just read them, I've STUDIED them! Thanks to all!

I started last night. I ordered a book on this topic (the Narcissistic Family) which promises to address the family dynamic and its impact on the adult children. I then took her out to dinner, told her I appreciate what she's been going through and that I even understand (to some extent). We talked about some of the effects all of this is having on her and I told her what I've been learning (here) and about the book.

We also agreed that I could accompany her on her visits (diplomacy, count to ten, stay in control, change the subject, deflect with humor, get her out if/when needed ... whew). I know nothing is going to change overnight ... but I'm hopeful ... with enough baby steps ... we will make forward progress ... and get our lives back.
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Been through this as an only child with my own mother. I did a big rescue intervention for her and wonder every day why I did that. And for anybody up on a moral high horse - stuff it. Once you are the child of an abuser, they gave up their rights to expect your help in their sunset years. Abuse has to end, regardless of the age of the people involved.

My husband is my hero and my rock. He is a blocker when he needs to be, which I deeply appreciate. He has had to use harsh and firm words with my mother several times. He supports me in all my decisions. He sanity checks my decisions when I'm slipping back into Obedient Little Girl Seeking Approval. The approval that will never happen.

It has taken me the better part of 25 years to get to the place I'm at now with my mom. Having boundaries, realizing it wasn't my fault, that she had untreated mental illness, personality disorders, and identifying really dysfunctional thinking on my part that I learned as a child, such as what Pam said - be good, keep the peace, don't cause confrontation. It took therapy, constant self-reflection, and the desire to get out alive. Recovery takes time and it will absolutely not happen in the presence of the abusers.

Your wife has to understand this was and is abuse. This is not parenting from love. She can still love them and keep a safe distance and not be enmeshed in their drama. It is possible. It's called Detaching with Love. Google it.

If she wants to talk, any of us here can help her. So many of us have come through this very same type of situation and are throwing a virtual life-preserver out. It's scary. She'll need your nerve and bravery until she gets her own.

You can do it. Please come back and tell us how it's going.
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One cannot "just get over it already" when the abuse continues today. Be prepared for her to wig at the idea of just backing out of this drama - even as an adult, you still revert to having to be the good kid, keep the peace. Hopefully, she'll let you be the "heavy" with the family, insulating her as she gets stronger and can deal with them herself. My husband did this for me over the years, stepping up so I didn't have to until I reached a point where I could do it myself. I must tell you that the pivotal moment for me was when I found myself saying "I don't do this with my kids". She's so fortunate to have to in her corner - be strong.
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Save your wife. Get her some antidepressants, and block the calls from Dad. Turn the old man in to the DMV and let them handle it. If he drives off a cliff, consider it a blessing. If these were your own parents, you could pursue Guardianship, but in this case, you have to be pretty much hands off as an in-law. Be alert for "divide and conquer" where the parents attempt to keep the kids arguing with each other, to avoid having them unite and intervene.
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Hug your wife when she comes home upset. Honestly, I can't tell you how much it will mean to her to feel safe.

Longer term, it depends on your judgement of whether or not you can risk - I repeat risk, not necessarily achieve - a major and/or permanent estrangement from your wife's family. I've no comment to make: you'll have to weigh it up.

As a generality, though, especially among what you might call the more 'unreconstructed' social types, if there is a feminine duty that outranks caring for elders, it's obedience (tee hee hee - but I am trying to help) to her husband. Or at least prioritising her marriage over all else. Therefore, if you are prepared to be the villain of the peace, and stamp around like Ivan the Terrible, and demand that your in-laws cease depriving you of your uxorial amenities, you might find your wife is pitied more and bothered less. My BIL does this for my SIL - he's actually the kindest and most compassionate man imaginable, but that includes being the Bad Cop with my MIL.

You have to keep up steady pressure, is the thing, over time. And be careful to apply that pressure to the outlaws, and not to your wife. She's got enough problems.

On the other hand, she has got a REALLY nice husband. Lucky gal :)
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Helpless - first, don't call yourself that! Ok, now onto the situation with your wife.
I don't know the relationship dynamic the two of you have, but would it be possible for you to tell her something like, "Effective immediately, I am your guardian, I am your gatekeeper. You will have NO contact with your parents or siblings (and anyone else on her side of the family tree) for the time being. Go see a therapist, and talk, talk, and talk some more. YOU are the priority here, this is YOUR life, and YOUR peace of mind and happiness are worth everything." And then you screen her calls if they call, don't let them in the door if they show up, even screen her texts and emails if she wants you to. Be her total bodyguard. This sounds like a horrible situation, I think she really needs this from you right now.
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Abuse is abuse is abuse. Just because the abuser is now old and in need, does not mean they get to pull the abused back in like a fish on a line.
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Support your wife and give her permission to say no to her parents and her family. Any therapist will tell you that it is damaging for her to be there. Find her counseling and take her, if that's what it takes to get her to go. "The doctor says I can't do this anymore".
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When there are toxic people in a family that toxin spreads to other family members. Otherwise healthy, well adjusted adults begin to experience emotional disturbance as a result. Over the years people can learn to rise above it but it takes a very long time and a lot of work.

Regardless of what her siblings say, it's OK for your wife not to get too deeply involved with her parents. The crying and the anxiety are signs that your wife is already to close to the situation.

Unless your inlaws hold a gun to your wife's head she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to do. If she continues to go back into that environment over and over she will essentially be giving her parents permission to treat her any way they want to. By going back she is saying, "This is OK with me."

The siblings are all fighting because the in-laws are toxic and it's contagious. Any time there's abuse in a family the dysfunction that causes seeps into everything for years and years.

Let the in-laws know that you've hired some great caregivers for them who will take care of their daily needs. Give the in-laws some control over how often they have help and for how long. Then turn it over. Your wife can organize from the sidelines and deal with anything that comes up from a safe distance.

And don't let the siblings guilt your wife into doing more. It's not up to them as to how involved your wife is, they don't get a say.

If your in-laws refuse outside help then at least you know you tried. If they're not safe in their home without assistance call your local office for Adult Protective Services. Your wife doesn't have to be involved in this if she really doesn't want to be.

Keep being supportive of your wife and her decisions. She's lucky to have you.

I know all of this is easy for me to say while I sit behind my computer and not have to deal with it myself but family can be complicated, there are childhood issues that haven't been resolved and fresh new wounds piled on top of the old ones. Only long-term therapy could sort it all out for your wife and she doesn't have the luxury of that right now in this situation. She's going to have to be strong and stand up for herself and refuse to get sucked back into the dysfunction. But she'll have to remind herself everyday that it is not her responsibility to take on the complete care of her parents. It's not her job.

Keep being supportive of her, she's going to need it.
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Where to begin. For starters don't personally take care of these people. Your wife needs counseling due to her upbringing. She has deep scars and to care for her parents would only make,her sick.

My parents were somewhat like this but not as severe. I have learned over time to put up big boundaries and have very little to do with my mother. My father has passed.

For someone to say "just get over it" is so stupid and insensitive. It shows how little the siblings understand what damage has been done to the family,and especially your wife. Under no circumstances do you allow your poor battered wife to put herself through this h*ll.

Just say no. Believe me. You will have to at some point so do it now and get it over with. If your lucky, maybe they will all leave you and your wife in peace. God I hope so.
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