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They never cared for me and didn't want their son to marry me, but we were 40, so he did as he pleased. I've had a cordial relationship with them for 20 years until this past spring. After celebrating my birthday, they fabricated an "insult" and have refused to see or speak to me. My husband and teen son have tried to reason with them, even prove they are mistaken, but it's no use. My FIL forced us to remove bins we had in storage in the attic, berated my husband for every perceived transgression going back 40 years, including marrying me and will no longer see him either. He's also called me terrible names to our son and completely fabricated incidents involving me and passed these stories to extended family. I don't think they have dementia but my FIL has had a couple of strokes.


The whole family is in upset. I've never experienced people at end of life who have purposely blown up a family like this. My husband has 3 siblings and they will not intervene because they're afraid my FIL will turn on them as well. Separately, they say he speaks badly of everyone, punctuated with a self-congratulatory, "I remember," with every recount, as proof he still is mentally fit.


At this point, I can ignore them. But this is killing my husband, who has always been close to his mom, at least. And it's upsetting our son who's always seen them as loving grandparents. Would appreciate any advice.

Gisele, welcome to the forum!

Strokes can and often do result in vascular dementia.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) can cause behavioral and psychiatric issues in the elderly.

Are there any signs of self-neglect? Can your husband be in contact with their doctor and indicate that this is a sudden change in mental status?

Dementia, especially vascular dementia, is often not so much about memory as it is about judgement and seeing consequences. Is anyone POA or healthcare proxy for these folks? It sounds like there is some cognitive decline going on.

One of the first "lessons" in dealing with folks with dementia is "don't argue". Look up Teepa Snow and see if your husband can adopt some of her techniques in dealing with his parents.

I wonder if husband could take his mom out (just her) and scope out if Dad is being mean/abusive to her as well? Maybe a grandson/grandad day, and mom gets a trip out to dinner with her son. Not to be argued with, just "how are things at home, mom?"
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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Don’t ask anyone to intervene for you, that’s no fair as they’ll be uncomfortable and likely get venom back. Don’t discuss the situation anymore, leave it to your husband and son to see them or speak to them as they see fit. And know that strokes often have the result of personality changes. I’m sorry for your hurt in this, hope you’ll step away from this and fill your time with things that bring you joy
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Reply to Daughterof1930
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I am the 'trigger' for my MIL. She has cut me off 100%. Like you, due to totally fabricated events and such. I tried for years and years and years to be the calm voice of reason, to not take offense (she's never been kind to me, ever)....and as she aged, she got meaner and nastier. DH never stood up for me nor said a word. I know he didn't want her to turn on him!

Over a year ago everything blew up. All I did was answer a question she'd asked me, and my DH began to talk 'over' me, as she was trying to get him to fix a computer issue. (They are both very deaf). She literally screamed and screamed at me to 'shut up! shut up!' I got up and slapped her gently on the back (to get her attention) and said 'V, I am giving you the best gift. I am walking away and you never have to see or talk to me ever again'. And I walked out the door and left. Haven't been back for almost 18 months. I have no intention of trying to mend this rift. There is literally no point and no hope.

I know she has some kind of mental disorder and she had been in the hospital for a really severe UTI which caused her to fall. But she had been home again for a couple of months and I thought she was 'better'. Nope. Worse.

DH is NOT happy with this dynamic. As long as I was around, I took all the heat. Now he gets it--she is ALWAYS mad, beyond just annoyed, but furious angry all the time. SIL gets the CG role, and DH tries to help, but every visit with her ends in him being screamed at. Now I'm not there to absorb the vitriol, he gets it all. He will BEG me to go with him to visit and I will not. His older brother cut ties with her several years ago and doesn't speak to her.

DH is slowly, slowly coming to see what I have been through and to see his mother as what she is: a hateful, sick woman.

Sounds like your inlaws are terrorizing the whole family. You probably can't do much of anything to change them or the dynamic you find.

It is sad, but they (esp FIL) are going to get worse. Strokes cause mental damage--don't exclude those as a possible causation of the behavior change.

I wouldn't waste my time or breath on them--honestly, my emotional health was so damaged by time spent with MIL. (FIL divorced her 32 years ago and passed 18 years ago--I had a fabulous relationship with him!)

My MIL does not 'recognize' my 5 kids, their spouses or our 14 gorgeous grandkids as being related to her. She has never even SEEN the youngest grandbaby and he is 4. No desire to even see him.

I feel your pain--so clearly. Take a step back and decide how much pain you are willing to suffer to have a 'realtionship' with these people.
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Reply to Midkid58
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BurntCaregiver Sep 27, 2021
Good for you Midkid58. You're also right to have no contact with your MIL who always treated you so badly. No one deserves that and no one should ever have to suffer to have a relationship with someone either.
Maybe having nothing to do with your MIL is a blessing in disguise for you and your husband as well. It will keep both of you off the caregiver hook.
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A neuro-psychiatrist once said to me of people becoming older and developing cognitive problems, "they remain themselves, but more so". Protect yourself from the ones that were always unpleasant, or selfish, or angry, or.... They probably will not mellow out (I don't want to be too negative.). I am struck by how often people on this site mention what a difficult time they have always had with people who were once much healthier, in less pain and discomfort, and not so helpless. The writers are still so disappointed at what happens. We never really getting over expecting our elders to love us the way we wish they had.
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Reply to Moxies
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BurntCaregiver Sep 29, 2021
Moxies,

No truer words have ever been spoken. I believe that neuro-psychiatrist who spoke to you is right.

"They remain themselves, but more so". The in-laws of gisele28 never cared for her or even liked her. So dementia shows up and that dislike turns into something far worse.
I'm surprised it's a DIL in the role of family scapegoat and not one of their own adult kids (almost always a daughter as we all know) in that role.
Well, there isn't much gisele28 and her husband can do except learn as much as they can about Alzheimer's/dementia. Then stay away from the in-laws entirely. Don't reach out to them. In fact, they should consider them dead already and grieve the loss.
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I'll add my voice to stay away from FIL completely.

I think I would try to accept they are sliding into decline in an awful way. Tragic. But it happens that way sometimes.

But I would continue to keep supporting your Husband, as THAT is the relationship you want to be still standing when his parents are no more.

He may choose to keep seeing them or not. He maybe very torn about that. He may need time & space to come home to decompress if he does.

As others have said, whoever is still close them could keep an eye. Safety is a concern.

MIL may have denial or be naive about FIL's cognition or alternatively, be aware & covering (this happens a lot). Many times an elder would never think to call EMS even when there is a medical or mental health crises. Or one forbids the other to call. Others on the site have had to set up a 'safety plan' in such cases. If not mobile phone savvy, a safe neighbour to go to call for help instead.

I am sorry for this situation - it is sad for you all. Maybe blame it on the 'stroke related brain changes' when talking to your son.
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Reply to Beatty
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I don't know but no matter what anyone says, I think this is a case of dementia and I for one will not tolerate the behavior of people with dementia - I just can't and won't - horribly burned by them the past and I run as fast as I can. And strokes can affect the mind terribly. These are OLD, SICK PEOPLE......and if nothing stops their behavior, much as it may hurt, I would not look back for a second - I couldn't - support your husband and I suggest he and you both move on and don't look back because if you stay and are involved, this will destroy you both. Remember the good days but stay clear of them now.
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Reply to Riley2166
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Very sorry for your stress - which must be through the roof. This is a really difficult situation. Like many similar situations with people and the inexplicable things they do, you have to let go and accept you can only control yourself. I would give your in-laws their space and wait it out. I would not send notes and flowers snd such as they have made it clear that you are not welcome in their life and they would likely view those notes as provocative. At most, I would send them a note saying that you are sorry for whatever it is that causes them to dislike you and say that you wish it were different but respect their right to feel the way they do. Then I would have no further contact. I would sit down with your husband and son snd let them know that you do not want this situation to affect their relationship with your in-laws but that for your own well being you are not going to force the situation into a close family when that is not within your control. It can be a learning experience for your son - that age and possibly dementia can bring on such behavior. Let your son know you value family enough to not make him choose between you and them. Same for your husband. Then hold your head high and get about life as best you can. Don’t let a toxic relationship like this drag you down. It take two to play this game. Don’t play.
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Reply to jemfleming
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My father had paranoid personality disorder due to neglect and abuse in his childhood so he always had a somewhat combative personality. We missed or dismissed the first signs of his vascular dementia when he chose one child (oldest son) to be his "buddy" and started being hateful to my mother and his second son who had done nothing at all to deserve this behavior. As the youngest and only daughter, my judgment was occasionally dismissed but Dad did not become very aggressive with me until I challenged his competence and become his legal guardian; even then I caught less grief than my mother and brother. Dad's memory was always good as far as recalling the actual facts of what happened, but his interpretation of what was happening was often off base and he did make up a few details.

Your description of your FIL sounds a lot like my Dad; with my mother trying to minimize Dad's actions to everyone else. Mom did her best to "support" my father but would admit privately his actions were extreme and try to convince us kids to let it go, and we generally did right up to the day Dad hit Mom and caused her to fall, which led to me gaining guardianship.

Vascular dementia is a tricky path to walk because some areas of the brain are damaged while other areas (like memory) appear to remain intact. People appear normal at times but become very unpredictable. My father once "cleaned" the freshwater well to his home by dumping an entire bag of pool chlorine with algaecide into the well even though the bag had clear statements of the poisonous nature of the chemical mix. Fortunately, my mother smelled the chlorine in the water and started questioning what was going on before anyone consumed any of it. Dad's reactions to becoming angered changed too; he began throwing things and I needed to eliminate things in the house he could throw.

I would encourage your husband to continue to maintain contact with his father, visit and call him. Expect the aggressive behavior and the wild statements and just try to ignore them as best you can; arguing and/or defending yourself just doesn't work well although calmly disagreeing with a false statement sometimes does. You should maintain contract too if you can endure the hateful behaviors without anger. I came to view the agressive behaviors as my father's illness and not the person he chose to be when his mind was undamaged but the angry false narrative still hurt.

Its is very important someone in the family maintain contact with your MIL to make sure she is okay. MIL is in a VERY stressful situation and her health may begin failing under the strain.

Utimiately, your FIL may need to move into a Memory Care (MC) facility where the staff is trained to work with behaviors of patients with vascular dementia. My father did very well after he moved into a good MC. Mom did much better as soneone who visited Dad often instead of someone who was responsible for his hands-on care 24/7. Mom was resistant to placing Dad in MC, although she consented because one brother and I were reluctant to allow her to remain alone in the home with him once Dad had demostrated he would harm her and the stress was impacting her own health. Your husband needs to work on building a consenus among his siblings about what point they agree placing his father in a facility should be considered so the family can present a united front if/when that day occurs. Will the "trigger" event be when something bad happens in the home? When Dad runs into the rearend of the vehicle in front of him? Or when Mom is staying at home all the time because she doesn't want to leave her husband alone? Or when Mom has injuries?

Know that you are not alone in walking the journey. Know that most likely your behavior had _nothing_ to do with how FIL treats you now. Regardless of whatever "reason" FIL may have had for not supporting your marriage years ago, if vascular dementia is driving his thinking now, he is unreasonable.
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disgustedtoo: "While what's been said and done (and continues to be said) is hateful and hurtful to you, consider it somewhat of a blessing in disguise. You don't have to try to maintain any sort of relationship with them. Although it has been a "peaceful" 20 years, underneath it all I'm sure you're aware that you weren't "accepted" by them or at least FIL"

And if your H gets any wild areas about taking them in as things progress, everyone knows it won't work because the ils don't want to be around you. You won't have to do any elder caregiving! That is a huge win.

Moxies is right -- they say old people (can) become more of themselves. They lose filters that kept the truth from coming out in their younger years. I always knew I was a disappointment to my mother, but what I had to hear as she declined was still difficult. I was always a nasty person and my time was worth nothing, I had only been jealous of my brothers, etc. And she thought I was trying to steal her condo. I took the quick route to making myself feel better -- I was able to get payment for all the hours I had to spend with her (she lived "independently" in a condo 7 minutes away from me -- my 3 brothers all lived out of state, of course). The POA brother readily agreed. So I got $20/hour (including back-pay). I considered it a job, and felt much better about it all emotionally. When I'd brought up the idea of compensation up to her before, I was met with her almost screaming at me that, "You don't pay family!"
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Reply to CTTN55
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When strokes are involved, dementia-like behavior often follows. When dementia is involved, making up stories and believing them *confabulation* is par for the course. Sometimes, the stories are very involved & quite detailed. Your FIL has fabricated a tale about you that isn't true, but HE believes it, and it sounds convincing, b/c he gives the details with authority & passion, so he may have others believing it too! That's the 'charm' of dementia, except there's nothing charming about it. Furthermore, once the demented get an idea stuck in their head, it can't be chopped out of there with an AXE. I know this b/c I have a mother with dementia who's 94.5 and has put ideas in her own head that blow my mind. I can't convince her she's deluding herself, either, so there's no point in trying. I can tell her 10,000x that she's wrong, yet she'll go right back to the confabulated story again in 5 minutes, insisting it's true. It's probably THE most frustrating thing I've ever dealt with in my life.

So. Your FIL is my mother, but more destructive with his choice of confabulated stories. Your husband is the one who's hurting here b/c he doesn't understand the nature of his father's dementia and what confabulation means. Once he does understand what's going on, he can *hopefully* relax a bit and allow the situation to stop killing him. He's not going to be able to stop his father from carrying on like a lunatic with these stories he's telling about you, and from thinking he hates you, though. That's not possible. Unless dad has another stroke and the brain damage makes him forget that he 'hates you' and sends him off on another tangent. Sad but true.

So in the meantime, go to Alz.org and read about what I said here. Have DH read about it too, so he doesn't wind up hating his father for what he's doing to you; he can't help it; his brain is damaged now.

The best thing for you and DH to do is limit your contact with your FIL. You need to stay away from him b/c you are the subject of his wrath. You seem to be okay with it, so that's good. DH just needs to come around to understanding what's happening and not take it personally, as hard as that is to do.

I hate dementia and strokes and every horrible thing it does to our loved ones and their families, I really do. I'm sorry you are going thru such a terrible thing with your FIL, and that he's wreaking such havoc on your family. Sending you a hug and a prayer for peace in the midst of the chaos.
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