My 79 yr old MIL with moderate/mid stage dementia is snarky, angry, aggressive and hates her daughter in laws but loves her own children to death. And honestly I am not fond of her because I have never experienced an ounce of love from her in my life. However, I am a good caregiver who just ignores the curses, yellings and aggressiveness, never says anything back to her and feeds her and does all her chores inspite of all the complaints. Our house is in total chaos when she is here, with constant complaining about food, accusations about stealing clothes and rummaging...all the usual stuff. (we only cook what she likes and the food is very tasty), Even when my husband cooks she still blames me saying it tastes horrible. However, how much ever complaints she makes, she eats the whole plate, plus she snacks all the time, eats nutritious food, fruits, nuts, vitamins etc., .Because she is very alert about her health and her food, medications and takes it on time and follows up with us on appointments and medications etc.,. She exercises regularly. She is very nice to her daughters and no bad behaviour there, but refuses to stay with them because according to her, the culture that we come from, only sons are supposed to take care of parents. Whenever she stays with them they drop her off in few days because she is complaining that we dumped her there..And then the sons gets jittery and go and picks her up..And she is so rude to my family that last time when my mother visited me (she lives in another country), they were under the same roof and my mom had to flee in a month.. Everyone including my husband says it's the disease (which I hate when someone says that) and I should just forgive and ignore. .How can someone be so manipulative and alert and exhibit one set of behavior to her own kids and a clearly different pattern with the daughter in laws? I am starting to feel that the lady is putting on a facade and am starting to resent this caregiving. What am I getting out of this...nothing but stress and unhappiness...Should just put her in her place and put away my nice behaviour...

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May I ask a question? Is your MIL from India by any chance? Treating daughters-in-laws like they're dirt and expecting them to basically become slaves to a MIL often happens in some cultures.
Your MIL behaves abusively to her daughters-in-law because they are safe targets for her. If she's able to keep her nasty behavior and viciousness in check with everyone else, then it's not dementia. It's not "the disease" as your husband says. If it was she would not be able to pick and choose who will get her abuse, nor would she be able to control herself. I'll be willing to bet all of your sisters-in-law tolerate her abuse and never speak up. MIL needs to learn that her abusive behavior towards you and your sisters-in-law might fly where she comes from, but it sure doesn't in the United States or any other western country. The truth of the matter to me sounds like your MIL is really just an a**hole. Treat her like one then.
You don't allow her behavior to continue, especially the way she treated your mom when she was visiting. I would throw that b*tch in the street and no mistake. You should too.
Stop tolerating her abuse. When she start up at your house, give it right back to her. Let her know that she can get the hell out of your house and not come back if she can't behave herself.
Then tell your husband he can follow her if he thinks you're going to tolerate MIL's abuse.
Share this message with your sisters-in-law too.
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to BurntCaregiver
Lor1234 Jun 10, 2021
It really makes me wonder whether its a real disease at all, because she was tested and she is in moderate stage but sometimes she looks so normal and talks so sanely, especially when someone visits her. And would be talking intricate details about the visitors families that makes us wonder wheres the dementia now..But at the same time when she is with us, she makes up all strange stories about her past which sound very convincing but are not true. Plus the behaviour where when she goes to stay occassionally at her own daughters' places, she would still exhibit angry/ nasty demeanor but where it will be cursing and blaming us for stealing her stuff and complaining to them about us dumping her there..But she never once accused her own daughters of stealing, does not curse/ yell at them. She occasionally does complaint about their food to them but not as much as she does here..and this is why it makes me think what kind of selective dementia is this and if this is really not dementia and more sort of a manipulative behaviour why should i put up with it.... Do dementia people behave the same way with everyone or is it different with different people ..
Funny/not funny, but my mother has a 'broken brain' too yet she is sweet as sugar to her caregivers in her Memory Care AL and as nasty as can be with ME. She has moderately advanced dementia, yet knows FULL WELL who she can push around and who she can't. She knows how to push my buttons *because she installed them* and loves nothing better than to get me riled up! Yet, others think she's the bees knees!

Yes, they DO know how to manipulate EVEN WITH dementia, I don't care who tells you otherwise.

Set down some boundaries with your MIL and let her know it's NOT OKAY to treat you like a piece of dirt under her feet. Even if you have to tell her the same thing over and over again, stand your ground. She has a broken brain and you can be a broken record. And where's your DH in all this? Has he ever heard of standing up for his wife? It's time for him to send mother on her way when she starts ragging on his wife. You'll be surprised how quickly she'll catch on to the fact that she has to play NICE if she wants to be a GUEST in your home. That's what guests do: they act civilized.

Wishing you the best of luck with a difficult situation.
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to lealonnie1
Lor1234 Jun 10, 2021
I am surprised to know that dementia people can have manipulative behaviour with selective people....thanks for the info..I am not going to wait for DH to stand up for me because he is a mouse in front of her and gets all panicked when she goes wild. I might have to stand up for myself.
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Well you sound like a saint to me. When your mom comes to visit and hopefully she will come back, tell the daughters and especially tell your husband, they have to keep MIL with them.

I think elders lose their filters as they become very old. You don’t say, but she doesn’t sound that old.
She probably felt the same way before the dementia, but without the filters perhaps made worse by the dementia, her behavior is worse.

Your husband (and whoever else is going along with her acting out) needs to also acknowledge that the disrespect you are being shown in your home and by your loved ones is damaging to your health. It is like a cancer eating at your peace of mind and joy in life. You matter too. Your life is important. You don’t deserve to live like this. she takes such good care of herself she can put you in the grave.
She can call it dumping or whatever she wants to call it but you need time away from her. Scheduled, predictable time when you can enjoy your life.
Maybe you will develop your own malady. One that causes you to forget how to cook when she is in your home.
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Reply to 97yroldmom

This is why couples end up in marriage counseling and sometimes divorced. Caregiving causes more destruction than people realize. If people want to criticize, let them take over. Sometimes that is what it takes.

Don’t judge someone unless you walk in their shoes. Let those who tell you to ignore things take care of momma! Broken brain or not, everyone has their limits. Seems like you have reached your limit.

Either take action or walk out. Yeah, yeah, yeah…all the people that stay in marriages no matter what will come after me but the way I see it is, only stay in a marriage that is worth saving. Otherwise, walk out and never look back.

I believe in marriage. I have been married 43 years but if I didn’t feel like I was in a good marriage, I would leave. It’s up to your husband to end this cycle.

I was a caregiver for my mom for many years. I know that marriages take a hit. It’s added stress to a relationship, even if a parent isn’t in the home. My husband was wonderful and supportive during my caregiving years, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t feel the negative effects of being a caregiver’s spouse. It’s hard on everyone!
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom


Sometimes people with dementia can "showtime". This means they can keep their behavior in check and appear pretty normal for short periods of time and for certain people like their doctors, friends, even some family members. Some elderly with dementia can showtime so well they even put one over on their doctors.
Your MIL's own daughters don't want to keep her because in all likelihood she starts off well enough with them (showtiming). After some time passes, she can't keep it up and the reality comes out. Then she gets dropped off back at your place or with one of the other daughters-in-law. I suppose you could call it 'selective dementia' like you said. That's as good a term as 'showtiming'. It's the same thing really.
Whatever her abusive behavior is called, it is still adversely affecting your home and the lives of you and your family.
If putting her into a care facility is not an option the family will consider right now, there needs to be some other kind of plans made. Like no family member has to have her in their home for more than a week at a time.
Everyone, that is the whole family, has to stop tolerating her abusive behavior in silence and just sucking it up. From what you say here about her the dementia is obviously not so advanced that she has no self-awareness or control. So every time the snide and abusive behavior starts up, shut it down. When she starts up complaining about the food your husband cooks (and if he's Indian I know his dishes will be good) tell her if she doesn't like it she can go hungry. Take her plate off the table if you have to.
When the stealing accusations start up tell her no one wants her clothes and that you're not a security guard hired to guard her possessions. When any of her abusive behavior starts, shut it down fast. Don't stay silent and just take it.
Let your new motto be:

"If you don't like here at my home, get the hell out".

You and the rest of the family likely see her abusive behavior diminish considerably and improve if all of you, her sons and daughters included, make it known to her that her behavior will not be tolerated.
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Reply to BurntCaregiver

My understanding is that dementia only reveals what a person truly is underneath all of the social veneer.

She has never been kind to you, now that behavior has no filter.

I think that we should always tell people that depend on us, when their behavior is unacceptable. Telling her to nice...keep her mouth closed if she can't be nice...etc, is totally okay. Nobody has the right to be abusive.

You can always tell your husband to take care of his mom, completely take care of her, from wiping her butt to doing her laundry and everything in between. This might get him to say enough is enough and come up with a different plan.

My family started in on any new member and when they started that with my husband, whom had never done anything to them and was/is wonderful to me, I made it clear that I would totally and completely disconnect from them if they didn't stop with the ugliness and treat him kindly. Now that my mom is getting old she has way more care and respect for him than anyone else on the planet and I believe that it is because she had to be nice or go home.

People treat others in ways that they can get away with.

Your (MIL) monster in law has been allowed to treat her DILs, in her mind doormat in laws as doormats without any repercussions. Time for her to get her care from the children she has been kind to.

If you all refuse to be treated like doormats and make her sons step up and deal with her, you will find things changing. I would tell my husband that it is not fair to her to have someone she dislikes so much, deal with her most intimate needs. It must be so degrading to have someone you hate change your diaper. (Yep, some reverse psychology aka passive aggressive behavior.)

Stand up for yourself and stop being this old bats scratching post.

To answer your question, you should put her in her place and tell her that she needs to behave graciously in YOUR home or get out. If she demands that it is the sons responsibility, see above about it being his responsibility.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal

I feel your pain!

My MIL has been, over the years, increasingly hateful and downright cruel to me.

Ended up with her screaming (yes, dramatic screaming) at me to stop talking, stop coming to see her--didn't I KNOW how much she hated me? Just "SHUT UP!!"

It was like a lightbulb went on over my head. WHY, indeed did I continue to go to her home, fix things, listen to her hateful and nasty comments about MY family and her ex-husband's family?

I got up, slapped her on the back and said "V, I am giving you the best gift you ever got. I am leaving and I will NEVER speak to you again. OK? That make you happy?" I took a Diet COke from the fridge and slammed my way out the back door.

B/C Dh and she are both functionally deaf, I know they neither one, really heard me.

And it has been a lovely year. I have not spoken to her for over a year. A she will live forever, I would not be surprised if she outlives my DH and me both.

She is peaches and cream to her daughter and her daughter's kids. She tells anyone with ears how horrible I am.

Until I stood up to her, and I will admit, I was beyond angry at this point, I didn't swear at her--just spoke very loudly and very strongly.

I'd like to say it changed things, but it really didn't. DH cannot understand WHY I won't just sit at her kitchen table and take her vitriol endlessly. After all, she's OLD.

Well, 46 years ago when I joined this mess of a family, she was NOT old and just as mean.

DH is 100% unsupportive and thinks I owe her an apology. Never. He does not stand up for me, in fact, I think he LOVES that she has a whipping post.

It's not a cultural thing for us--it's a mama's boy letting his wife take the beating. I stood up for myself 45 years too late to change anything.
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Reply to Midkid58
BurntCaregiver Jun 20, 2021

Please don't apologize to your MIL for any reason. You're not wrong. She's an abusive bully who probably treated her kids the same all their life and that's why they don't stand up to her.
The fact that you patiently tolerated such abuse for over 40 years without kicking her a** is remarkable. You have my respect. I would have cleaned her clock probably a year into the abuse. God bless your patience.
Don't apologize and you did the right thing putting her out of your life.
Is your DH sympathetic to your problem? If so, explain what you said here and that responses from the forum say that because she can pick and choose that its not Dementia. If it is, its the very beginnings.

You and he need to sit down with u two on one side of the table and her on the other. This way she sees you united. Then tell her the nastiness has to stop. That she lives in your home. You don't need her, she needs you. Tell her if things don't change, you will need to make other arrangements for her. This should come from her son. I hope she has been in this country for more than five years so she can get medicaid and other benefits.

I can't imagine any culture that thinks it OK for a mother/MIL to be nasty to those who are giving her a roof over her head and caring for her. I would think as the man of the house the son has the right to tell Mom she needs to respect his wife. This is not disrespecting his Mom. She is being disrespectful to her sons by the way she treats their wives.
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Reply to JoAnn29

"I am surprised to know that dementia people can have manipulative behaviour with selective people..."

It's good that you came to this site to ask your questions. Absolutely they can behave differently to different people. Most often the vitriol is directed at the care-giver. This includes mothers treating their own daughters that way, if they happen to be the care-giver.

My former MIL passed years ago, but although she never directed a lot of anger or nastiness towards me, I was more or less a non-entity. I was the vessel that brought fourth the grandchildren, something she LIVED for, because her mother died young and never had that. I could be mid-sentence and realize she wasn't listening, she was focused on my toddler daughter. I stopped talking and she never came back to ask what I was saying. Yes, people lose focus, but most will realize it and ask what you were saying. Not this one! We divorced when the kids were young, so thankfully I had little to do with her.

My mother lived alone until we moved her to MC. Unless she happened to think of it, the accusations were sparse. I didn't catch on the few times she did this, because I knew nothing about dementia and hadn't realized until later that she was going down that path. It was only in retrospect that the theft accusations made sense. I could partially buy that she thought a painter was taking some broken jewelry, but not really. However when she accused my OB of taking her tweezers during an extended visit (he isn't local, so he and his family stayed with her), I was totally baffled...until later. I bought her another to stop her whining. On cleaning out her place, I found THREE in the bathroom drawer and another 5-6 in the dresser drawer!

It is so bizarre how this messes with their minds. In your case, it sounds like this woman disliked you before the dementia. It would also be interesting to really find out what goes on at the daughter's place - if it's so great there, why would she want to come back to your place? They say she complains that you dumped her there, but if she hates you/your home so much, why would she want to come back??? She may not be as bad with them, but she's probably bad enough in other ways that they don't want to deal with her. You have taken her in, so they can just "dump" her back in your lap.

Standing up to her may or may not work. If she has short term memory loss, all too often anything said or done is forgotten, sometimes very quickly. My mother would repeat the same statements or questions multiple times within minutes, despite getting responses or answers. Hard as it is to listen to this crap, it's better if you can try to tune it out. You can't really argue or reason with dementia (you can, but it will only anger and frustrate you!) It would be better to have the talk with your husband and find ways to distance yourself from interaction with her. If she can afford to pay for a facility, that would be a better option, but some can't afford it and/or some adult children can't make that move. Cultural norms and all that.

YOU need a break from the care-giving. Find outlets for yourself and do things alone if you have to. We all need our own space and none of us need to be the target of the flamethrower all day every day. To push the point home, go stay in a hotel for a week, if you can, and let hub deal with her. He may suddenly have an epiphany...
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to disgustedtoo
NeedHelpWithMom Jun 12, 2021
I believe your statement wholeheartedly. People can and do act differently with different people. I know someone who tried that with me. She bares all with me if I allow it, to the point of working on my nerves horribly. I had to tell her to shut up because I didn’t want to endlessly listen to her crazy crap anymore.

When I asked her why she didn’t unload her crap on another mutual friend, she said that she felt more comfortable with me. I told her that I no longer wanted her to be as close to me.

She never ever shut up with her whining and in spite of trying to comfort her, it never ever ended and became too much. Some people run things into the ground and never see that they are energy vampires who drain all of our energy. Oh, they get mad as he** when boundaries are set in place but so.what! It’s actually better if obnoxious people are angry with us because then they finally shut up! Certain people aren’t capable of knowing what ‘real’ friends are. It’s always going to be about ‘them’ and no one else. Good riddance to this type of person.
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Well, I am not a good caregive and I do not ignore things, I confront and my filter is completely gone. So, the truth is just because you feel a certain way and express it, it will not make your life easier but it feels good and it is not for the faint at heart. You will be treated like crap, lied about worse and can drive you crazy.

There are a few things that stand out in your post, first daughters bring her back when she b*****s about dumping. I heard that too. The truth was the "family" could not handle the crap, lied and then told her and the worker to lie about the "accidents" but they did not want the burden, they just wanted to play both sides of the fence.

Second, your culture states son should take care of mom. So, let him do it all, go visit your mom.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to Stacy0122
Lor1234 Jun 10, 2021
you are right..sometimes the dumping accusation is a good excuse for the daughters to bring her back in no time because who wants to ruin their peaceful home...
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