My MIL can live independently but is causing harm to my marriage. Has anyone been in this situation?

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My MIL is 90 years old and relatively healthy. She still drives (not sure how well) and loves to be social. The problem is that she has outlived most of her friends or her friends have moved away.


In public she is a joy, she laughs and talks with lots of people. She loves being out and being social. Unfortunately, her last friend recently has had a stroke and moved 2 hours away to be with her daughter. Things are okay now because the weather is good and she can get out and drive places. We live in a northern climate and we get tons of snow, ice and wind. She doesn't want to drive in the winter (nor should she) and then wants my husband to drive her to hair appointments, grocery shopping, errands. My husband already snow blows her drive, serves as a handy man (even though she can afford to have someone do it). He takes her out for breakfast every Saturday and then does what errands he can in the couple of hours he has available. He also calls and does short visits everyday. This however is not enough for her. She has always been difficult when it comes to her family. She and I just have a polite and cordial relationship because she has done many mean things to me. So I stay away as much as possible. She really doens't have that much interest in our children but pouts when they don't visit, even though she won't talk if they do visit or call.


I have been chronically ill for two years and am most homebound. My husband owns his own company and works about 10 hours a day and then has to come home and do the household stuff that I can't do. On my good days, I can cook, do a little laundry and some cleaning. Because most of my treatment is not covered by insurance, it's been very expensive so we really can't afford any help.


My husband has approached my MIL about moving into assisted living. I think she would love it. There are several nice facilities close to where we live. They are almost like living in a resort. She has money so that is not an issue, she just flat out refuses to even look at them. Because she got down right nasty about it my husband just doesn't want to deal with it anymore and just choses to ignore the problem or future problems.


I am worried about this winter when she can't drive and demands more and more time of my husband. Last winter was not good and she was always calling him for something or other. He works so hard and then with the extra demands of his mother he comes home tired and crabby. He is a wonderful husband but everyone has their limits. Unfortunately, he tends to snap and yell at me. This really stresses me out and that is the worse thing for my illness.


I've talked to both of his siblilngs who live on the east and west coast. We live in the midwest. They come to visit once or twice a year for a few days. When I brought the fact that they need to start talking to their mother about moving into assisted living, they agreed but nothing has resulted.


I'm afraid my MIL will damage our marriage. My husband like many men doesn't want to talk about his feelings so then they boil over. I'm really sick so it is so difficult for me to take his frustrations since I already feel like a burden.


I know we can't make her move into an assisted living and understand that my husband needs to set better boundries. But I am hanging on by a string and don't know if I'll be able to wait it out. Does anyone have any suggestions or have been in similiar situations? I would love to hear from you. Thank you so much

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You can start off the conversation with your husband by feeding his ego a little bit. Tell him that you know that he works hard at his job and at home and you appreciate what he does. He needs to hear that someone notices. Tell him that he doesn't need to run himself ragged because of his mother's needs. He needs to take care of himself as well. Suggest that to learn to set boundaries with his mom , a therapist would be helpful. Yes, he has to think about his mother and what will happen down the road but she isn't entitled to start taking over your lives in the meantime.
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It sounds as though your husband has never really grown up and separated from his mom.

Would he consider seeing a therapist?

You're right, your MIL would love the social scene of an AL or IL.

Not sure how you can proceed, as you don't have a lot of leverage.
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Lakergirl, whatever you do, do NOT tell your Mom-in-law the facilities are Assisted Living... she is far from needing that service. Tour the various places in your area, and pick out one that offers both Independent Living and Assisted Living/Memory Care. Call these places retirement villages or senior living, otherwise Mom-in-law will think the places are similar to the asylums that were used back in the 1800's and early 1900's.

My Dad had Independent Living where he had a very nice 2 bedroom apartment, full kitchen, large living room. He made the spare bedroom his office. The place felt right. He had sun in his apartment all day. He had weekly linen service and housekeeping.

The same facility my Dad was in, the next building was Assisted Living, which had studio apartments. Down the road Dad needed to move there and all he was worried about were the meals, was the same chef doing these meals as the chef over in IL. Yes. Dad was ready to pack.

The big challenge is convincing Mom-in-law that this would be a perfect fit. She could be the social butterfly there. Most places have their own beauty shops, and transportation to doctor appointments.

What happens is that our elder parent(s) still view their grown child as being 30 years old when that grown child is a senior him/herself with their own age decline issues. I know I had a tough time telling my folks [in their 90's] I don't do ladders any more, and I can't haul 30 bags of mulch around their yard... that ship had sailed. Even waving my AARP card and my Medicare card didn't change their thinking.... [sigh].
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Why on earth would MIL want to move? Seriously. She has what she wants now. She is in familiar surroundings. She doesn't have to go through the struggle of deciding how to downsize -- let her heirs worry about that when the time comes. She has a dutiful son who visits once a day and will do errands and chores and chauffeur duty for her all winter. Why would she move? Yes, it would be much better for her son and DIL if she did, but it doesn't sound like a big motivation for her.

I'm willing to bet a lot that she really would like the social aspects of senior living. It really would be good for her. And even better if she has health needs in the future. But I can understand why she ignores that. She has it made where she is.

What should be emphasized in talking about senior living are the social activities. If she can be brought to visit, the guide should be coached ahead of time to show the schedule, to ask if Mom plays Merry Widow and point out groups meet to play that twice a week, talk about the 3 book discussion clubs, mention the entertainment that is brought in at least 3 times a month, etc. etc. The nice apartment and good meals should be almost an afterthought.

But, why would she even go look, when she has it (she thinks) how she wants it now?

Your husband needs to set more boundaries and enforce them. She needs to see that she isn't as independent as she thinks she is. "Mom, Lakergirl is needing more and more help at home. My business requires just as much work as it ever has. Something has to give. From now on, I'll be stopping in twice a week. I hope you will wear your alert button on the other days." "Oh, sorry Mom. I can't come over after work tonight. Maybe I can fix that for you when I visit on Friday. No, I really have to get right home after work, and I'm working late. Sorry Mom. If it can't wait until Friday maybe one of your neighbors could help you." "Of course I still want to go out to breakfast with you on Saturday! I don't have time this week to run errands, though. I guess you'll need to take a taxi or Senior Rides." "Mom, I hope you can establish a reliable form of transportation for winter. I'm really not going to be able to drive you everywhere you want to go."

Of course, all of this is up to your husband. And if he is willing but clueless about how to do this, perhaps a few sessions with a counselor would give him the necessary support.

Keep in touch here. We'd love to hear how this works out.
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Perhaps you should tour some IL and AL facilities for YOU!

That might be a wake up call. "You know honey, between how hard you work to support us and all the care that your mom seems to need, I think it's time for me to move on and into a care facility where you don't have to do so much for me".

Okay, it's passive aggressive. Or maybe use this as a ruse to get MIL to come with you to check these places out. Pose it as "for me, when the time comes".
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It is a good thing that you are starting to think about next winter now. Planning takes time and you do not want your husband or his siblings to feel hurried. Your husband has to engage with his siblings and be honest about what life is like for all of you during the winter.

You can help plan for your MIL to visit each coast next winter. You can find a "resort" for seniors in a warmer climate. There are cruises for seniors over 80. You can bring up the fact that snow birds close their houses for the winter and all you need is a plumber! Snowbirds rent condos in places known for catering to seniors. AARP has a lot of information for senior citizens like your MIL. Get catalogs. Have catalogs sent to her. Start dropping hints now with both your MIL and your husband.

Your husband also should talk to a wiser, older man about learning to manage his mother's expectations and not being at her beck and call. Does he have someone like that in his life?
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Lakergirl, I understand your anxiety! The other sibs aren't going to risk their mother's ire by raising the AL issue, especially since things are working out so well for them right now. They can be uninvolved because your husband *is* involved. (What does her will say? Are her assets split three ways between her children? If so, then that might be another reason the sibs might not want to push the AL issue. Less for them to inherit?)

And I agree with you -- he is way too involved. Stopping by to see his mother every day? Too much. By not enforcing boundaries, he's enabling her dependency on him.


Does she live in a two-story home? Stairs are always a concern. Stairs or not, though, suppose your mil had a fall or stroke and needed in-home help. What would happen then? Would she hire help? Or would she expect your husband to be the free help?

Do you suppose your husband's ultimate contingency plan is to have his mother move in with the two of you?
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Thanks everyone for responding, it was really helpful to hear other's opinions who have been in this situation. It is hard because I don' t have any leverage. I love my husband and don't want to give him an ultimatium. Pushing the independent living is a great idea. She probably does have the idea that assisted living is a place like an alsyum.

She won't go to see her other children, one because she doesn't like their spouses, I guess I am the best of the worst. My BIL's wife is very nice but likes to talk alot so that bothers my MIL. My SIL's husband is a real jerk so they can't even be in the same room. Also she has some kind of "bathroom" issue and doesn't want to travel. I have no clue what it is, nor does my husband. She wouldn't even go to her granddaughter's wedding 14 hours away even when we said we would rent a RV for us to travel in. My husband is not a "momma's boy" but I think he feels a sense of obligation towards her.

My husband is the executor of her estate and I think it's to be divided three ways, but she is constantly giving money to her daughter who married the jerk, who cheats constantly and doesn't work so that could be her reason for not wanting to push it. I don't think his brother cares about the money. He has his plate full with raising his grandchildren. But in my opinion, it's their mother too, so it doesn't matter what the reason is why they don't want to push the issue. My husband for some reason hasn't even spoken to them about planting the seed for her to move.

I do tell my husband all the time that he works so hard and does so much for me and that his mother is able to pay for people to do things for herself. I always tell him that he needs to take care of himself. He can not be there for her all the time. I think he feels guilty about not wanting to be there for her all the time but doesn't know how to get her to move. I know he gets really frustrated with her because he bickers with her all the time, to the point I told him I don't want to be around them. I know for sure there is no plan on her moving in with us at any point. There are no older wiser men to counsel him on his relationship with his mother.

My MIL has had a stroke and has afib and when she has come out of the hospital, he did do a lot for her, but that was over 10 years ago. She had someone come in to help her with bathing and such. She lives in a ranch but walks out to get her mail. We got her an alert button which she refuses to wear it so that's why my husband calls her everyday to make sure she's okay. But she could be on the floor or driveway for 15 hours before someone finds her. But in my opinion that's her choice.

I'll do some research on independent living places and push him to talk to his siblings to get her to move while she can pick one she likes. I guess I don't understand why she doesn't want to move to a place where there are things to do, hair dressers on site, food made for her. I know she took care of her mother until she had to go into a nursing home so I think she believes that what children should do. She also didn't like her husband so I think it was a way to have a buffer between them. As I said she is a difficult person.

I know I will sign myself up when I get to the point I need to. It's sounds like it would be like going back to college again.

Thanks again, I really appreciate your insight.
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About those large checks ... if there is any possibility of needing to apply for Medicaid, they look back 5 years at financial transactions. Giving away money will incur penalties.
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You need the book, When He's Married to Mom. I would tend to be very straight forward and ask him who is he married to, mom or you? He put you first when he said I do and I will, end of story.
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