Hello, my MIL takes care of her 95yo very controlling and whining grandmother and a husband after a stroke. She also babysits our 1,5 yo daughter 2 times per week. Every time we mention taking off the last task and sending our girl to a day-care, she has tears in her eyes. Apparently this is what breaks the mundane and depressing routine in their house. My husband and I both have full-time jobs and we cannot offer much help apart from weekends. Anyway any help that is more than delivering grocery or giving a lift is dismissed. MIL lives in a big house and running it overwhelms her even more with every year. She has two brothers living nearby, who visit every now and then for a cup of tea, but in fact they keep themselves in a safe distance from their mother and their sister does all the everyday struggle by herself. Also my FIL has three brothers, but they never were close, and since he lost his speaking ability almost entirely, it is awkward to relatives to be in touch with him. My husband's brother, lives in the same city, but due to his therapy he cut himself off completely. So basically this all down to the two of us. My MIL is not the kind of person who would speak openly about what her needs. Also she does not want to bother anyone. We do not want to push her to admit she needs help and that she should take care of herself more, because we realize we cannot be around on a regular basis, without loosing in other important areas (like job or us-time for example). We wonder about two things: how to be more effective in offering help, without being pushy and second: how to maintain balance without feeling guilty. Any advice?
She's more likely to say yes, if she thinks she's helping someone else, and might find after a house clean that she likes the clean space, especially if you know others who hire cleaning help. That way, she can do the tasks she loves, the caregiving, yet not feel her home is suffering slow deterioration, because she doesn't have energy to do everything. Any service would have to work closely to see what she wants help with and wants left alone - but sometimes it helps a caregiver to have help in their own weaker areas, especially as they age.
Offer to hire a housekeeper 1x/week for her. Someone to assist her the mundane. It's so she can focus on caregiving and babysitting.
I am blessed to have my grandchildren come often, sometimes to be "watched" and sometimes just to hang with Gram. That is my break so I understand where your MIL is coming from. Everyone is different, but I am a kid person and begin to whither when I don't get enough time with them.
Maybe bring dinner and eat there once a week... You could do it one of the days your daughter stays there. It can be a set thing. Two of my daughters do this every Wednesday with their husbands and children. We eat on paper plates, quick clean up.
Offer to stay with GMA and dad while mom takes granddaughter out...I love the zoo or science center or a movie... My daughters do this for me.
Choose one weekend day a month and go help with house/yard work...be consistent. Clean bathrooms, or floors, or windows, mow grass, sweep walkways, etc.
I love fresh flowers, they just bring joy into the house. Bring a bouquet of wild flowers once a week.
You don't have to give up all of your "together time" but spending some of that time in service of others will bond you together.
You need to be aware that "we" feel that anything we say to indicated we're tired, is often looked upon as complaining, and we're not comfortable with that. We want to be "superwomen" in out hearts, but also know we are over-extending ourselves.
Have a sit down with MIL. Ask her what she really WANTS. I bet that the 18 month old is the bright spot in her life but she'd probably enjoy a break from FIL. Maybe it's time for the 95 yo grandma to be placed in a NH. That's just too much care for anyone to give! You need to talk to her and be honest--I doubt she'd give up the baby, but be happy for a break from FIL and grandma.
Until you talk to her, don't expect her to just open up with ideas for help. If she's like me, it took all my courage to ask my extremely competent girls to help me with family dinners. They were more than happy to help--it just had not occurred to them that I might be tired. We tend to look at our "elders" and think "oh, they've got this" and go on our merry way. PLEASE show a lot of gratitude for the hours of tending she gives you!! The ONE THING that stick with me is the lack of "thanks" I get for working so hard.
AND YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would never say no to help with heavy cleaning--yet no one offers and if I ever bring it up, the kids all say "Hire somebody".
I'd say your concerns are right on and your MIL is lucky to have you and husband and child. Tell her you all need to make a healthy plan together so she can grow old with you and kids too. She is not a failure. She is a great mom/wife/daughter even if she gets home assistance or assisted living or memory care. If dad is a veteran, check out home-based primary care. The team includes SW, doc, NP or PA, and physical therapy. The VA does not tell you about this, you have to ask.
I hope this helps.
I obviously don't know you or your in-law family, but I can tell you that when those aides and nurses came to our house, I began to see it as more of an invasion than anything else. I had to clean, make sure hubby was changed, bathed and dressed on their schedule, not our's and I had to lock up our large, antisocial dog.
Has MIL made any remarks about help? If she doesn't want to inconvenience you and your husband, maybe look for help for grandma's care. Divide and conquer, more or less. Start small. Bring a meal over. Next time, take her out for lunch. The time after that, have your hubby go over and watch a ballgame with his dad. If it's a babysitting day, when you come to pick them up, bring a pizza. Small steps! Good luck. I know how she feels.
I had huge fights with my sis over this but mom insisted she was fine with it. She was clearly overwhelmed.
A daily visit would have been fine. Not daily 6 hour childcare by elderly folks. But my folks loved those boys and would have never said they couldn't handle it.
So I handled it. I had a nuclear cometojesus chat with sis and BIL. They slacked off on my folks. My folks complained they didn't see the grandkids enough but they were clearly more rested and at ease with out this daily burden.
Some 95 yr olds can be difficult and not want the baby or anyone around to take the spot light off of them or to take MILs attention. Others really enjoy a baby. Play with the baby with GGM if she enjoys it. Then you are able to spend time with the baby and also GGM gets attention. Entertaining GGM for MIL would probably really be appreciated. Read a story to the baby that GGM might also enjoy. Teach the baby her colors with bright stacking cones or cards. By playing with the baby in front of GGM you take care of both of them for MIL.
Something my aunt (90) really enjoys is fresh flowers. She used to love to work in her garden but doesn't any longer. I pick her up fresh flowers often and she just loves them. All three of your elders might enjoy flowers.
A nice visit where you aren't rushing out the door could probably really make MIL feel better. Maybe not so alone in her chores with her loved ones.Something all six of you could enjoy.
These suggestions may not work but you can customize for your family.
One of my greatest regrets in caring for my elders is the loss of time with my grandchildren. MIL getting to have the baby two days a week is a great thing and having multi generations in her daily life builds a strong family base for your daughter. I hope you can work it out so the visits can continue.
Some people just need to be busy all the time.
How is your mother in law??
Unless you feel she is not competent to make this call, then leave the situation alone.