Mother-in-law denies shocking mobility issues. Any advice? -

Mother-in-law denies shocking mobility issues. Any advice?


Hello! I do not currently care for my in-laws. They live independently. However, my 83-year-old mother-in-law has severe scoliosis and she is quite physically deformed. She is bent over 90 degrees with one hip jutting out. She uses a simple cane. She is unable to use two hands for anything. She is unable to go up steps; she crawls on all fours. She is scary-close to a very bad fall. The issue is she denies there is anything wrong. She refuses mobility aids of any sort. She fiercely insists she can do anything. She refuses accompaniment to the doctor, thus no one knows her state of health or doctor's advice. Her husband and both of her sons are too passive to get involved or "make mom mad." Any suggestion is treated as aggression by her. Apart from this, she is sharp as a tack. I am hoping for some advice on how to convince her to accept a walker, a more stable cane, rails and hand grips, some housekeeping help or cooking help, things of that nature that would make more comfortable and reduce her risk? Must I wait for her to fall? Thanks in advance for any assistance.

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Thanks, everyone, for these answers. Some great perspectives that have me thinking (and plotting). I am so thankful for the support.

Cwillie, I cannot have much of a conversation. She is a good mother-in-law to me but she has been 25 years of reserved and formal. We are friendly and civil. My husband says she has never been warm and intimate with anyone.

My husband has tried here and there to bring up a suggestion and her response is an anger you rarely see any other time. (Kind of scary, actually). An example: She is an avid gardener. At a Christmas, we presented her with a delightful little garden scooter (after watching her trim her garden beds on all fours with scissors). She was ferocious in her offended refusal almost as if we asked her to commit a crime. I do like your suggestion about presenting change as a way to keep her independence. If I can get the menfolk to sit down with her and stay on script....

They have given up trying. They have no more compassion for it. They have accepted her choices. It embarrasses me. For example, we go to dinner. When we leave, she struggles to rise, creeps out of the restaurant, refuses a guiding hand ("Why would I need a hand? I already have one."), and the men walk out ahead of her, leaving her behind. I stay with her. She doesn't seem to understand why. :)

Jeannegibbs, it is amazing what she finds acceptable. Her ways of coping with getting around would humiliate me, but she seems okay with it. She visited our new home and we had not yet installed a railing for the steps. My husband tried so hard to give her a hand up and she angrily refused. She crawled up. I also am thinking on your suggestion about retirement 'benefits.' Good idea!

Another example: she proudly showed us how she bought a kitchen rolling cart to help her get food out of the oven, to the table, etc. My husband saw that as a willingness to talk about her mobility, and he suggested one of those lightweight and snazzy walkers with a seat. Down came the guillotine!

She is incredibly proud, independent, and self-contained. She is rather phenomenal as she writes almost full time for the local paper, reporting from her home.

Great help and thank you! I am going to see how I can get some talking points simplified for a conversation. I wish I could be there for it as I have no fear or hesitation, but as you all noted, as a DIL, I would blow it all up. Privacy is important to her and I am sure the lock-down would be quicker with me there.
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She is deformed looking, she can't use two hands together, and yet she seems to get by OK. Well, not what I would consider OK if it were me, but OK in that she is satisfied. If she has managed to hit 83 without any major falls, that is impressive. If she is "sharp as a tack" then she must know there are options. A doctor has probably described them to her. She has, perhaps, decided that she won't wear a brace. (My mother would not.) Maybe she has decided at her age she doesn't want surgery. I think I would try anything out there, but obviously that isn't her approach.

Can she afford housekeeping help? That might be suggested as a retirement benefit, without any reference to her mobility issues. If FIL is not very active in contributing to the household maintenance then she would just be joining him in retirement. If I could afford it, I sure would "retire" in that way!

Is there anything she might accept for her husband's sake? "I know Dad is still pretty steady, but at his age we should think about some grab rails in the shower. And just beyond the patio door."

Maybe piece by piece small changes could be incorporated as long as they are not associated with her mobility issues.

But otherwise, she is content as she is. I hope I can say that at 83!
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Do you have to wait for the fall? Yes,most likely you do.
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Joanne, I agree with you, Ember is just a DIL, if she can't get her MIL to see reason then it is up to her husband and his family. If she can influence the men to take action though...
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I wouldn't do that. If she says she needs no help bring aids will just make her mad. She has a husband and sons, let them handle her. You can suggest to them but let them bring the subject up.
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How able are you to have a meaningful conversation with her? The only way to convince her to accept help would be to point out that she will be much wiser to take the steps necessary to maintain her independence by accepting the changes you suggest rather than risk hurting herself and ending up in a facility, something none of you want. Personally I would just go ahead and add the grab bars and any other assistive devices you see that would be helpful and present them as a fait accompli, but unfortunately as a DIL you really are powerless to force the issue.
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