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I am a 35 year old wife and mother of a 9 year old. My husband is 7 years older than I, and his mother had him later in life (when she was 36) so not many of my friends can relate to this, as they are still years and years away from having to become potential caregivers to aging parents.


My husband and I have been together for 11 years and married for almost 9. We had a rough start (due to the loss of a child our first year of marriage) but for the past 5 years my marriage has been enviable. I love our life. Or, I did...


My husband grew up with just his mom... no dad, no siblings, no other family. I have never been a huge fan of her, as she can be very manipulative: she has a habit of lying and acting helpless so that others will do things for her or excuse bad behavior. But mostly I've kept the peace, since I did not see her often. She lived about 20 minutes away but was still working full time and had an active social life. She is 78, and has lived alone for decades. I did admire her for working at her age. About two years ago I took her to a geriatric doctor who thought she was having some mild signs of cognitive decline. I got her on Aricept, but we learned she wont take it. She takes Vicodin and sleeping pills daily for years for what we believe is very exaggerated shoulder pain, and though we and the geriatric doc thought she should try to transition off them, she became very angry at the suggestion and refused to allow me to make any more doctor appointments for her.


Anyway, six weeks ago, my husband was offered a promotion that came with a transfer to a new state. We quickly learned that this new state has a higher cost of living, and that his raise was essentially cancelled out by the fact that rents are about double in our new town. While looking for a place, his mom had made snotty comments about how I was “taking her son and granddaughter away.” So when the realtor showed us a 3 bedroom house for rent, I conceded that maybe someday in the not-so-far future, his mom could move in for awhile and contribute to the rent.


Except it happened like this: she jumped on the suggestion with no further discussion, immediately quit her job and broke her lease in senior subsidized housing and then called us to tell us she'd done that. At that point my husband said “well, I guess we have no choice now,” and she moved in with us last week, before I've even had a chance to unpack or set up my new home. The first sign of trouble was we found out she lied to us about her pension/SSI income, and admitted the day after we got her here that she won't have money to contribute to rent or bills. In reality, she gets about $1250 per month and has a car payment and car insurance that total nearly $950 per month (due to repeated fender benders). She also must pay some premium for health insurance and after doing her finances on paper I realized that now that she quit her job, she is left with about $60 each month after car/insurance/premium. Thats barely enough to buy her own food, let alone contribute anything. We are not a wealthy family — we have no assets, large student loan debts, and mostly live paycheck to paycheck. We cannot take care of her financially, but shes just made it clear that she has no intention of working again. My husband and I are both already resentful that shes put us in this situation, and this was not at all how this was supposed to be. When we spoke with her about it, she completely shut down and refused to speak. We are now buying all her food and supporting her compeltely.


On top of this, she is refusing to go to the senior center in our new town and make any friends. She stays in the house with me all day and I have no privacy. She wont eat unless I cook her something, not because she cant, but because she wants to be taken care of. I feel betrayed and uncomfortable but we clearly have no options now that shes already here. I never intended to become a caregiver at just 35, and I'm scared for my marriage and finance

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I've seen a lot of professionals, doctors, care giving staff, accountants, etc. treat their elderly clients like royalty, which is fine, but the implied subtext is that adult
children should be their royal staff. Time and again I've been called upon to drop
everything for a father that was never there for me as child and who abandoned
his own mother for years while she suffered with a debilitating illness.

Demanding childish behavior can be Alzheimer's but it can often also be garden variety narcissism. I've seen the exact same behavior from a young woman who got deliberately pregnant when her boyfriend attempted to break up. She then guilt tripped him into letting her move in and then promptly sat on her butt and did absolutely nothing. Expected to be fed, and looked after like an infant, and looked to us, his roommates to pitch in as well. As long as she lived with us, we either had to slave for her or face living in squalor. She made zero contributions.

This type of thing is pernicious manipulative behavior that should not be tolerated.
I regret I tolerated my father's manipulative behavior as long as I did. As well as
stressing over all the unwarranted pressure put upon me to act as his servant.
Because let's face it. Most of us wouldn't be so adamantly opposed to caring for
our parents in our homes if they behaved themselves as we ourselves are expected to behave.

Good manners, unobtrusiveness, pitching in, pleasant demeanor, personal responsibility, etc etc. This behavior was expected when we were children, how our parents behaved when in the public eye, why are unacceptable manners and manipulation so common once they've played the aging parent trump card?? I personally believe they know they have public opinion on their side and that there
will be a small army of people putting pressure on their adult children to "step up
to the plate". If you bring up your current health, financial situation, your children,
your job or their past abuse or neglect, you are chided for being selfish. Some
elderly parents have been given carte blanche to behave like bratty toddlers and
take full advantage of this.

Your life will be drained away while mired in this nonsense, and ironically those
who stand on the sidelines encouraging you to take full responsibility will reap the
benefits of your sacrifices. The doctors can walk away knowing their patient will no longer be a burden, the care givers know you'll be there to take care of all the loose ends and sometimes daily often unnecessary crisis. Relatives who don't
lift a finger will appreciate your sacrifices should there be inheritance. Friends
of your parents will enjoy the drama and the fact there is no pressure upon them to do anything. Your sacrifices relieve the burden that would fall elsewhere should
you decide your number one responsibility, your children and husband, will come
first. As it should our children should always come first, not seniors who wish to behave like children.

Your life, your husbands life, your children's life hang in the balance. Your MIL appears the type to consume all of your lives and financial security without a second thought. Don't let her take advantage of you like this. You'll end up like
some of us here on the board, with strained family relations, poor health, career
in tatters, zero vacations in years, and best of all almost no gratitude from your
parent or in laws. Some parents steal their children's childhood to essentially enjoy a second childhood (I know in my father's case he was chasing women non stop and couldn't be bothered to protect me from mother's abuse). They then attempt to steal their adult children's best productive years so they can enjoy what is essentially yet another childhood. Elderly parents need our help, but they are not children. And excluding Alzheimer's or dementia, childish behavior should not be tolerated.
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BarbBrooklyn Mar 3, 2019
Bettina; I certainly agree with what you say, but if someone has Alzheimer's and is behaving in a way that destroys one's career, financial security or one's minor child's peace and mental health, that person should not reside in one's home.
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Why was your MIL on an out of state trip to look at houses?

(Don't even bother to answer that; it's a symptom of what's wrong with the bigger picture).

Look, my world view may not fit yours, or your husband's. But the way I was brought up goes like this:

Parents are legally and morally responsible to care for and provide for their children; to clothe, house and feed them and teach them (or provide for schooling) so that they can earn a living and become independent. Adults bring children into the world knowingly and thus are responsible for them until adulthood. (Hearing that you were a foster child explains an awful lot about why you don't have a good sense of this stuff; it's ENTIRELY understandable.)

Adult children are NOT legally and morally responsible for the hands on care and upkeep of their parents. There are some filial responsibility laws in a couple of states, but they appear only to be actionable is situations in which the adult child is wealthy (like, really, really wealthy) and the parent destitute and some fraud has been committed. So far at least, no one is trying to make middle class children pay their parents' way.

When we marry (at least here, in this country) we think of our spouse and being our primary focus and responsibility. And having a minor child is the ultimate responsibility. That child MUST be your primary responsibility; her physical, mental and emotional health are ALL in your hands.

Elderly parents, until they are declared incompetent, are in charge of their own choices. Poor choices, perhaps, but not ours to decide. Not ours to enable. Not our job to rescue them.

It sounds as though your MIL was already drowning financially if her subsidized rent and car payments totaled more than her income.

I think you need to get in touch with your local Area Agency on Aging and talk to a social worker there about this untenable situation. You need to get her in to see a new doctor, preferably a geriatrics specialist. Is she driving while taking Vicodin? That could explain a lot; I had a relative who was doing that.

The last doctor you saw sounds like he was reading out of a textbook. Or maybe it simply wasn't obvious to him/her that MIL was quite so bad off.

The fact that she is manipulating your daughter is so totally over the top and unacceptable that it really should have made your husband angry enough to put her out of the house then and there.

But he's been raised by someone who sounds like she may have some long standing mental health issues going on (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline?) and is ruled by F.O.G. (Fear Obligation and Guilt). He needs to do some reading about this stuff, as do you.

A good place to start is a book by Townsend and Cloud called "Boundaries".

You sound like a very capable, compassionate and smart young woman. You WILL figure this out, I'm quite sure!
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rocketjcat Mar 3, 2019
BB, I think (hope) the Mom wasn’t actually on the trip to look at houses, probably just in conversation.
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$950 a month will buy a lot of Uber rides.
It may be worth it for her to dump the car and insurance and put that money into the family cost of living.

If she isn't that active, and only goes out twice a week to nearby places, then you are looking at $50 a week or less of Uber rides, X 4 weeks a month = $200, netting $900 per month as car inspection, upkeep, registration, and other costs are erased and can be put back in the budget.
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MountainMoose is right. No one can use you unless you allow yourself to be used. And, you are. Your husband has apparently thrown up his hands in defeat and is taking his mother's word as law. It’s called “failure to launch”. He is a married man and father, but is still Mommy’s Little Boy.

Have a privafe heart-to-heart with your husband out of earshot of his mother and tell him this situation will not work. MIL has to go. Now. Be firm. There is no room for bargaining about this. No promises that he will talk to her to try to remedy the situation so she can stay.

Stop letting yourself be used. If you cook a meal and she won’t eat it, she goes hungry or cooks for herself, AND buys her food. This is Childraising 101, and she is acting like a petulant child. And, if you happen to be using her for free babysitting, stop. You don’t want anything from her but for her to move out.
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BlackHole Mar 3, 2019
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There is a 100% chance that this is an unsustainable situation. You have your whole life ahead of you and your selfish MIL could live another 30 years! Your husband needs to take control before it gets worse. What on earth justifies $950/mo on transportation when she doesn’t get out of the house? She needs to sell it and get Medicaid to make other living arrangements. I am nearly twice your age & caregiver for my mom but no way I would do it at your age w/a manipulative parent, let alone an in-law. No! You didn’t sign up for this. If you are guilted into keeping her (ugh), the car has GOT to go!
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Jomichelle Mar 3, 2019
I completely agree re:$950 on transportation! Her argument is that she only has a year left on car payments and that she cant just get rid of it after 5 years of payments. I am also afraid that if we make her sell it, itll only be just enough to pay off her loan and then shed also be even more dependent on me to go anywhere. I was set to begin law school next year (just did great on my LSATs!) AND i was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called ankylosing spondylitis, which doesnt put me in a great position to be a caregiver AND her fulltime driver.
I just feel like theres a problem to every solution 😔
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You have a couple of different problems here.

1. She CLEARLY has cognitive issues--the evidence is that she misunderstood "the plan" and didn't "get" what the timeline was. If you had a neuropsych assessment done, it would show this.

2. I think that you need to go with your husband to a marriage counselor and work on his codependent relationship with his mother and how it's affecting your marriage.

3. I think that you need to start checking out Dave Ramsey or Bogleheads.org and put yourselves on a financial diet. How are you going to pay for law school?

4. Why on earth do you think that a car costs 400$ a month? You either buy something small and reliable, new (Honda Fit or Civic come to mind) or a 4 year old used car like a Ford Focus (check consumer reports reliability ratings for used cars).

5. MIL should not be driving because she is an unsafe driver. Is there public transport in your area? Is there adult day care? As I said earlier, she needs, asap, a "needs assessment".

6. Your home/your rules. She gets a geriatric workup. She says no, then she can't stay. She stops driving and takes public transport; same deal.

Back to the beginning, your husband and you need to go to a counselor so he can learn to stop kowtowing to her.
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Jomichelle Mar 3, 2019
Agreed.
As for my finances, this is the problem. Without an extra mouth to feed, we do okay. The only problem on our financial diet is her, to be honest, and I do not want that to be the case. I am not willing to sacrifice what I’ve worked hard for.
I didn’t go to college until 27 (I was a foster kid and had to leave school to support myself at 17) and in doing so I worked very hard to get perfect grades. I graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0, found out what LSAT score I would need for law school scholarships, busted my butt to earn that score, and then took a year off to work and sock away some money to attend. Our current car loan is $460, and it’s a three-year old Honda CRV with a halfway-decent interest rate (3.1 percent). My husband earns a comfortable salary, but with student loans, the cost of rent, high premium health insurance for all of us with my chronic condition, etc, and the recent cost of moving out of state, it just isn’t feasible for us to support her.
We have no plans to buy a home, as my husband’s career will mean he has to be relocated every few years. We have a modest 401k. We do not spend. We chose not to have any more children because we liked how we were getting along without an added expense. We put aside a couple thousand every year for an October family vacation, but other than that we live quite conservatively. If a financial diet is needed, it’s because SHE is the greasy cheeseburger tipping the scale.
These replies are very helpful, because I think it might help my husband to read over them. One of his issues, I think, is that he doesn’t know if this is unreasonable or not — if this is what he is expected to do as a good son and person. We don’t even know what age is generally considered “time to figure out what to do with mom,” or whether she could still reasonably be expected to work, etc. To me, it seems that she is prematurely playing the “elderly card.” But that’s just it... I don’t know. We had no earthly idea what her income was, or how seniors pay to live, or what the threshold is for “unsafe to drive.” When we asked the geriatric doctor in 2017 whether we should be allowing her to drive, his answer was “I don’t think it’s on you to ‘allow’ anything. I think it’s important that she knows nobody is trying to take away her independence, but we will watch it.” We certainly don’t allow our daughter in the car with her anymore, but her fender benders have been backing into other cars in parking lots, and slamming into a snow bank, etc. At what point do we say, in the interest of protecting not just her by the public, that she cannot drive anymore? How do we even assume that power? What decision-making power do we have or can we get? And once we go down that road, are we committed to being her caregivers indefinitely? I just don’t have these answers. We are now in a new state that is foreign to her and to us. If we tell her to leave, what does that look like? She was already in subsidized housing and her rent was nearly $800. If she couldn’t afford that, what else is there? If she does in fact have dementia, or is headed there, who pays for some kind of senior/assisted living? I am trying to voraciously consume information that we’ve never had to consider before. We thought that she would move in as a sort of independent roommate for awhile, maybe until her car was paid off in a year. We had no inkling that she’d get here and proclaim herself infirm and in need of caregiving.
My husband is not a total pushover; he WILL stand up to her, but what do you do when someone just shuts down in response? We can give her condition/ultimatums, but when she just goes silent and refuses to respond, what is the next step? As awful or manipulative as a parent’s behavior is, can you actually put them on the street if they won’t cooperate? I think she knows we won’t do that, as humans with a conscience, and that’s her insurance policy.
You are all very helpful. Thanks for allowing me a space to vent.
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Manipulation of a 9 year old shows how sick she is. I would have taken her to a women's shelter right then and changed the locks and my phone numbers.

She doesn't engage and it works for her, that is on you and your husband. She's not paying her way and you all are letting her rule your roost.

As for his guilt about how hard she worked to support him because she left an abusive husband, phooey, she created that situation by leaving your husband's real dad, lied and denied him a dad, it has always been about her, make no mistake, just look at what she has done.

She needs to be gone, like yesterday.
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Jomichelle Mar 4, 2019
I could not agree with you more. The way she involved our little girl — who is already dealing with the pressure of starting a new school and leaving her friends behind — hurt my heart and made me shake with anger. My husband, to my shock and frustration, said nothing about this.

While this may may be beside the point, most of my disdain for her over the years has come from how she reacted when I found my husband’s real father online and we learned about her big 33-year lie. That revelation broke my husband’s heart, and I distinctly remember him (he is not an overly-emotional man, normally) tearfully begging her to admit the truth. Her response was to get angry at HIM, and reply “This is water under the bridge and you will NOT yell at me for something that happened 33 years ago.” He was pleading with her just to admit it and acknowledge his hurt, and she could not even give him that. In the end, she made herself the victim in that situation (ultimately my husband was the one apologizing to HER for upsetting her) and made me the villain, for “sticking my nose in their business” by tracking down the father he had never met.

Its very odd to me, because my husband doesn’t seem particularly co-dependent on his mother... he actually seemed to mostly avoid her for most of our marriage — we lived 1500 miles away from her for years, and when we moved closer to her (which wasn’t to BE closer to her, but just because she happened to live a town over from where I grew up), he never seemed super eager to spend time with her... we mostly saw her on holidays or when she wanted our daughter to sleep over once every month or two. But now that she’s acting all helpless, I’m seeing a total different side of him, wherein he seems ruled by guilt and a belief that she “can’t help it.” He has always said “My mother can’t help ________, because she really isn’t a very smart woman.” Or “She doesn’t know any better.” But I think she’s a lot smarter than she gets credit for, and that this “ooh, I’m so frail and helpless and stupid” act she plays is really a master manipulation technique.
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Another thought, maybe you could do what I advised a another poster yesterday who was trying to get her Dad out of the house. Make it so she wants to move. She has no motivation now, you do everything for her. Stop that. DH says to Mom “I’m sorry that you’re in a financial bind now that you quit your job. We will help you get back on your own 2 feet again. Since you can’t pay rent (yet), we know you’d like to feel like you're contributing more to the house. And we certainly need it, since we got this larger place in case you ever came.” Think laundry, making lunches, running the vacuum, making the beds. Dusting. Since she’s driving, can she run to the store for simple groceries? Regular duties. Come up with stuff that she can physically do. Load her up. She might be happy to get into a senior apartment, on a bus line, with no responsibilities.
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mally1 Mar 3, 2019
Yes!
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Yikes! I'm sorry and appalled for you and your husband, Jomichelle. You and your husband must discuss a plan NOW to make her move out. Your profile states she has Alzheimer's and depression.

Your husband must take control as this is his mother, although I'm sure he'll need you to help. She cannot stay, especially with her Alzheimer's her condition will deteriorate. You have a young family and they take precedence.

I would get a plan of action with your husband. Likely you both need to research other accommodations, be it independent living, assisted living, etc. He (and you) needs to talk with his mother that she has a deadline to move out.

Enforce her paying her way in your home, for food and rent. It's up to her to figure out how to pay for it, like selling her car and taking public transportation or senior transportation. You and your husband may have to help her sort this out. Plus, if she has that many fender benders, she may need to stop driving.

Your MIL put you and your husband is an unfair situation. Do not delay. The longer she's there with her thinking she's there forever the harder it'll be on everyone. Be strong. Settle this now. Good luck.
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Jomichelle Mar 3, 2019
Thank you for the reply, and for validating my feelings. I think my husband and I are both struggling with a few points:
- We dont know if she has Alzheimer’s... our concern began when she started getting into these repeated fender benders and not paying her bills or taxes correctly, leading to fees we would often have to pay on her behalf. Her SSI is now garnished for back taxes on income she did not pay while working as a self-employed caregiver to a much older woman a few years ago. Plus we started catching her lying a lot (shes always been a liar, which has been hard for my husband to realize but eventually became undeniable) and wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt by seeing if it was coming from a cognitive deficit instead of malice. The geriatric doctor gave her a battery of tests and concluded that she was depressed and showing very early signs of possible dementia. She did not keep her appointments I made for her with the psychiatrist. She also had an MRI which showed some “age related lesions,” and though this is what got her referred to the geriatric doc, we never got a definitive diagnosis. She thought i was being controlling and intrusive by taking the lead on getting this all checked out, so i backed off and we havent revisited it.
- My husband obviously feels a desire to not leave his mom uncared for if she does indeed have some dementia setting in. She is great at guilting him, and we caught her telling our 9 year old — after we confronted her about not contributing to bills —that she has “spent hundreds of thousands raising” my husband over the years and that he now needs to care for her. (Our child then came to us crying and said, “Please help Grandma. We need to take care of her.” Super manipulative and enraging.)
- My MIL has a very good strategy for when she is confronted on things: she never admits fault, never apologizes, stops speaking, and makes it so that everyone feels bad for having upset her. She has done this for years, and it works for her.
- We realize she does have money problems, and that she IS getting older. We just arent equipped for all this, but cant just turn our backs on her either. Especially if she DOES have some dementia setting in.
- My husband feels indebted to her because she struggled to raise him alone as a child after leaving an abusive husband. Because of this, he tends to let her get away with murder (such as when we learned 8 years ago that she had lied to him his whole life telling him his real father didnt want him, but we found the guy online and learned that she had actually taken off on him while she was pregnant to go be with the abusive boyfriend, and then hid my husband from his real dad, who had searched for them for years.)
- We were the ones who suggested to her that we begin talking in a few months about her coming to live with us awhile. HOWEVER, this was meant to be discussed later in the year, she was meant to contribute maybe $400 - 500 to our $2,100 rent and some bills, and we'd assumed she would resume working part time at least and have her own life. We certainly thought she'd have her own moving expenses and her own food and gas money. None of it worked out that way, and we feel she was deceptive on purpose, but now that shes left her job and apartment and all her friends and got rid of most of her furniture, we would feel evil just putting her out right away, even if she did lie her way in.

I just dont know what to do. I feel like crying all day since she got here. I cant see a scenario where he makes her leave, because shes so good at manipulation. He did confront her and they got into a terrible argument, but as I said, she wins every argument by just refusing to answer or admit fault and shutting down.
- We mentioned getting rid of her car, but I fear that will only make her more dependent on us (and me, really), as my husband and I already share a car (our second car died last year and we arent ready to take on another $400+ per month loan).
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She's got dementia and she's driving?

The car needs to be sold.

Your husband needs to contact the local Area Agency on Aging to get a needs assessment set up. And to find her an affordable housing unit where she will be safe.
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