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Hi all,


Dealing with my fiances mother who about 10+ years ago had a bad hip surgery that gave her a stroke and put her in a coma. Ever since then she has been on the decline, she is 70 years old now. Her and her husband have moved 3 miles away from us recently. Her husband has been primary caregiver however is suffering from depression and generally hates her at this point and they probably shouldn't live together, it can be quite toxic at times. However, there aren't any other options at this point. She can't walk well and insists on being pushed in her wheelchair even though her doctor insists she can/should walk as much as she can. She complains non-stop about how bad she has it, how much pain she is in, how mean her husband is to her (even though he does everything for her) Her doctor tells her no more sleeping pills and she insists I take her to walgreens so she can get benadryl. Not allowed to have sugar and insists on getting ice-cream... etc... she just generally doesn't care nor try to improve her conditions nor her attitude. She seems to want to live a miserable life. She doesn't have great impulse control so if she wants something she'll call over and over all day. She obsesses over getting her hair and nails done and new clothes rather than strengthening herself and becoming more independent. She'll try to get you to do everything for her and has no boundaries. I hate to make her sound like some monster, she has good qualities and is a good person and can be silly and sweet, but DEFINITELY has some toxic habits that are creating a pretty miserable family situation for the rest of us. What do you do with someone who doesn't try at all and would rather feel sorry for themselves and have everyone else do everything for them? How much agency does she really have? She's had some brain damage from the coma but def is functional and can do WAY more than she does. If someone isn't willing to put the work in how should the rest of the family proceed? A facility is not an option (financially) and she is too snobby to be social with other people in her dealing with similar circumstances .

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You can lead a horse to water...

"What do you do with someone who doesn't try at all and would rather feel sorry for themselves and have everyone else do everything for them?"

I'd decline any ongoing invites to pity parties.

I'd suggest professional assistance; Thearapist for marriage/life counselling & a Geriatrician for medical issues. Let this couple get advice & decide their own path. (May be time for AL for MIL.. if they think best).

I'd be a DIL who visits now & then. Bring afternoon tea, have a friendly chat. That would be MY boundary right there. The rest falls into their life & therefore is up to them.

I would not step a foot onto that slippery slope towards being at beck & call 24/7.
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Lovetoread Apr 8, 2021
Thank you for that response and also validating some thoughts I have been feeling guilty about. They are going to many different doctor appointments and therapy sessions including Al-anon and other zoom meetings, but once those are over she doesn't do anything on her own that she's supposed to do outside of these meetings/appointments. It's like she's going to them just to say "look, see, I'm trying." FIL was going to have a breakdown without some help from the two sons (one being my fiance) which is why they moved closer to us. (FIL is her full-time caregiver + worked full time as a graphic designer he's 70 as well) Another weird layer to this is that he recently had an affair, needing a romantic relationship with a woman (which is long gone from the marriage) and we don't exactly know how to feel about that. He's not currently pursuing that other relationship anymore. We have a lot of sympathy for him, but also are just weirded out by the whole thing as they still live together and MIL knows about it. Ugggghh wish there were more affordable options for assisted living! I wish we could spark motivation and hope and positivity, but she really seems doomed to be unhappy and needy. (Hope that doesn't sound too insensitive)
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I understand that FIL is overwhelmed but she is his responsibility. He needs to set boundries. He needs to find ways to get away by hiring someone. You can help but I would not get involved in her care. I am not beyond a little threat. Dad needs to tell her if she won't do for herself, then he may need to put her in a LTC facility because caring for her is stressing him out. Medicaid may pay for her care. FIL being the Community Spouse. Assets get split with her portion being spent down then applying for Medicaid. FIL can remain in the home and have a car and enough from their monthly income (SS and pension) to live on. Check your State to see if Medicaid pays for AL.

If there was brain damage that could cause a lot of problems. Its been 10 yrs and she should be evaluated again by a neurologist.

When a poster used the word enabling a member said that its not always enabling, its disabling. Enabling is getting her the Benadryl and icecream she is not suppose to have. Disabling is doing things for her she can do for herself.

I would not marry into this family unless you are sure you will come first.
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Lovetoread Apr 8, 2021
Yeah she's been to a thousand doctors that can't seem to help with her migraines and back pains and hip pains etc dry eyes and dry throat...I could go on and on with all her issues, it's really sad and frustrating. The Medicaid info is really informative thank you for that I will def look more into it!
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If someone continues to do for her, than she will have no reason to try and do for herself. It's called enabling. Time for the family to step back, and let her do for herself. If you don't now, it will only continue to get worse. And please don't take her to get Benadryl, as that has been proven to make people over 60 with mental decline worse, and can even cause cognitive decline. So by you taking her to get that, you are in fact making her worse.
And like Beatty said, next time she invites you to her pity party, just decline to go. Best wishes.
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Lovetoread Apr 8, 2021
Thank you for your response! And wow I didn't know that about the benadryl, I was very stern with her and refused to get it for her and am now especially glad about that!
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As long as she is of sound mind, not much you can do legally. 

But! You can tell her NO. Some examples:

"No MIL, I can't get you benadryl (or ice cream or whatever destructive thing she wants). I don't feel right about that given your medical problems." (This may get her to consider to stop acting so helpless? Maybe not!).

MIL complaining? "I'm sorry you're having such a hard time. I'll call/see you when you're feeling a little better." 

MIL wants you to come over and do whatever for her? "I can't. I've got [work, school, anything] and I can't miss that or put it aside." 

Once you and fiance stop coming around so much and don't immediately get her what she wants, she may realize her antics don't work. You say she is a good person, and I'm sure she has good aspects... but really, a good person would take responsibility and not want to burden others. Nor would a good person be snobby. It’s not your fault she doesn’t want to be around people, and no need for you and fiancé to be her social group.
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Lovetoread Apr 8, 2021
Absolutely! I have always had a hard time with saying no and being assertive especially when there are mixed emotions (guilt, empathy etc...) tied in as well, so I've experienced a lot of growth having to set boundaries and become more assertive, thanks for your motivation!
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One person’s refusal to change or help themselves doesn’t mean others must jump to their demands. It’s not on the family to endlessly try to fix what refuses to get better. Be around for the times she’s reasonable and provide truly needed help. Anytime it turns toxic, leave immediately
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Lovetoread Apr 9, 2021
Thank you! "be around for the times she's reasonable" indeed sounds like a reasonable thing to do hahah... I'm def practicing that! I don't want to totally dismiss her because she's not some horrible person
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Sounds very much like my mother. She's older but has been actively dying for the last 40 years or so.
Tough love is what your fiance's mother needs, and from everyone. That means you, her kids, and her husband. All of you must stop being at her beck and call and catering to her every whim.
JoAnn29 in the comments here is absolutely right when she says that 'enabling is disabling'. If she can do for herself, she must do for herself. It's for her own good.
If your future MIL wants to act like a spoiled brat child then treat her like one. When the complaining and demands start everyone needs to completely ignore her. Don't accept any more invitations to her pity parties either because that's how she gets all of you to jump through hoops.
Next time she wants to go shopping, or get her hair and nails done tell her no because you (and everyone else) refuses to push her in a wheelchair that she doesn't need. If she wants you to go buy Benadryl or ice cream tell her the truth. That she isn't supposed to be having these things and that you will not help her get them.
You, her husband, and her kids need to change the family dynamic. Right now your future MIL controls the situation and is in charge. No more of that. All of you need to stop and be united together in the decision. Your future MIL will catch on when she gets lonely because everyone is blowing her off. She'll adjust her behavior and start doing for herself when everyone stops humoring her.
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Lovetoread Apr 9, 2021
"All of you need to stop and be united together in the decision." That really makes me realize we haven't actually gotten together without her to be able to discuss anything now that she is living closer, we all kind of avoid really dealing with it as a team. I will def be mentioning that we should have a little meetup to vent/discuss!
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Two things:

Get her to a geriatric psychiatriat for evaluation and treatment of her mental health issues.

Learn to say "I can't possibly do that".
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Lovetoread Apr 10, 2021
thank you, yes I've been practicing more assertiveness through this!
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I’m surprised no one has mentioned the word “dementia “. My mother talks the same narrative. Everything revolves around her. She clearly doesn’t understand why I don’t think the way she thinks. There is no reasoning with her. She is very capable yet manipulative and controlling. Says she could only have days to live yet nothing is wrong with her. Doctors keep telling me it’s her dementia. Oh, and she lives alone in a senior apartment and she’ll be 98 in July. I’m sorry you’ve been thrust into the mix. If you don’t let your future in-laws figure it out themselves, this will become your life. They are preying on your good nature. Sending hugs to you and all involved.
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Lovetoread Apr 10, 2021
Hmmm that is interesting, I will mention this to the family!
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OK--your mom sounds just like mine. She can be funny and enjoyable to be with, but not much anymore. She's always got some new horrible ache or pain and has had multiple serious sugeries. The ONLY one she truly needed was a hip replacement at age 86. She's 91 and scouting out new drs who will do either the other hip (being proactive, you know) or work on her shoulder. No drs will touch a 91 yo woman in terrible health who will not do PT afterwards and who won't follow the rules.

She hurt her left shoulder and when you visit she sits and groans and rubs her shoulder non-stop. Complains that she can't get a dr who will help her. At first I was all about helping her find range of motion exercises, cortisone shots, massage, and she'd throw it back at me.

Last week I was there for a minute and she was rubbing her RIGHT shoulder and moaning and saying how much WORSE her shoulder was getting---finally I said "Mother, it's your OTHER shoulder that hurts. Your right one is fine". That didn't fly and I got bounced out of there pretty fast.

People like this have lived inside their own brains for so long, that they really can't see how off putting their behavior is. Mom is perpetually dissapointed in all of us, and lets us know it. And you know what?

There is not one thing I can do for her. She WANTS to be miserable.

70 is VERY young. She could easily live 25 more years. Just saying. And I doubt she will get 'better'.

Mom is 91 and has lived with YB in his home for 26 years. He regrets this decision every day of his life.
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Lovetoread Apr 9, 2021
Yes spending time with her can be unpleasant when she complains so much and constantly tries to poison me with sh*t-talking about her husband, how mean and miserable he is and all the mean things he says, how he does this and that etc... its exhausting and frankly just plain awkward because they aren't even MY parents they're my inlaws. My fiance has given up and come to terms with her probably dying a miserable person because he's been dealing with it much longer than me (we've been together 5 years, but she's been like this 15 years) it's just so frustrating because she IS ONLY 70! She could be living so much better but just gets in her own way and only wants to book doctor appt after doctor appt for shots and new treatments and surgeries that never help, instead of just putting in the freaking work herself!! (physical therapy, exercise, eating right) uggggghhhh. I'm sorry to hear about your mom btw... this platform is such a great way to commiserate with others and get support/ advice from wonderful people such as yourself. Thanks for the response!
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If she has no assets, a facility is an option financially, for her. She applies for a Medicaid bed in NH and they total up her income to determine how much they pay after she pays. Or the state Medicaid program pays it all if she has no income. Money is considered for the stay at home spouse so he is not made destitute by removing her income from the house.

Talk frankly with her. People who want to stay in their home have work to do to stay there. They follow the health recommendations regarding her sugar levels. They TRY to do the physical and occupational therapies to get stronger so that another person is not having to do all the lifting and pushing to move a body around. It is obvious she can do more than she does when only family in the home. If she wants to stay in bed or in a wheelchair all day, there are facilities for that kind of care and she will need to go there. All of you plan to talk to dr to get therapy done in the home and her willingness to participate will determine where she can live. Hubby is going to hurt himself or wear himself out trying to manage all of her needs as well as his own.

She has a choice to make. As my grandmother used to say - do you want to wear out from trying to help yourself or rust out by just sitting until you can no longer move.
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Lovetoread Apr 11, 2021
Wow, love that wisdom your grandmother shared! Will be looking into the medicaid stuff as well, thanks for your advice!
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