My father-in-law has dementia. Can you help me find a better approach to caring for my in-laws?


First, if you take the time to read this long thing, thank you for your kindness! And if you comment thank you again, very much for your kindness! My husband and I could use some suggestions to help us in the care of his parents. To help things run more smoothly for them and for us. In some ways this is hard to write. I am a very direct person. The information I will provide may sound like I don't love and appreciate my in-laws or see the good in them. They are kind, generous people with many beautiful qualities even admirable qualities. But they bear some traits that make them difficult to help. We want to give them the practical and emotional support they need. We are finding that to be difficult on so many levels because some of these strongly entrenched traits are getting in the way. Here's some quick details: -MIL is 87 -FIL is 81 -They have two kids. One son and one daughter - Their son and I look after their overall welfare - They live in an apartment 5 minutes from us - My in-laws did not plan for retirement or even think about what they might need to do and what types of things might need to be put in place for themselves. For a while now we have approached them about various things that we needed to get in place and they try to push these things off into the future even though they were already in their 80s. - They live three and a half hours from their daughter - She occasionally helps out with various matters - She's uncomfortable with open communication - She has a lackadaisical approach to the care of her parents and does not wish to hear about matters when they come up. - other than very basic discussions, she does not work along with her brother to plan ahead for their future needs. She seems to see any more than basic discussions are unnecessary. - My in-laws are uncomfortable with many things including: - change, planning & thinking ahead - uncomfortable with open communication. Attempts to shut it down. - uncomfortable with facing reality as it truthfully is - unable to acknowledge their own feelings and emotions - uncomfortable to hear about anyone else's feelings - Many forms of self-expression and emotion are frowned upon - uncomfortable with displays of affection Health..... -My mother-in-law is still mobile, in decent health & keeps up with daily meals -My father-in-law is still mobile. Has had a slow progressing dementia, but it is taking hold more and more now though. He... - No longer drives or pays bills -Very short attention span -His cognitive abilities are random -he struggles with dates and even argues about it even after the correct date is pointed out to him -Sometimes he can go shopping in a grocery store for a few things and -other times he goes in for one or two items and comes out with nothing because he was confused in the store. -He is sitting alone quietly more and more -many conversations with him are about random details or old stories. he's having more and more of a hard time staying present in current conversations. My in-laws did a very good job at keeping their life simple and happy. But some of that simplicity and happiness came at the price of living in denial. They gave no thought or planning to their retirement. We've been having discussions with them for the past 5 years to get things prepared for this stage of their life. It has been a slow agonizing process. At this point though we have gotten a lot accomplished. All the while my father-in-law has been dealing with Dementia. My in-laws have both been living in denial about my FIL's dementia for quite some time.... a few years. His dementia was progressing very slowly so they could do that. But even after my FIL's symptoms seem to pick up they were still in denial and didn't really want to talk about it or face it that much. We know it's a tough subject :-( and it's horrible bc we feel like the bad guys as we try to help them with all of this. We have been sensitive to their feelings about it and brought it up only in small increments as we could tell they could handle. It's only been in the last 6 months that they both realize that he has dementia and it will get worse. We encouraged my MIL for some time to learn more about the illness for herself but she was very hesitant to do so. She is only just now looking into it for herself and she's not clear on what she's learning or how she think she needs to proceed. She complains about things he's doing & doesn't understand that it's his dementia. It's like she hasn't been paying attention to what's going on and what we've tried to help her understand. We have tried to educate her to the best of our ability and we have been trying to help her see that she needs to educate herself. It seems like she stands in the way of his care and any progress that could be made with him. And she stands in the way of her own peace. She does not mean to do that and does not realize that she's doing it. She stands in the way because she does not know how to support him. She also stands in the way because she is not one to implement new ideas or suggestions that may be given to her. When we do try to revisit the dementia issue with my in-laws they are both grateful for the moral support but they have not been practical in their approach to dealing with this. We want to try to offer them some stability and help but we also need them to help us help them. When we point out common sense ideas or suggestions it's like it goes right over their heads especially my mother in law. She gets hung up & side tract on side issues instead of being able to see the big picture. We can't seem to get her to refocus to be able to see the big picture in any given scenario. It is very hard to get through to her. She can be in such a tizzy about side issues that we have to help with those things when they're really not of consequence in the big picture to making things run more smoothly and peacefully for her and for them. And so I provided a good deal of background information so that you might be able to better assist us with how to get through to them, especially my mother-in-law. How to get her to listen and focus on the more important aspects than the side issues. All that said this situation feels so out of control. Do you think that there is an approach we could take to get things running a little smoother for them and for us?



I was typing an answer for you guys and it's gone!! One quick of the backspace and it's gone. I'll pass all this on to my husband. I truly appreciate your feedback! I'll try to check back in tomorrow and give you little bit more information but as of now I've got to go to bed. Thank you and goodnight.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to Stayingfocused

I was typing an answer for you guys and it's gone!! One quick of the backspace and it's gone. I'll pass all this on to my husband. I truly appreciate your feedback! I'll try to check back in tomorrow and give you little bit more information but as of now I've got to go to bed. Thank you and goodnight.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to Stayingfocused

I read your entire post. and I totally understand! totally!!
they don't want you to bother them! cause everything is A-OK!

you aren't going to be able to change their mind. when dementia steps in, also some bad judgment follows....

I never approached my mom or dad about living alone in their home. they seemed to be doing OK. but it was worse than I thought. I mean nothing of an emergency type thing had happened, but it was getting there.

wasn't til my mom fell and broke her hip, that things moved quick. changes had to be made. We pretty much planned a move to assisted living facility behind their back. but it was NOT done in a mean spirit. it was just necessary.

so im not sure at this stage you can do a lot. until something happens. like previous poster states someone ends up in hospital etc.

my dad had bad dementia. and my mom was caregiving. I didn't even think of it like that at the time. I just figure they living together and doing ok. but my mom was getting old and confused too. moms "fall" broke the camels back.

you can try your best to make sure the apartment where they live is a safe as possible. rugs can trip. bath tubs are slippery. and checkbooks can become a mess.
you can continue to talk about the future. but not push, cause they just push back hard.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to wally003

I'm sure I won't be the only person to suggest this: you and your husband should both read "Being Mortal, Medicine and What Matters In the End" by Atul Gawande.

Personally I'd make this a mandatory text for anyone who cares for anyone else or indeed for anyone who is expecting to grow old.

I also will not be the only person to say how well we understand the frustration and stress of trying to get elders to exercise what you and I might think of as simple common sense when it comes to coping with life, especially later life.

Only... If you were your mother in law, would you like the look of that bigger picture, do you think? Is it all that hard to understand why she might not care to face it squarely?

I won't take up a lot of space because I *know* you are going to get good, practical, sympathetic advice from many forum members quite fast.

So just one thing to be going on with, then. Take deep breaths and contemplate the worst that can happen should you, in the end, not be able to get your MIL to comply. This is an exercise in accepting that there are things that are not controllable, just as there are times in life when however much you plan, you no longer have any attractive options to choose from.

There will be ways forward and you have many, many allies here! Looking forward to reading more, hugs to you both.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Countrymouse

The first thing I'd do is get your MIL a cognitive evaluation. NOT simply an evaluation of her memory, but of her thinking and reasoning skills. It sounds to me as though she's got some challenges as well.

Do you handle their finances? Have you looked into getting them qualified for Medicaid? Have you been able to obtain POA for health and finances?

Sadly, there may be little you can do right now. If they are still competent in the legal sense, they can continue to make their own ( bad) decisions.

Sooner or later, one of them will end up in the hospital. If that happens, do EVERYTHING in your power to make sure they are admitted, and not under observation. A hospital stay of three days will qualify them for 20 days of rehab, paid for by Medicare ( they DO have Medicare, right?)

Come back and let us know how you're doing.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn