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I work full time, so I’m only helpful outside of working hours. In-laws live in their own house 15 minutes away. My wife cooks, cleans, shops, launders, everything they need. Any suggestions to help with our mental health would be really appreciated.

Nickname, you are not alone.

Here's some little thoughts I wrote a while back regarding insight on needing help 😊

*Sunrise to Sunset*
I take care of myself
I live on my own
Except when I can't
So be by the phone

I eat my meals
I sleep in my bed
Just do my shopping & keep me fed
Do my shopping & cleaning & gardening & bills
Take me out when I'm bored
Stay here when I'm ill

I just need a little help, now & then.
From sunrise to sunset then sunrise again
Helpful Answer (24)
Reply to Beatty
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Not to mention, without having POA for her parents, your wife shouldn't be agreeable to doing much for them at ALL. They can hire a housekeeper, a caregiver, food delivery from the grocery store, etc. When they see what that feels like with no help from you two, then the turkey talks can begin. As long as your wife enables them, why should they be agreeable to doing the right thing? Only when push comes to shove will they see the light, most likely. And sign over POA to her, as a start.

In old age, it's not okay to destroy ones daughter and her marriage in order to perpetuate the myth of independence or stubborn refusal to hire paid help or move into AL. Start saying NO and sticking to it. Force the parents to see that they're killing their daughter here and only then might they change their tune. But they surely won't until your wife puts her foot down. What happens If God forbid she dies? Then the parents have no other choice BUT to hire paid help or go to AL.

Good luck setting down some firm boundaries with stubborn elders before your wife collapses.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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Nick, as you say "wife wants to help, but is burning out".

I loved my mom. At 88, she was getting querelous, anxious about all sorts of stuff and still lived alone in the 3 story house where we grew up. Dad had died in his early 70s and she coped just fine--went back to college, participated in social groups. And then boom, she was calling us everyday with some crisis.

There days running, she called me at work and said she needed me to come RIGHT AWAY. Had to drive across 3 boroughs of NYC, up to Westchester County to get to her--and there was no "real" crisis.

I say down and said "Mom, I can't do this anymore". (That was the hardest sentence I've ever uttered).

It turns out that my mother had NO insight into what she was doing to me. My previously empathetic, considerate mom was no longer in there. To make a long story short, she had an undetected stroke which had wiped out her planning abilities and a LOT of her higher level cognitive functioning.

I guess you could look at it this way; sometimes in these situations, we expect our parents, previously considerate and playful to continue to act in OUR best interests. But they aren’t capable of doing that any longer. It's up to us to set up reasonable boundaries so that their needs and wants don't destroy our lives.

A good therapist can help your wife negotiate this if she is unused to saying "no" to her parents' requests.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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Nick, a slightly different take. W is clearly taking too much responsibility for her parents. It’s time for you to take more responsibility for your wife. It will be easier for you to tell them that it’s ‘too much’ than it will be for W. She is bound to feel dreadful, guilty, inadequate etc, but you can say that you feel guilty for letting her take on so much without help. You do your bit in the evenings, and even that is hard after a full day’s work.

Come the heavy handed husband, and say that you feel you have to put a stop to it. She is your responsibility, and you will not let her kill herself over this. They accept in-home help, or she will stop everything but social visits. It’s a different way for you to ‘help’, it takes a huge pressure off W, and it really is the best way to use some common sense at this point. If they fight back, a useful line is "If she breaks down or has a stroke, you will be in a Nursing Home within a week. I certainly can't care for you". Good luck!
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
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Nickname Dec 29, 2022
Thanks Margaret
I appreciate your thoughts and think this might be a necessary step. I’m willing and ready to do anything to support my wife.
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Chat time. Book it in.

Folks, the time has come to accept a little help.

"Unfortunately they are insistent that they don’t want anyone else in the house". 

Of course. Who ever does?
They trust your wife & you. That's all they want.

But that is not reasonable.

The step between *independent* & *semi-dependent* is a doozy. That's the struggle... The folks want to stay independent, but old age happens!

It seems to be a common falsehood that if my grown children help me out that doesn't count as needing help. It maintains an *illusion of independence*.

So, chat time. Choose your style. Soft, humourous, hard or somewhere inbetween. Eg

Softly approach: Wife/you can offer to find the right person to help, someone kind & honest. As a trial. Just a bit of light cleaning to help you out. Maybe someone to carry the heavy shopping in & put away, that sort of thing.

Law down the law: Accept in-home help now. Or not.
If not, choose your nursing home. Or not. Or wife & I will.
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Reply to Beatty
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Lymie61 Jan 7, 2023
You hit the nail on the head “It seems to be a common falsehood that if my grown children help me out that doesn't count as needing help. It maintains an *illusion of independence*. “!!!!
(18)
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It's a tough issue that many of us have gone through - I hope you find some solid suggestions.

Can they afford to have someone come in to help? It took some time, but I was finally able to get my dad to agree to have a home care person come in twice a week for two hours to start [gradually growing to four hours 3-4 times a week] to "help with laundry, light cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, preparing lunch, and whatever else." It was a less threatening way to describe why they come (as opposed to helping him dress, shower, for example, which is core to what they can do). He said over and over again that he didn't need or want someone to come in. I told him that he would be doing ME a favor if he agreed to it, which worked. Maybe she can position it with them that way - "I'm having a really hard time keeping up with my house and yours, and it's affecting my physical and mental health. Can you please help me by allowing me to arrange for this?"

Best of luck to you. You're doing the right thing, recognizing that the situation is not sustainable and reaching out for ideas. It may take some time, but being strong and insistent is important in moving the situation in the right direction.
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Reply to LisaSF
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Nickname Dec 29, 2022
Thank you Lisa - I like the way you phrased that and it might be a good way for us to start this hard conversation. Unfortunately they are insistent that they don’t want anyone else in the house. My wife has always been so close to her parents which makes this all the more difficult.
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They have no incentive to accept other help as long as your wife is providing all the help. Whole and healthy parents would never want this for their daughter, but fear and old age has changed them into demanding people I’d bet no one recognizes the same as they once were. She must back off, for the good of all, especially her own health. They will come to see other options
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Reply to Daughterof1930
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Just see to it that she doesn't move in with her and that they don't move in with you, as that will be the end of it.
Your wife should seek help in deciding her next steps forward for life. If she is giving up her life for her parents then this may mean missing some of the most free decades of her life. It is a real choice. I would suggest a licensed social worker who is in private practice as a therapist.
This will be the second time today I have parroted Beatty's (a poster here) good advice that "There will be NO solutions as long as YOU are all the solutions". Why would your inlaws consider a move when they have got your wife to do all of this. It is sad they don't recognize what they are asking of her, but many do not.
I wish you the very best in helping to support boundaries and choices for your wife. Consider attending those few sessions of counseling with her.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
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Nickname,

I did homecare for a long time. Almost 25 years. Most elderly people refuse to allow outside help to come in. What has to happen more times than not is they have to have it forced on them.
I can't even tell you how many elderly people I've had to lay a hard truth on.
Nothing will get a person a one-way ticket to a nursing home faster than being stubborn.
You and your wife need to set some boundaries with her parents. They will not accept outside help or any kind of change as long as you and your wife maintain the status quo and continue to be their care slaves.
Sometimes seniors have to live rough for a while to get over the asinine stubborness about refusing help or change.
You and your wife may have to let things get hard for them in order for them to become reasonable. If your MIL is bedridden she should probably have visiting nursing coming in. They will arrange aide care too.
Have the talk. Either they accept outside help coming in or it will be a nursing home. No debate about it.
Homecare or nursing home because the two of you are done being care slaves.
Now, I know this may sound a little bit harsh, but in my experience I have found that families have to be like this with their needy elders most of the time to get them to accept help.
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Reply to BurntCaregiver
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JeanLouise Jan 8, 2023
*care slaves. That is a PERFECT description. I needed to hear that too. Thank you.
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Nick, welcome!

Does your wife WANT to do all those tasks?

Has she ever told her parents that they are expecting too much from her and that it is affecting her mental and marriage?

Has either of you investigated what outside help is available?

They can refuse outside help, but you and your wife have the right to withdraw from their care. In other words, their right don't outweigh YOUR wants and needs.

Consider telling them that you are taking a 2 week vacation and that they'll have to make other arrangements. Are they competent enough to do that?
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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Nickname Dec 29, 2022
Thanks Barb - being high risk, we stayed away from them for 6 weeks during the pandemic. That was a difficult time but they managed to struggle through. However, with the deterioration in their health over the past 18 months, this is no longer a sustainable option.
My wife wants to help but I’m concerned she’s burning out.
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