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I have a 73 year o!d mother who has made herself almost completely immobi!e by refusing to take prescribed pain medication for arthritis as directed and refusing to stay active. She is over weight and all she wants to do is sit in her chair and watch TV and wants my family to take care of her, clean her house and do her household chores. I have a husband who works 10 hour days, a part time job myself, and a 10 year old with Autism and an 18 year old at home. I am frustrated beyond belief with her "can't do" attitude and refusal to put any real effort into helping herself remain independent. She says she cannot afford assisted living and I don't think she wznts anyone in her house. Looking for options on how to help without "enabling" her victim mentality and keep myself sane in the process. I have already gotten the huge guilt trip for not calling her every day to see what we can "do for her today." Suggestions anyone????

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Thank you for your reaponses. I appreciate it. Let me start by explaining how it came about that we decided for MIL to move in with us. I have known my husband since 2010 and we moved in together in 2011. We only got married in 2016. I have 2 sons from a previous marriage aged 18 and 16. Early February this year, I started with health issues. We did not know if it was temporal lobe epilepsy or severe debilitating migraines. I used to work for myself making wedding gowns and prom dresses etc. I used to do bridal fairs and help brides get ready on their big day. I had to close my studio at home because I could not work with the machines anymore. To be honest, I did not have medical aid and here in South Africa our state hospitals and clinics is the last place you want to end up in! I paid out of pocket as far as my finances would allow for my GP and a specialist to do tests and even one night in casualty at one of our private hospitals to try and figure out what was happening to me. To be honest, we still dont know what it was. I became lonely and depressed as hubby and kids would be at school most of the day. Not having contact with people and just being at home cooking and cleaning became too lonely. Also the loss of income really hit us hard. So I started to think, MIL has been doing well for such a long time, no incidents of psychosis, and why pay an old age home to look after her when I can do it.... Hubby and I spoke about it and decided to let her move in with us. It was going well for a good few months. Still is for the most part. I just get those days when the little things get on my nerves. Moving her back to an old age home will cause her to fall back to the way she was. She is so sensitive to rejection as no-one has ever cared for her or her well-being the way I do. My husband - her own son, never believed that she would be able to achieve half of what she is doing now. Told me I am wasting my time. But I saw through her cant do attitude and made an effort to show her she can and praise her when she does. Maybe I am being impatient or selfish with the way I feel about her sometimes... I dont know...
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CarlaCB: "Still, I'm wondering why you brought her to live with you and if there's any way to reverse that decision."

Yes! And why are YOU doing most of the caregiving. What about her SON? Only four years into marriage, and this is what it's already come to?
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Disheartened77 - I hear you and I totally empathize, and I'm sure there are lots of others here who can also. You have a lot going on besides the fact that MIL doesn't want to do for herself. You have the loss of privacy and her intrusions into every aspect of your family life. You've done a great deal to help her rehabilitate herself and regain her stability physically and mentally. Still, I'm wondering why you brought her to live with you and if there's any way to reverse that decision. It seems like a situation that could go on a long time and can only get worse over time.

I would suggest that you start your own thread in order to get more responses from the posters here. A lot of people aren't following the old threads anymore but will respond if they know the person is new here.
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I know this is an old post, but hoping against all odds that someone can relate or give me some advice on how to handle my mother-in-law... Her husband used to do EVERYTHING for her, she retired from working in the bank long before retirement age. I guess the reason why he did everything for her was because of guilt - he used to have one affair after the other. Shortly after his death in 2007, she completely lost her mind to the point where she had to be admitted to a mental hospital. She has since been on medication but still gets those episodes where she hears voices, talks to the voices, has this "fantasy" that an old family friend is coming to fetch her in a hovering limo and that God is going to come down from heaven to marry them (this person almost had her institutionalised a few years ago because of this), and the list just goes on... Before she had a mild stroke in 2013, she claimed she could not do anything for herself. Now bare in mind, I only came into the picture around 2010... I used to help her with any and all bathroom related things. I used to undress and dress her, make her coffee, food, take her cups and plates to the kitchen etc.... This was only when she was visiting us as she was staying in an old age home. She has been living with us for the past 6 months now. Even though she had a mild stroke in 2013, I have decided enough is enough. One person, still so young - only 63, surely can do much better than being so pathetic by their own choice! So, I arranged for her to see a new psychiatrist who changed her medication, refered us to a bio-kineticist, and she is now doing exercises everyday, undressing and dressing herself, helping herself in the bathroom, etc.... But when I dont keep an eye on her, she still smokes one sigarette after the other like a chimney - once she smoked a packet of 20 in just under 2 hours!!! And where she sits, she sits. Where she lies down, she lies. Our furniture is sat through where she normally sits. I know she has come a really long way in such a short time. She has even lost some wheight due to the exercises. But I cannot help getting extremely frustrated lately that she does not want to do anything with her right hand which we are busy working on. Also, everytime I have a conversation with one of my sons or husband, she starts talking about something completely off topic to turn attention to her again, everytime have to run an errand, she wants to know where I am going, when I get back, she wants to know where I have been. When hubby and I stayed at a local resort for one night just to take a break, she threw a tantrum by making such a mess on the toilet when we got back. Now, she wants to go with everytime she hears the car engine start. It is as if she does not want to give us time to ourselves. Look, she is quiet and easy to care for, but in small ways she is trying to take over. I guess it is those little things that is busy adding up and getting to me... I am a gentle and compassionate person with a caring nature. I cannot believe that these little things is getting on my nerves. How can I handle these situations better?
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Yes, all pts that I've ever worked with are the sort who, when you say " that hurts " say " yes, let's do it again".

That being said, the hospital fischarge folks need to know mom is SAFE. which she won't be if one of you isn't there round the clock for several days.

You need to let them know you won't be there.
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Becky. Make sure all the family is together on this decision so mom doesn't cause discord trying to get her way. After the rehab, keep the pt going. Take some of the private care money she was prepared to spend and get her house cleaned while she is away. If you and brother don't have DPOA for financial and medical it's time to get that done. Your post sounds right on. Home health can come in and keep her checked out going forward. Find a housekeeper to come on a regular basis. She needs to come back prepared to pick up her own mail and have pt and occupational until she can pick up and fetch for herself. She will be amazed at how much better she will be able to care for herself. Therapy really works and circus hard but so worth it. Come back and let us know how it all goes. 18 months is long enough to be an invalid. If she gets busy she should be in great shape in 90 days.
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I completely agree that this is the right course of action. I have one tiny twinge of sympathy for your mother - those PTs can be tartars! Add in a word of encouragement along the lines of 'no pain no gain', maybe?
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Becky, it is very important that you tell the hospital discharge coordinator that you are NOT picking her up or doing the 24/7 care. I can tell you right now that she is lying to them and telling them family will care for her. Talk to the discharge coordinator and the social worker. Make sure they have the correct information.
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Becky, go talk to the discharge planning folks at the hospital and tell them than you are NOT going to be "in house" for your mom. They will not release her if they can't guarantee her safety. Good for you for pushing back!
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Newby here - I Googled support groups for children of aging parents and found this. I am amazed at the similarities. My mom is in the hospital today - had her 2nd hip replacement (both hips replaced within 18 months). She lives at home, but her house is dirty. She drops stuff and can't/won't pick it up, etc. She's incontinent and uses lots of pads, but the floor around her toilet is bad.
After her first hip replacement, she went to rehab, but checked herself out after a few days over the advice of the PT's. She's lived the last 18 months in her lift recliner. She depends on her children and grandchildren to come over to take her trash out, clean her house, get her mail, get groceries. She'll leave the house for hair and doctor appointments.
So, back to today and why I'm here - she called me from the hospital this morning. She'll be discharged tomorrow and wants to go home (not to rehab). She says after her PT this morning, she's back to where she was before the surgery, but without pain. She wants someone to come in (paid professional) during the day and either my brother or me to spend the night with her for a few nights. I told her I don't feel comfortable with that. We left it that I'd call her back later today. I think she was shocked at my push-back.
My guess is that she doesn't want to go from the hospital to rehab, but directly to home and this is her work-around. I'm going to her room after work and ask her if she's really willing to settle for her very limited mobility (albeit pain-free) that she'll have now if she doesn't do the rehab and the exercises (like she didn't do after the last one).
My brother and I (and our spouses) are at that point where we're not willing to do anymore for her than we are now. She'll have to decide whether she's willing to live in squalor going forward, hire someone in, move to an assisted living apartment or step up her game and push herself to do more for herself.
At any rate, I apologize that I don't have any advice for the original poster, but I hear what you're saying. My plan is to determine what I'm willing to do, let her know that and stick to my guns. I'm married, work full-time, have a part-time business, a child in college and a child in her last year of high school.
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Kodi,

Don't fall for all that emotional blackmail, and tell her to hire a housekeeper to come by 1x week for a couple of hours. Your own family comes first.
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When my grandma broke her hip in 1964 (she was 80) and the doctors suggested rehab, she said " oh, I'll be an invalid. My daughters will wait on me". My mom said " the h/ll we will" ( my mom and her older sister are/were both nice obedient Catholic girls. But this was a bridge too far. My aunt had three kids and was the main breadwinner in her family; my mom had three of us, including an infant. The invalid act wasn't going to happen).

Grandma went to rehab and learned to walk with a walker (kept saying " i can't believe you sent me here") and returned to her Bronx apartment. But I learned an important lesson; just because your elderly parent wants it or thinks it's her due, doesn't mean you have to agree.
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If your mom has it in her head that 1. she is old and old people should be waited on, and/or 2. if it is hard for me to do, someone should do it for me, you are hitting your head on a wall, unless she is cognitive enough to think things through and reason with you, or has a depression that she would consent to treatment for. Yes, she is shortening her life and making it more likely she will end up in skilled care sooner rather than later. No, it is not fair to you or anyone else who cares about her. My mom was not wiling or able to change most of her pre-conceived notions either and it cost her her cherished home and independence too. You can try to go heart to heart with her and describe how YOU feel thinking about her declining before her time, but she may already be further down the road with loss of thinking skill, judgement, and empathy than you think and not be able to sustain a response.
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You say that your mother refused to take pain medication that might have helped her. I know that some pain medications can have negative side effects. And they can require you to take more and more of them over time. Does she take any other medications to treat her condition?

Has her doctor recommended a hip replacement as you reference in your post above? I might see if she would agree to consult with him about it and the physical therapy it might entail. People who have physical disabilities do have their limitations and a 70 year old might not be as spry as an 80 year old who is not disabled with arthritis. I don't know that I would compare her to others. Pain can make you act in unusual ways. I know people who have arthritis and it is very painful, even if you do take medications.

You sound like you have your hands full with working and caring for your family. I would think your mom would understand that all the help she needs will have to be done by someone else. There's no shame in bringing in other care providers. I would never expect a person with all you have on your plate to care for me, clean my house, shop, etc. No way. I would tell you to take care of your home and that I would hire help. If she can't afford to hire help, then look into what resources she may qualify for. Is she on Medicaid? Some states provide assisted living for those who are deemed medically in need of it and who meet the income/asset requirements.

I would also confirm the cause of your mom giving up so much in her daily activity. It could be depression or dementia. (Would she take meds for depression?) I know of people who stop doing things for themselves and it seems confusing. As it turns out, they had forgotten how to do things, like writing a check, driving, cooking, etc. They don't even realize what is going on. I'd make sure the reason she is not staying mobile.

I wouldn't play the guilt game. That's for people who do wrong. You are trying to do the right thing. I'd set the boundaries and have peace with it.
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My mom was the same way and would not care for herself properly. She ended up in the hospital then rehab and now going to a nursing home. She shortened her life - her choice. I did what I could with tough love and limits. Now I'm a sometimes-recognized daily visitor.
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Kodi, have your mom's cognitive abilities ever been evaluated? I'm seeing with various relatives with various sorts of dementia, the thing that "goes" is executive functioning, part of which is the ability to see the consequences of one's actions.
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I also have a son with autism who is not verbal and when I was taking care of my dad as well ( he passed away recently at 90) I came to a crossroads and realized that there were others who could help my dad, but given my son's disability I was the best person suited to help him. So I had to explain this to my dad and he was willing to go live in a nearby assisted living facility. Once there, my dad was still very demanding of my time to help with bill paying, etc. so I put my dad on a schedule and visited him often but only when it suited my family situation until my dad's situation became really serious a few months before his death. I think you need to tell your mom in no uncertain terms that given the care needs of your son, there are only a very few things you can do to help her with her plan to stay living in her house and if she thinks that your help is essential to her plan then she needs a new plan. I know it will not be easy but I had to have that somewhat heated discussion with my dad for my own sanity and the good of my own family.
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Nope, don't do it. It's so super easy to be waited on hand and foot especially when it's free. I suggest you and your family take a "vacation" for a few weeks ... if you can't afford it and need to go to work every day go to a motel some way away, go no contact and let her get on with it. She'll either sink or swim but in any event it's her choice, not yours. Bottom line: you cannot protect someone from themselves.
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Thank you all for your understanding answers. The frustrating part is that her physical condition was avoidable or at least "delayable" by her just putting some effort into remaining active and asking her dr. for assistance and suggestions for pain mangement until she could regain mobility. She is now concerned she will have to have a hip replacement, but i don't even know if they will do one because she barely walks now! She won't even walk to the end of her diveway to get her own mail! I am afraid with her weight as it is and her lack of ANY real exercise her heart will give out. She certainly isn't doing anything to provide any exercise for that muscle either. She tells me all the time that she is an "old woman" and can't do things anymore, but I work for a couple in their late 80's and early 90's who run CIRCLES around my mother. I also have an Aunt who is two years older than my mother who has a heart condition and is still prancing around in two inch heels and living her life to the fullest, a father-in-law who is in his 80's and is still active and travels from state to state to visit family, etc., etc., etc. I am torn between feeling guilt over not wanting to wait on her and anger for her expecting me to when this was all due to her apathy and not an actual debilitating condition. I appreciate all the support. It is just SO frustrating watching somebody let themselves deteriorate. I think my mother just assumes that because I live a mile down the road that we are here to take care of her. My older son already does her yard work and my husband fixes anything that needs repair. She does not have to rely on others for outside help yet, but now is talking about me coming to clean her house and do her laundry. At this point, that is the ONLY exercise she gets besides her once a week trip to the grocery store that she is already hinting at as getting to be too difficult for her to do. I am afraid if I were to help her in this capacity that she would NEVER get out of her chair.
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Kodi - I just want to say I sympathize. When my mother started having mobility and balance problems, her solution was to get other people to do things for her rather than seeking solutions that would allow her to remain independent. No, she wouldn't exercise. She also wouldn't attend doctor-prescribed balance therapy because she didn't want to make the copayments. She expected me to come over every night to walk her dog and take out her trash. She could have done this using her power chair/scooter but it was hard for her to maneuver that from the back room and she wouldn't leave it near the front door because it "looked gauche."

Unfortunately, I was the only sibling living near my mother at the time and I couldn't get my sisters to back me up in trying to get my mother to take more responsibility for herself. They refused to get involved unless they were forced to. It took me a long time to really stand up to her and draw the line at what I would and wouldn't do, and by that time she was so disabled she really couldn't do much of anything for herself.

At this point I'm just resigned to the situation. I could not affect the trajectory of my mother's old age, but I can still decide what I will and won't do.

Bottom line is, I understand the panic when you see the writing on the wall and realize your parent's full-blown disability is getting ready to totally swamp you and overrun your life. But there's probably nothing you can do to get them to take more responsibility for themselves except to take less responsibility for them. I wish I had fully realized this a lot sooner.
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Kodi - I'm wondering if part of what's going on with you and your mom is similar to what I now recognize as a part of my problem in dealing with my mom. It has to do with your son who has autism. My son - my only child has sever autism. My baby is now 22 years old but functions at a two yr old level - he is completely nonverbal and although it took years and years of work he is finally "trip trained" when it comes to bathrooming but he still wears Depends as accidents are somewhat common. From age 18 months to 5 yrs old I was a single mom. When my son was 8 I had to quit a job I loved to be a stay at home mom because I couldn't keep after school care. For the first few years raising my son alone I pretty much was overwhelmed and didn't know what I was doing. I accepted mediocre services and believed it when the school district said "we can't do that" or "that isn't available". The same was true with social services and the Department of Disabilities. Then I got involved with a support group consisting of the strongest women I have ever know - they took me under their wings and taught me the ropes. I became Autism Super Mom. I learned how to advocate for my son as well as how to address and fix an array of problems and behaviors. Here's where I get to my point: when my parents started to decline I took the same approach with them - and it worked for quite a while. Then a while back my mom slipped into full blown dementia. I was completely out of my depth but didn't realize it. For months I beat my head against the wall trying to fix things, trying to reason with my mother - trying to be Dementia Super Daughter. I nearly drove myself into a complete break- down. Being the person who could fix things had become so much a part of my identity that I couldn't accept that this was not the same as helping my son. Then I fell into a support group of incrediably strong women and men (here) and it opened my eyes. My mom was an independent legal adult - I couldn't make her do anything and as hard as I tried I sure as hell couldn't change her behavior or fix her. Driving myself to near breakdown wasn't helping her but it was hurting me, my son and my husband. So my advice to you? Do what you want to do to help. Do what you can do without negative consequences for you and your family. Don't feel guilty for putting your own family first - you will experience even more guilt down the road for every lost moment with your husband and sons - you can't get any of that time back. Help your mom in finding help - by way of assisted living or in home health care. Mom doesn't want anyone in her house? Tell her that's what it will take for her to stay in her home - then leave it to her. Once she knows she won't have you to do things she may very well change her thinking on that.
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Have you been going over to her house to clean and cook and take care of things for your mom? If so, this might be why she expects you to continue doing it. If you don't want to do it, don't do it. No one is making you do it. I understand the guilt and it's a manipulative tool you're mom is using.

If she wants to remain in her own home while her health slowly declines then she's going to have to make some sacrifices such as in home care. You and your family can't be at her beck and call everyday when you have your own lives to lead.

This is not to say that you should cut off contact with your mom but set boundaries for yourself. I say "yourself" because your mom isn't likely to recognize boundaries anymore. Set boundaries for yourself such as you'll only go over to her house 2 days a week for 2 hours at a time, or whatever you think is reasonable based on the situation.

Only you can take care of yourself. You can't expect your mom to know or even care what you have going on in your life.
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