As my husband's polyneuropathy becomes more debilitating, like all caregivers, I'm shouldering more household responsibilities. So far, most are manageable. But, when it involves actual repair and maintenance, my husband expects me to try to tackle those as well. (I'm 12 years younger-72 to his 84 yrs). This summer, he had me digging up sprinkle lines to diagnose where a leak was...then sawing lines and replacing valves! The latest is diagnosing and repairing a water line into the toilet. If I say no, we need to hire someone (not wealthy, but we could hire), he throws a tantrum. Ultimately (so far) I give in. With his guiding me, I do it. I know these situations will only escalate as daily, he loses a little bit more of his motor skills. On several occasions, neighbors have seen me struggling to do something and have come to my rescue...but we can't (shouldn't?) impose. (Recent brain MRI shows he also has mild small vessel ischemic disease.)
Any tips for how to toughen up and stand firm? (The tantrums drive me nuts!) So far, I'm capable of doing these things with his guidance. I mostly think it is unrealistic to expect me to do them as well as assisting with ADLs, doing all the driving, meals, cleaning, lifting..moving...taking apart his scooter and lifting in and out of vehicle.....Where will it end?
Any advice from someone who's been through this already?

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"No" is a complete sentence. Until you learn that, and walk away from his tantrums, nothing will change. "...taking apart his scooter and lifting in and out of vehicle..." are you kidding me? Toughening up takes practice. It starts with you telling him "no, I can't possibly do that."
Helpful Answer (20)
Reply to NYDaughterInLaw

OMGosh, we could be twins!

I was raised by a dad who taught all of us basic work skills, so I could use the power tools, the lawnmower, all the household appliances, the car--how to troubleshoot and sometimes just fix something. Basic life skills.

Wow--have those skills stood me in good stead over the course of my marriage! My DH traveled about 75% of the time and I simply COULDN'T wait for him to come home and replace the old water heater or fix a sprinkler line.

He went out of town, blissfully unaware that I was doing everything short of the electrical repair and pouring concrete (though I can do that, to an exent).

I had major foot surgery 7 weeks ago that sidelined me completely. Like--bedridden. Suddenly he has all MY chores on top of trying to work from home and take nominal care of me. He was in over his head, big time. Exhausted every day and told me about it. No sympathy from this quarter :)

We have a heavy glass front door which needed the 'closure mechanisms' replaced. The door should have stayed propped open on it's own, but the closer broke, oh, 10 years ago. He refused to let me hire it done--and I would have done it on my own, but it bugged me only when bringing groceries in. 4 weeks ago he was carrying in a BIG grocery shop and the door was slamming shut in his face. He got angry--at the door, I guess, IDK, but I said "That's it! I'm calling a dude". He blew up and I said "B, it's been 10 YEARS that has needed fixing. You won't fix it, you won't let me and you won't let me hire it out. This is RIDICULOUS!"

I guess I must have been on the verge of a meltdown b/c we have a LOT of these little 'honey dos' that honey DON'T do. And never will.

I am not going to rehab to the little non-stop worker bee that he's used to. (He doesn't even know what day garbage day is--that's how much I've spoiled him!)
I'm still in recovery from cancer, shingles, COVID and now this surgery. I'm tired...just bone deep. Plus, at age 65, I feel like I deserve to be able to spread our money amongst small local business, which is who now does my lawn, my housecleaning and grocery delivery!

I don't see how you can talk to him without some 'heat'. My DH only really responds to me when I am crying and what he calls 'out of control'. I hate having to go there to get him to listen to me. I have literally gotten down on my knees in front of him and BEGGED for small jobs to either be done within a reasonable length of time or I will hire the job out. So humiliating--but it works.

I realize your DH has some deficits, so that may not be the tactic to use with him. What DOES affect him? Straight talk--just kind,, but factual and honest. "DH, I am 72 years old and I do not want to play this game anymore. I'm retiring from being your dogsbody". And then hold firm.

Point out to him that work like running sprinkler line is inherently dangerous to our ankles. Trust me, this broken ankle has slowed me to a literal depressing crawl. And I now have 8 weeks of rehab ahead of me.

Simply STOP helping him. I told DH he really needed to keep up on the lawn watering in the backyard as we do not have sprinklers (a job that's been on the back burner for 42 years)....and within 2 weeks of over 100 temps, the lawn and gardens are all dead.

It took having stuff right in his face to see that somethings ARE worth doing on your own and some are totally worth jobbing out.

Be tough. I know when I say anything about anything needing to be fixed--he says "I can do that!" Yes, he can do about anything, but he doesn't--and I would never care if he'd let someone else do it!

I remember being outside mowing the lawn when I was undergoing chemo. My neighbors were appalled and DH was so embarrassed. But he would wait so long between mowings it was like harvesting wheat.

Hang tight. Be tough. You deserve to retire!
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to Midkid58
Tothill Sep 12, 2021
My brother and father sound like both your husbands, but he insists he can do the job, it is not worth hiring someone and then he either does not do the job at all or takes many months to do it.

We had a rotting deck on a rental. For two years he was going to replace it. Finally I asked him as you going to do it this spring (2019), he said yes, so my son and I ripped off the old one. Of course it is now 2021 and he has not finished the railings, the stairs were done earlier this year.

Dad damaged the roof of the house by having a water tank rest on the roof, held in place by the chimney. 45 gallons of weight on a 70 year old roof with 2x4 rafters, what could go wrong? I bought shingles to replace the damaged ones and my brother was going to fix the roof, 3 years ago. Oh Dad knew the roof was leaking for 2 years before I was aware of it. Is it fixed? Nope, now I am waiting for a sunny weekend when I do not have my grandson to do the job.

The septic system needs replacing. I found our last week that Dad was told over 10 years ago that it needed replacing. He has the septic tank bailed out and the sewage dumped in the forest. How disgusting is that. I have hired contractors to replace the system and Dad had a complete meltdown, because I bypassed his authority.

I love the autonomy I have at my own home. No one to answer to except myself.
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Check into a nice hotel for a week and leave DH to fend entirely for himself while you order room service and daily massages. Turn your cell phone off and turn the ringer off the room phone, letting the front desk know you're not to be disturbed.

During the week you're gone, DH should experience a nice wake up call about how it feels to be alone and without any help, and without you doing ANY of his bidding or listening to ANY of his infantile tantrums.

See how he likes it, because you can arrange to be gone permanently if he doesn't stop the nonsense and start treating you as a beloved wife instead of a slave laborer he can order around.

Stop allowing the abuse immediately and recognize your worth. Then demand your husband recognize it as well. Otherwise you don't have much of a marriage left to salvage. At 72 years old, you deserve to be treated with respect and love. Please know that and accept nothing less. Enough is enough.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to lealonnie1
Davenport Sep 14, 2021
"Check into a nice hotel for a week"? My ex husband of 30 years was like this. I couldn't begin to afford a nice hotel for even one night. These situations are classic. Accept emotional or other abuse because you can't afford to leave. Learn how to be sneaky and mousy. Tragic and true.
You don't have to do any manual labor repairs. Most ladies in their 70's don't, why should you just because your husband expects you to?
And - don't forget - most repairs are not emergencies. Sometimes they don't get done for years or at all by some people.
Just call a Plumber, Handyman, etc and let them in when they arrive. I think your husband will accept this - if you stand firm.

I'm one who always did the repairs, have major knee injuries - and now I have to hire out 99% of repairs. Annoys me having to hire people, but that's the way it is. When you can't do it - you can't do it.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to LavenderBear

"he throws a tantrum. Ultimately (so far) I give in"

Like in Groundhog Day, that big puddle on the street. You see it. You know you are heading towards it - yup. Splash again.. So HOW to step around it? HOW to cross the road? 🤔

Losing independence is hard. DH probably wants to stay in control.

My 1st idea is put it kindly & give him control you can "I just can't do that job - I'm getting old too - we need to accept hiring someone. We can choose Bob or Bill." Then let him have some input & control in the hiring choice.

2nd idea is be a bit slippery. Just casually mention Mr Fixit is coming around shortly. Maybe he won't make a scene in front of him??

3rd idea - be blunt. I said no. I won't do it. You can yell, pout & carry on but it won't change my mind. I said no. Leave room. Hire someone.

If you have a peacemaker streak, overriding him & saying no will be very hard for you. But it is possible with practice.

Unfortunately small vessel ischemic disease or TIAs will effect his thinking. He won't know it, feel it or accept it. So no point discussing it. Common sence goes. Eg unable to reason that a retirement aged woman can not do heavy maintenance.

Plenty on this forum have reported being asked by very elderly parents to get on ladders or the roof, clean gutters etc when they are old enough to need that help themselves! Parents are 90 & think their adult kids are still 35!!

I hope others can offer practical help for your problem here, to help reduce your stress. (We know how bad stress on caregivers is).
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to Beatty

You stated you have osteoporosis. And as you know some positions can be dangerous with that condition. So be very careful and use that as an excuse! Getting up on a ladder to clean a friggin' gutter?! Really? Is that worth a fall and broken hip or back? Hardly. Lifting his wheelchair?! You can use that condition as an excuse and say your doctor has forbidden you to do x, y ,z.
I surmise he has always been a control freak and therefore he wants to stay that way. You have probably unknowingly acquiesced to his way or the highway.
It will be hard but time to teach him how to treat you. Use your words…"No, I can no longer do that due to my health". End of sentence and walk off. Yes he will want to argue but go "gray rock" on him (look that up). Vascular ischemia will eventually destroy his ability for executive functions and reasoning will be difficult. Start asserting yourself now.
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Reply to Harpcat

In a case like this and at your age, YOU MUST CONTROL THE SITUATION AND STAND UP TO HIM. If you want to fix things and are capable, then o.k. but if you can't or don't want to, then tell him off - HIRE THE PERSON and warn the person coming how he is and that they are to deal with you only and ignore him. This is horrible. He wants to control you but it is not right and realistic. Just let him rant and carry on but YOU should have power of attorney now so YOU can make decisions and handle the finances. And he he gets too difficult, then you must place him before he destroys you. Do not let that happen.
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Reply to Riley2166
Riley2166 Sep 12, 2021
I forgot - before I was disabled and could not walk, I lived in my home - my husband had died of cancer. I absolutely loved taking care of everything in/out of the house - all yard work, pool, cutting grass, raking leaves, you name it. And I did it until the day I could not walk (in my latter 70's). I can't walk and despise myself for what became of me and would give anything to be back doing those things (I will be 88). If I did not know how, I'd find someone to hire to teach me but I loved the "hands on work" - but it was MY choice to do or not to do and I used common sense. I doubt there are hardly any women like me around. I still work two jobs - one for 51 years - animal welfare work from local to international level with my own organization which I founded and 15 years now as a Power of Attorney.
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Consider what is reasonable for your abilities, energy, and sanity. Let your husband know as kindly as you can, "I really appreciate your confidence in my abilities to 'do it all'. However, I really only have the energy and sanity to deal with... If we need to do other tasks, we will need to hire somebody."
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Taarna

If you hurt yourself to appease your husband, who is going to take care of you and him? You need to draw a red line. Any repair cost will not compare to a hospital injury cost. You need to confront this issue head on before both of you end up in the hospital.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Ricky6

I use to work at the phone company in the “call before you dig,” office.
You need to do this so you don’t hit anything electrical underground.
Everyone thinks it’s fine until they do it.
PS: You’re not his slave, your his wife.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to KristineB
GardenArtist Sep 12, 2021
Kristine, that's interesting.  Are all electrical lines underground in your area?  In mine and older communities, they're aerial.  Only the gas (and water) lines are subsurface.  

Newer communities have subsurface electrical lines though.
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