Rewarding bad behavior, how do we stop?

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My MIL lives in a very nice nursing home six miles from us. She was admitted because of a sharp decline in her physical health making it impossible for her to live in a situation where she would not have 24/7 assistance. She has difficulty with short term memory and feeling lonely and bored when she is not involved in activities provided by the nursing home. She lived alone for over 15 years and never had a problem with loneliness or boredom when she was living in her own home. She phones and cries that she is lonely or in prison (her perception) or hasn't been fed all day (not true). My husband has been visiting daily to keep her happy and prevent calls. This evening my SIL left a phone message saying my MIL was upset and crying and could one of us go visit. I was gone from home when she phoned, borrowing a live animal trap because I'd just discovered one of our outdoor cats had gotten in the house and was in my store room (probably having kittens). My husband is at a meeting. I phoned my MIL, who was crying and whining. Told her my husband was gone to a meeting and I was trying to catch a cat. I told her that no one was available to visit this evening. By then she'd stopped whining and said she understood that we couldn't come but she hoped we would visit when we were available. I told her we would visit but it wouldn't be tonight. She said she was feeling lonely and she would just let God take care of her. I told that was a good plan and I was confident she would manage fine. Currently she is getting lots of attention by crying and whining on the phone - during several calls nursing home staff have stepped into her room, asked how she is and she answers in a normal voice that she is fine. Give me suggestions on how you have set limits on manipulative behavior. I'll post if we find kittens.

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I think I would take her to a doctor to determine if there is more going on. Perhaps she is depressed or perhaps there is something going on in the nursing home she doesn't like.

I believe you have to give her the benefit of the doubt to find out where the root of the problem is and seek medical attention.
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sonswife- Yes, my mom knows how to push my buttons. As long as she gets results from crying she will continue to do that. Even in their old age they can be pretty crafty. lol They just want to make sure they are not forgotten. Take care.
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This might sound simplistic, but try greeting cards to supplement your visits. I mean real paper delivered by snail mail! Who doesn't like receiving something personal in the mail?

I buy funny or cute cards whenever I'm at a store (or even gas station) that carries them so I always have a supply on hand. I printed out a sheet of address labels for my mom so it is super easy to pick a card, put on a label and a stamp and put it in the mailbox for the carrier to pick up. Sometimes I include a cartoon or crossword puzzle. I try for a couple times a week. My sister (with whom my mother lives) says Mom really enjoys this. Mom isn't much for talking on the phone, but this is a connection with her between her monthly stays at my house.
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You handled it very well this time. Keep doing the same kind of thing. She is whining and crying because it gets her the results she wants. It might be worth getting together with sil and your hubby and working out a plan to deal with it. You are entitled to have a life - not controlled by someone else - but you are the one who has to establish that. It sounds like your mil is getting lots of visits and also that she is somewhat narcissistic. If she is, no amount of attention will be enough, so you will have to set boundaries/conditions that work for you. Perhaps arrange for example - that one of you visit one night a week and one each weekend (rotate it so everyone gets a weekend off. Tell MIL that she will have a visitor at such and such times, and stick to that. If she calls and whines, kindly but firmly tell her that her nights for visitors are. xyz and that your are sure she will manage fine till then - or words to that effect. See if the NH has any evening activities, or discuss same with the staff. Perhaps find something she can do and organise her free evening doing whatever it is. If she can do something useful you can then praise her for her contribution, Good luck -
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