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My FIL insists on washing the plates and cups, (we have a dishwasher, but he won't use it). He is so heavy handed, that over the past two weeks he has chipped most of the cups and plates, and this morning, I had to throw another three cups away. I KNOW he is only trying to help me by doing things around the house, but he generally causes such chaos that it takes me three times as long to sort out afterwards.

I also know how important it is to keep him occupied and make him feel valuable and useful, but he is breaking more than he helps. He is remarkably clean in some ways, and amazingly dirty in others. He wears his underpants and socks for a week at a time unless I can literally whip them off his body, and I am trying so hard to be kind and respectful to him but its not easy when so many of his habits actually gross me out to be honest.

He is very negative with my kids (both teenagers) and what they do/their daily routine, so they are both now avoiding the lounge rather than have to face more negative comments, which means that the family is becoming very separate and not doing things together any longer except for mealtimes. How do I begin to broach this, in a kind and constructive way? I really don't want to lose contact with my kids because of my FIL.

Also, any ideas how I can get him to use disposable tissues instead of two week old hankies? Does anyone else hate washing them? I had to wash my stepdads snotty hankies as I was growing up, and now I want to retch every time I see him yank out his hanky again and again!

He is 90, deaf but won't wear a hearing aid, still mobile thank goodness, but having cognitive slips and memory loss, eg: he cannot connect the doorbell ringing to mean that someone is at the front door.

I am trying very hard to be kind and polite and respectful to him, as I know this is really hard on him too. He has just given up his home of 50 years to move in with us as we was no longer coping on his own; we are on very early days at the moment, but I will tell you that not even a month in, and I am absolutely exhausted on every level.

I take my hats off to all you caregivers out there who have been doing this for years or months, and have enormous respect for you.

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susan26 in the three years you've lived there have you made friends with other English speakers? Do you know someone with both strong English and German who could help you investigate what is available and perhaps accompany you to appointments? Ideally this would be your husband, but it sounds like he is in denial.

The cognitive slips and memory loss may be the beginnings of dementia. I think you have to consider this possibility. If he has dementia it will progress (get worse) and knowing what the situation is will help you cope (I hope!)

You work and your husband works. It is his father. There is no reason why you need to do all the caregiving tasks. I think having your husband take over the hygiene issue makes a lot of sense. If you or your kids do the laundry chores then you'll wash whatever is in the hamper, but it is hubby's responsibility to get Dad to bathe and change his clothes.
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Thank you, thank you for replying. They are my kids from my first marriage, so this is a real blended family across the generations. What also makes this journey so very isolating is that I am an English speaker, living in Germany, married to a German man. We have all (the kids and I) made the adjustment to learning German (they are much better than I am), and trying to settle into life in a foreign country only 3 years ago ... and now this.

I truly have NO IDEA of where to go for help, which institutions or associations I can approach, and my German is not strong enough to investigate the system. I don't know anyone else here in the same situation, and I really feel completely alone in this. I work from home, so don't have an escape route during the day either.

If I say something to my husband about how the day went or what his dad did or said, he thinks I am being negative and "creating a negative future" for everyone, so I also have effectively lost my voice in this whole thing as well.

Thank you for hearing my voice on this. My FIL is not demented, thank God, but he is having lapses which I notice more because I am with him all the time.
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I had a few points in mind as I was reading your post. JessieBelle covered them all.

The dish-washing thing is a problem with a practical solution. Those are the least stressful (at least when you get into the swing of things.) FIL wants to wash dishes. You want to let him. He breaks dishes. Get unbreakable dishes. See how easy that was?

You don't want to wash hankies? Don't wash hankies. You could show him how, if that is feasible. Or you could simply through them out. Provide disposable tissue. Explain that is your household policy, to minimize the storage/spread of germs. Certainly you want to be respectful and kind to him. But don't lose sight of the fact that this is your home and your rules apply.

His being mean to your children is not a "practical" problem, and very much more serious. You say "my kids" -- are they your husband's stepchildren? Is that an issue here -- that your FIL does not consider himself to be their grandfather? But even if he were living in a home where he was not related to anyone he still needs to be respectful of all members of the household. You can try having your husband having some heart-to-heart discussions with him. That may not work, especially since FIL has dementia, but it is a starting place and worth a try.

You also need to have some heart-to-heart conversations with the teens. They need to know that you are on their side and that you are trying to work at toning FIL down in his criticisms. And then you need to help them understand dementia and how it can change people. Caregivers and all members of the household MUST learn to not take every unkind statement personally. It would help a lot if they could learn to shrug off the negative statements and try to redirect the conversation, especially to FIL's past. "What was favorite thing to do on weekends when you were a teenager?" "When did you start to date?" Etc., etc. Not all the time, of course. Teens can't be expected to spend hours everyday in conversations with elderly (and demented!) persons. But doing this occasionally might go a long way toward establishing a more pleasant relationship.

Another thing that might help is attending caregiver support meetings. That can be an enormously helpful resource for both newbies and experienced caregivers. All four of you would benefit from it.

Having FIL is your home can be a great learning opportunity. It can foster empathy and compassion. It can be satisfying as well as frustrating. Or it could tear your family apart. It is too early in the journey to make firm decisions. But I hope that you and your husband can keep an open mind about alternatives. Your teens are only going to live with you for a few more years. You don't want these last years to be filled with conflict and negative experiences for them. Yes, you want what is best for FIL, and your kids deserve what is best for them, too. If in spite of your efforts the difficulties continue, then you may need to continue your caregiving in a different setting, such as assisted living or a memory care facility.

My heart goes out to you. This is indeed a very difficult journey.
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thank you so much for replying. I am finding this adjustment period really quite stressful... I know logically that things will settle into a "new normal" in a couple of months, but emotionally it seems like one really tough mountain to climb!
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It is not easy and usually it is the caregiver who has to do most of the compromising when a person has some cognitive impairment. It can be easier to just do things that prevent the battles. When it comes to the dishes, you could use Corel unbreakable plates and cups. There are metal and plastic tumblers that won't break. That way your FIL could still be productive without breaking anything.

The hygiene issue is a bit tougher. Many of us go through it with our parents. What is your husband's take on all of this? I was thinking that since both of them are male and it is his father, then he should be the one to address it. It may work to get the change of clothes ready for him when he showers -- that is, if he showers.

Could your FIL do his own laundry? Many people his age do. It would give him something to do to feel productive.

You are in an adjustment period right now. The first few months are hardest on everyone. There is so much change and loss. If you want your FIL to be there with you, you and your husband can direct the attitude of the family through pulling everyone in as a team. Having their grandfather there is new to the children, so it is going to be uncomfortable to everyone. It can either be a time for the family to separate or bond together. Not an easy thing, I know. If bonding is not possible, making arrangements in an ALF may be the best thing. I hope that it gets better soon.
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