My mother in law is 91 and has lived with my sister in law and her husband for past 5 1/2 years. My husband and I live out of state and in 2008-2012, my husband had four surgeries; had to retire from job and be put on SSDI cause could no longer work; and we ended up losing our 2010 although I was still working full time, and had to move into apartment. Also my mom lived in with us from 2006-2008 with dementia and had a stroke, hernia and colostomy surgery and was then placed in Assisted Living in 2008 when she became violent to us and herself. She unfortunately passed away in October 2009. We've tried to be a support system for my sister in law because we were unable to have my mother in law stay due to our situation. Now that I'm retired and my husband is free from any more surgery for now and we are both home we wanted to take my mother in law for awhile to help my sister in law but she is very bitter we didn't offer those years when we literally couldn't. Out of nowhere she went completely ballistic in a message back to us. We were dumbfounded because everything had been going fine with all of us. We have been a very close family, that's the saddest thing. I know she suffers from depression and anxiety for all these years and has been through counseling and taking meds. . We gave her support groups for my mother in law and even told her about Visiting Angels to come in but she refuses. I think she's at the break down level and has cut off communication and will only have my mother in law spend time with us if my mother in law picks up phone to call. What can we do to help my mother in law.. Since we not be able to see her to check her well being and now communication is cut off, we don't know if we should get Social Services involved because we have no real proof of neglect except for her lwalking to stores and mall by herself l a few times and had fallen twice on the street which required hospital stay. We are at our wits end and are heartbroken. We understand fully how hard it is to care for an elder so I have the utmost sympathy,, but don't know what else we can do. This is eating away at us. Please offer some suggestions if you can. Thanks so much.

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I am sorry that you had such a hard time. Your husband needs to schedule a visit, with his sister.

Email is just a very impersonal way of trying to handle this (if that is what you mean by messages.) Things said in e-mails are easily misunderstood.
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You wrote, "no real proof of neglect except for her walking to stores and mall by herself l a few times and had fallen twice on the street which required hospital stay..." and SIL has had irrational outbursts. If you are sure enough of the circumsntances, my vote would be that's enough to call Social Services. It would seem from what you have written that SIL is in the grip of depression and feeling too bad/angry/unworthy to even reach out to ask for help. She needs help and your husband needs to see his mom...

The only problem I have with sending this reply to you is that I'm afraid the next post on here will be from SIL saying that she had cut off ties with HER SIL and brother because they didn't help her when she needed it and do nothing but criticize from a distance, and now they are calling social services on her just because she has a history of depression that she has gotten herself medication and counseling for, and its all totally bogus form her point of view and she does not deserve the extra stress.

Whatever channel SIL used to go ballistic on you, can you use it to respond and reach out and try to mend fences at all? Can you share your regret that you were overwhelmed and did not think you could help out in the past, and your feeling of being eaten away with guilt and grief due to the lack of contact? If you were at one time a close family, maybe past hurts can be forgiven and relationships healed.

If there is no hope of that, there is nothing to be lost by calling Social Services..sorry you are in this difficult situation!
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Have you tried to visit? Sometimes older people want to get out and walk by themselves. I know my mother walks anytime she feels up to it. People might find me at fault for letting her do it if she ever was to fall. But I know if she wants to do this, she should be able to -- in fact, encouraged to if she can. Letting her walk places, believe me, does not indicate neglect. You have to know why she was walking.

I get the feeling that there are some feelings to be mended with your SIL and MIL. Getting social services involved is the last thing I would do. I would let the husband talk to the SIL and offer her any assistance she needs. Your SIL probably has territory established, so your husband needs to be appreciate and respectful of the territory. If you come in like "I'll take over now," it may seem like you waited until late in the game for some reason. Or worse, it may seem that you're insinuating she is not doing a good job. I can only guess how she feels.

Just let her know you are available to help her.
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