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This may be an opposite situation of most dealing with an elderly parent my mother in law who is quite able to be independent such as driving, going to the store, walking up the block to the mailbox to mail her own mail etc. pretends as if she cannot. This all started when she finally sold her house I moved in next door to my husband and myself 7 Months ago. Up until that time She had always done everything herself but once she saw she could get others to do everything for her no matter how minor the task She virtually stop doing everything Including leaving the house if she doesn't have to. Unfortunately when is contributing to this behavior because she convinces and which is unable to do any of these things the problem is those of us who are Around when he is not know It's not that you can't he just doesn't want to and enjoys being catered to the problem I see this will cause her age prematurely then she would have due to having no purpose in life or interaction with others. Door to door service is great we need it and having everything but to you is as well. When you are perfectly capable doing these things yourself and you choose not to for the simple reason you don't have to is quite scary. To be willing to give up Your independence for the sake of convenience is something I have never heard of . Let's face it as we all know whenever the time comes when they are no longer able to Retain their same level of independence it is always way too soon way too soon than you want as it is. I have seen it way too many times how fast a Person can deteriorate when there is no purpose in their life And it's heartbreaking. We watch her walk perfectly fine when she thinks no one is around and then when she is with my husband she pretends she has difficulty walking. Of course as any son would do he continues To wait on her hand and foot and cater to her in every way possible. I'm sure this can't be healthy but talking to him about it is not even an option so what do you do besides stand by and watch or train wreck happen before your eyes?

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I noticed this behaviour in my mother as well; it took me a while to realize that I was resenting her for this "pretend helplessness." I thought she was taking advantage of my generosity. Ultimately, though, her behaviour could only be explained by how lonely she felt in her aging life, and how resentful SHE was, after a lifetime of serving five children and a demanding husband (married at 18, pregnant right away). She confessed to me during one teary conversation that she had always hoped that, one day, someone would be looking after her and making her feel special, the way she had done for so many others, including many lucky friends of hers who depended on her heavily when they were sick or in difficult straits. Perhaps your MIL is feeling the same way? I'm curious as to why you can't discuss this with your husband, but perhaps in addressing it directly with him, the two of you can find ways to make her feel special without sacrificing too much of your time. Selfishness sometimes masks a lot of fear inside...
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Sometimes the routines in our life give us confidence in our own ability to function, we can shop with ease because we have been going to that same store for years, our local handyman is on speed dial, we can even sleep walk to the bathroom at night because we have done it a thousand times before. While it is true people move all the time it is also true that adjusting to a new place and new routines takes time, especially if you are elderly and perhaps secretly ambivalent about the move, it does represent letting go of youthful hopes and ambitions and settling for the realities of looming mortality.
I agree that neediness can sometimes mask fear, fear of the future and fear of her ability to function. You don't have to jump each time she calls, but you should try to find ways to support her. You may want to consider that she may be happier in a community geared to seniors with built in supports and services, just having those supports in place may give her the confidence to function more independently from you.
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Has she been diagnosed with dementia or with depression, ? Has she ever been worked up for those conditions? I think a visit to a geriatric psychiatrist might be in order, in conjunction with a frank discussion with her doctor about why she's behaving differently than she used to.
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Bless her for giving up driving if she does not feel safe doing it!

I agree with Babalou that she should be evaluated medically. It may help her confidence level if she is pronounced fit to do things for herself. And if she is beginning some kind of cognitive decline, it would be very helpful for everyone to know that.

I'm only 70 but I find I have less and less desire to leave my nice cozy home. I very consciously plan some outings so I'm not completely isolated but I often don't leave the house for days at a time. Twenty years ago I could not have imagined having this attitude. Aging brings about changes!
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We have this issue with our sister who has decided bed-ridden is better than working to have some independence. This led to anger, frustration and then guilt from all of us. When she asked for something she could do herself, tell her now [or her timeframe] isn't going to work for you and the project will need to wait. Give her a timeframe which will be inconvenient to her [when her favorite show is on always works]. Or just say you are in the middle of something. Short of the need being something that is medically urgent, there really isn't anything that can't be postponed. Once she realizes her urgency doesn't require you to jump things may change. Another suggestion is if you are buying her food, don't always get the specific item she needs. Her decision to become dependent is her decision, but she needs to understand how that impacts everyone else and how she has now become a burden to other people. Really dependent people would give anything to be able to do things for themselves - giving that up is her decision.
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OneSister, I really agree with you! The latest thing my mom does (a woman who has always been tech-savvy and had a computer at home since the 1970's) is "my iPad/iPhone/Mackbook/PC isn't working/is acting funny/I can't get into it..." Forgets her passwords, can't remember which password is for what, etc. etc. and the problem gets increasingly more complex each time I fix it. After resetting and re-writing down her passwords a half a million times, finally I told her, if you're going keep changing passwords without telling me, I won't know what it is and you'll be on your own and there will be nothing I can do for you. Suddenly the problem isn't there anymore. She loves to read online, so it's interesting that she's so frustrated when the internet is off for a couple hours, yet when it comes back on you don't hear a peep as she is happily reading/surfing away on the same device she couldn't remember the password to this morning. No dementia, just the need for someone to come to her rescue. I learned that I have to take my superhero cape off or I would never have any peace....hard to do when you've always been the one to fix whatever wasn't working. It sounds like your MIL just needs some attention, and you need a life besides being her caretaker. If there are no old friends or other family nearby to visit , perhaps a companion service might let you have a break?
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Sometimes, our perceptions of a seniors abilities are not accurate. We may think they are able to walk a certain way, but sometimes they can't. We may think they are able to shop, pay the tab, remember names and locations, but in reality, we don't really know what may be going on in a senior's mind. I'd explore a little more as some above have suggested.

You might start with her doctor. I would watch for little things to see if she really does have some change in her mental status. An evaluation by her doctor might be a good place to start. Maybe she has depression (some people hide it well), bladder or bowel leakage (it's embarrassing to many people), dementia or age related mental decline.

I suggest this because before we knew that my cousin had dementia, I was told by some health care workers that she was lazy and unmotivated. She had stopped coming to family events that she used to love. She stopped shopping. We later learned that she forgot how to pay for things and she got confused in the car. All of the things that she stopped doing was due to her fear, forgetfulness and confusion. It wasn't her being lazy or giving up. And she was only 62 years old! A person may say they no longer care to do it, but it's really due to inability. They may be too embarrassed to share that. Granted, sometimes they can do things. That's how dementia works. Rarely does it all go at once.

Of course, maybe there is no medical or mental reason for the behavior. Even if your MIL has just decided that she's tired and wants to take it easy, then what's the problem with that? Must seniors stay active to make us feel better? As long as her mental and physical health is fine, then why can't she live a life of leisure? If tending to her is problematic, then explore a service to help. At a certain age, I think we all should be able to settle down and relax. I think I might find out what she does she enjoy and try to focus on it.
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That must be so very frustrating as you know what Mom-in-law is doing to get attention.

Try asking her if she is feeling ok because you and others have notice she is looking like she is 100 years old [instead of being whatever her age is] and maybe vanity will take over as she wouldn't want to be thinking that others think she is so much older.
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Tell her that you will do things for her, but on your time schedule, not hers. You're not her "beck and call girl", especially when she is capable of doing things herself. In your second comment you say "Her selfishness all for the sake of what is convenient for her has gotten beyond ridiculous"----the "what is convenient for her" part is what has to be worked on. If she wants things done, she will have to wait until it is a convenient time FOR YOU to do it. That may give her the incentive to do things herself, when she realizes that she doesn't have a couple of people "on call" for her every whim.
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My MIL has been like this since I've known her (30 years). Sadly, her children ignore her and I am the one giving her a little attention. After reading LorrieB's comment, it now makes such perfect sense!
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