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Caring for an Elderly Parent
Old 05-08-2017, 08:47 AM   #1
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Caring for an Elderly Parent

My wife's mother is getting close to 80 years old and lives alone. She still gets around OK, cooks for herself, still drives short distances around town, does her own laundry, etc. Several years ago she had uterine and rectal cancer and now has a stoma bag that needs to be changed twice a week. I'm pretty sure she would be capable of changing it herself, as she has done it before, though she says it's hard to see what she's doing. So the youngest three daughters (one of which is my wife) have taken turns doing this for her over the last several years.

Unfortunately, the youngest daughter (now in her 40's) who had been sharing the duties, just had twin babies and can't drive. So my wife has picked up the duties her sister had been doing. If that wasn't enough, she seems overwhelmed caring for her babies, so my wife has stepped in to help care for them too.

Her younger sister used to visit once a month to meet with her daughter. But her daughter recently passed away, so no more visits, meaning my wife picked up those duties too.

So for us, what started as a monthly visit, became an every other week responsibility, which turned into every week, and now it has become a twice a week chore. Needless to say, it has put a lot of stress in our relationship, and taken a toll on things we need to do around our own home (cleaning, shopping, maintenance, etc.). Not to mention just having time to ourselves to relax or do something we enjoy.

I feel selfish just wanting a way out, but it really has become a sore spot. The thing is, her mom lives 45 minutes away. So it takes at least an hour and a half to drive round trip, plus time to visit and care for her. It ends up taking at least a few hours twice a week, not to mention the expense of gas and trying to figure out when we're going to fit in meals for ourselves.

It is irritating to me because my wife has seven brothers and sisters, but they all live even farther away than we do, and generally just don't provide any support to their mother. So my wife, being who she is, now takes full responsibility for her mom's care.

I've tried to talk with my wife about it several times, but she always gets angry and comes back with "you want me to give up on my dying mother". Obviously that's not what I want, but I don't really have an alternative solution. So I feel trapped in a situation that is negatively affecting our lives and I have no control over.

As I mentioned, her mom is not helpless, she just chooses not to care for her own needs. She has plenty of money laying around, but she won't pay anyone to mow her yard, or other simple responsibilities. Even when someone offers she says "no, I'll have my daughter or son-in-law do it".

I know I'm being a selfish baby, but I feel overwhelmed, out of options, and don't know what to do about it. The only option I see is suck it up and live with it.
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Old 05-08-2017, 09:03 AM   #2
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Give your wife some slack and support. She probably needs it. She may be aware that her siblings could help more, but if they don't, she may feel it isn't worth a squabble. She might see this as an opportunity to provide some loving care for the person that gave her life and raised her. Also a last chance to have some quality time together. It's possible she sees this as a short term thing, and her sacrifice is greater than yours.

By doing these things for her DM she may be making sure her mother's quality of life is as good as possible, and the sacrifice at home is not a loss of time with you, just a postponement.
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Old 05-08-2017, 09:10 AM   #3
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There are many home health care services agencies in most areas of the country. Lot's of them in the bigger cities. Even where we live (way out in the country) there are several to chose from and to me it sounds like they would fit your situation very well. A couple of visits a week to take care of her and your done. Then your wife can make social visits when she likes.

It's not fair to you and your wife to carry the entire responsibility, especially if your MIL has the money.
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Old 05-08-2017, 09:15 AM   #4
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My suggestion would be to talk to your wife but make clear that you value the fact she's willing to help her mother and that you want to support her in that. But maybe together you can draw the lines on what is appropriate to handle and what isn't. Commit to a certain level of things, but don't necessarily feel required to do everything including lawn maintenance or things that are easy to hire someone to do.

If you continue to do everything, she'll come to rely on that. But if you draw the line, she may have to look for other solutions. But once you agree on what level of support is appropriate, support your wife in doing that level and let her know you like the fact she's loyal and caring.
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Old 05-08-2017, 09:21 AM   #5
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Give your wife some slack and support. She probably needs it.
I'm trying. I like her mom. I've spent the last 15+ years devoting nearly every weekend to remodeling their home and doing what I can to help. I haven't always enjoyed it, but I've tried to make the best of it. There's no saying her mom won't live another 10 years.

I'm just reaching a point where things are getting overwhelming for ME. I do most of our household chores, grocery shopping, cooking meals, taking care of our home and yard, maintenance, car repairs, etc. I work from home so I see the mess building up around our own home that we're not getting to. I guess "I" need help and want to enjoy life a little. I miss "our" life.
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Old 05-08-2017, 09:27 AM   #6
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I've seen care homes wipe out estates, they are minimum 5k a month and I've seen them run up to 10k. My mom had a friend that put her mother into a care home with Alzheimer's and it was 8k a month, she ended up living 12 years in there and wiped out her and her daughters houses.

We had to put my dad in a care home for the last 6 months of his life and it was 6k+ a month

There will be a time when you or anyone else can not care for them any longer, just hope they have enough estate to cover it so you don't have to dip into your own
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Old 05-08-2017, 09:48 AM   #7
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..... The only option I see is suck it up and live with it.
Until your wife wants to change the situation, this is likely your only "option."
If your finances can handle it, maybe pay out of your own pocket for a vising nurse once in a while to give wife a break?
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Old 05-08-2017, 10:09 AM   #8
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I'm trying. I like her mom. I've spent the last 15+ years devoting nearly every weekend to remodeling their home and doing what I can to help. I haven't always enjoyed it, but I've tried to make the best of it. There's no saying her mom won't live another 10 years.

I'm just reaching a point where things are getting overwhelming for ME. I do most of our household chores, grocery shopping, cooking meals, taking care of our home and yard, maintenance, car repairs, etc. I work from home so I see the mess building up around our own home that we're not getting to. I guess "I" need help and want to enjoy life a little. I miss "our" life.
I would talk to your wife, it sounds excessive. I know every family will have some members who put more effort than others for elder family care , my brother and I did that for my mom. But when I got pregnant, I couldn't drive my mom to Hope hospital for radiation, I told my mom to call my oldest brother and ask him to take her instead. He at first was reluctant but eventually he did rearrange his schedule. It's good to let your wife know that you maybe at breaking point. Your marriage is just as important as other family members.
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Old 05-08-2017, 10:10 AM   #9
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Perhaps your MIL's doctor can prescribe/order a visiting nurse service to change the stoma bag, there just might be a copay under Medicare.

My MIL needed a visiting nurse service for a while after a fall, and it was covered. Later she switched to an eldercare volunteer.

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Old 05-08-2017, 10:37 AM   #10
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I would talk to your wife, it sounds excessive. It's good to let your wife know that you maybe at breaking point. Your marriage is just as important as other family members.
I have tried but it's an emotional subject for her. She views it as "her dying mother" even though her mom is doing quite well. Heck, she'll probably out live me.

I never asked to cut off all contact, I just want a little balance in our lives. Caring for her mother is important, but caring for our home and marriage is important too.

I suspect nothing is going to change because she feels an emotional responsibility to do everything herself. That's just her nature. As Mystang52 said, I'll probably just have to learn to accept it.
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Old 05-08-2017, 10:41 AM   #11
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I can relate to your MiL not wanting to hire outside help. My dad became highly suspicious of strangers after he developed dementia (well, he was suspicious BEFORE the dementia took hold, but that trait became more pronounced after he became impaired). He didn't trust the meals-on-wheels people; when his furnace needed service, he watched the tech like a hawk. As a result, I was his major domo every day until we finally convinced him to move into assisted living.

I'm not saying your MiL has a similar attitude, but I'd guess that she feels a lot more comfortable with family seeing to her needs than she would with hired help.

Perhaps YOU can give yourself a little slack by hiring someone to do your lawn, a little light housekeeping, etc. It's gonna come out of your pocket vs. MiL's, of course, but if it eases the strain in your marriage, maybe it's worth it.
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Old 05-08-2017, 10:53 AM   #12
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I'm just reaching a point where things are getting overwhelming for ME. I do most of our household chores, grocery shopping, cooking meals, taking care of our home and yard, maintenance, car repairs, etc. I work from home so I see the mess building up around our own home that we're not getting to. I guess "I" need help and want to enjoy life a little. I miss "our" life.
Your DW may be suffering just as much as you, or even more so. There usually are no "right" answers for a situation like yours, but there are plenty of wrong ones. The siblings should help and a caregiver could help. If they aren't, and your DW steps up to the plate, she probably feels like she needs some help, at least a friend and some understating, not one more problem to deal with.

Family dynamics are the most complex things we humans have to deal with, and they are present here. This is a time to trust your partner and give her the benefit of the doubt, even if you don't agree or even understand all the details and motivations.

If your budget allows, perhaps spend a bit more than usual to get someone to come in and clear once or twice a month or do other home chores. Get some take out to reduce the need to shop and cook.
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Old 05-08-2017, 11:01 AM   #13
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I can relate to your MiL not wanting to hire outside help. My dad became highly suspicious of strangers after he developed dementia I'm not saying your MiL has a similar attitude, but I'd guess that she feels a lot more comfortable with family seeing to her needs than she would with hired help.
Oh, MIL has a sharp mind. She just seems to want to live life as frugally as she can. She'll purposely turn the heat way down and turn off all lights just so her electric bill will be smaller than the "average". Or she brags about her $30 grocery bill as she's getting undernourished. Never mind she has plenty of money sitting in bank accounts that she never uses.

I understand not wanting to hire others to do things. I would have difficulty with that myself, though I would prefer not to be a burden on my family. I don't want to outsource out my own chores around here because I enjoy those things. I would only be giving up things I enjoy to care more for her needs.
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Old 05-08-2017, 11:11 AM   #14
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Family dynamics are the most complex things we humans have to deal with...
Roger that.

I'm astonished but never surprised when my relatives act unpredictably. The best strategy I've come up with is to continue loving them, and wait patiently for their issues to resolve themselves.

Admittedly, this is NEVER easy. Hang in there, bro.
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Old 05-08-2017, 11:17 AM   #15
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Family dynamics are the most complex things we humans have to deal with
Admittedly, I have a hard time understanding family issues. I was an only child of divorced parents, and was raised by my grandparents. My dad and grandparents died over 25 years ago, and my mom cut off all contact with everyone over 20 years ago. I really had no need for "family" until I got married. Even now, my personal view of family doesn't extend much beyond my wife and daughter.

My wife's family is the closest thing to family I've known in my adult life.
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Old 05-08-2017, 12:38 PM   #16
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What do you do when (if??) you go on vacation? Do the other siblings pick up the work? Have a paid caregiver come by?

There is a need for caregivers to have some time to get away from the normal routine. You should schedule a vacation and give you and your wife a break.
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Old 05-08-2017, 12:52 PM   #17
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What do you do when (if??) you go on vacation?
In the past my wife's sister would pick up the days we weren't available. But she's not available now that she has had her babies.

We haven't had a vacation in 6 months due to our horrible winter weather. But now that weather is improving, I have had to try to schedule our getaways around caring for my MIL. As such, my wife has already panicked about care for her mom on the days that conflict, which kind of takes the fun out of getting away for me.

As an added issue, my wife has been taking a lot of time off work to take her mom to doctor appointments or other general care situations. She has plenty of vacation time on the books, as well as family care leave, but I worry all the unplanned short notice time off is going to backfire at some point.
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Old 05-08-2017, 03:32 PM   #18
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As an added issue, my wife has been taking a lot of time off work to take her mom to doctor appointments or other general care situations. She has plenty of vacation time on the books, as well as family care leave, but I worry all the unplanned short notice time off is going to backfire at some point.
Where I live the township offers free transportation to doctor's office. You would have to schedule ahead of course.
And there is also weekly bus service to shopping centers for shopping etc.

It does your wife no good to sacrifice her own health in this. I hope she realizes that. What your wife is expressing isn't unusual for women though.
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Old 05-08-2017, 04:06 PM   #19
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I can't offer any suggestions that haven't already been made but I can say I know exactly what you're going through. Although FIL passed a few years ago, the 2 years or so before that DW's visits to FIL went from perhaps once every other week, to every week, then became almost daily. It was a 40-minute drive, but thankfully for her through back country roads so no heavy traffic. She practically wore out a car going back and forth.

The most irritating part was that her brother lived about 150 yards away and could look out the window and see FIL's house. NOT ONCE did he call over there and say "Hey, we're going to the grocery store, do you need anything?" Or better, even offer to take him with them. Only once did he take FIL to a doctor appointment and then DW had to practically beg him to because she was sick. Granted, BIL works some long hours (12-hour rotating shifts in a power plant) sometimes 6 days a week and that limited his availability but he could have done more simply because he lived so nearby.

To his credit BIL did do a lot of work on the house when we were prepping it for sale, even building a new deck, new floor in the master bath, a lot of work on the chimney, replacing some broken siding on the garage, and digging out the front foundation to deal with a water issue. If we'd had to pay for all that it probably would have cost ~$30-$40k so I don't hold anything against him but it sure was irritating at the time.
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Old 05-08-2017, 04:14 PM   #20
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The most irritating part was that her brother lived about 150 yards away and could look out the window and see FIL's house. NOT ONCE did he call over there and say "Hey, we're going to the grocery store, do you need anything?"
...
To his credit BIL did do a lot of work on the house when we were prepping it for sale, even building a new deck, new floor in the master bath, a lot of work on the chimney, replacing some broken siding on the garage, and digging out the front foundation to deal with a water issue...
So, obviously BIL has some free time. He simply did not want to take care of infirm people, even if that is his own dad. Some people do not feel easy taking care of sick and invalid people.
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