How do you have an in-law live with you and keep your sanity?

mom2emallMarch 27, 2009

Is anyone in a situation where they have an in-law living with them?

My father-in-law died years ago and my mother-in-law is on the verge of not being able to live alone anymore. Her health is deteriorating...not to the extent of needing someone to help her do everything...but enough that we worry about her living alone. Especially because she lives so far from us all.

My husband has made comments a lot about her moving in with us. Even she has made jokes about us having a mother-in-law suite in our home. More and more lately she has been leaning on us to go to her home to help her do things and having us run errands for her and take her to dr. appts. My dh says he thinks within the next year we are going to need to let her move in with us.

I love my mil. The problem is she is just bossy at times.

*When we are there she feeds the kids till they are overstuffed and then she insists they eat more. We have told her they are full and she ignores it.

*She hates medication and scoffs whenever my ss needs to take his asthma meds. She tried not giving him his meds when he stayed there before and insisted on natural remedies. I then got a call late at night to come there ASAP because she was worried! (This was all after I told her no to him sleeping over there because his asthma was acting up and she insisted on taking him home with her anyways and he cried and begged)

*She used to babysit for us in our home on occasion and would tell me how I should do this or that differently. She would do our breakfast dishes that we left in the sink on our way to work/school.

*She is very religious and attends church daily and prays frequently throughout the day. She is always on us to go to church and put the kids in Sunday school, etc. If she lives with us I feel like it will be shoved down our throats.

She stayed with us for a week before because our work schedules were off for a week and we needed a sitter for the kids. During that time I was so uncomfortable! She stood over me as I did everything from homework with the kids, to cooking dinner, to cleaning. I almost felt guilty sitting down at night to watch tv after the kids went to bed.

I know that when my dh was growing up my mil worked full-time and still kept an immaculate home and always had homemade meals on the table. She was amazing.

I feel like I can not live up to her expectations and that her living with us is going to make me miserable and exhausted! When I talk to my dh about this he points out all the wonderful things she has done for him in his lifetime and how much she has been there for us and the kids. I totally agree and know that at some point she will need to live with us. I just do not know how to cope with it and mentally prepare myself!!


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Just tell your husband you can't care for her because of your work. I can guarantee you will be doing most of the work and will be on the receiving end of her bossiness. And it's not just her its happens in most cases. Unless she is a very agreeable person she will wreck your home life.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 8:18PM
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I only work part-time and my mother-in-law does not need lots of care. So that will not fly with my dh. In his family the kids have always taken care of the parents. His whole family immigrated here just after my dh was born. So they are definately old-world.

There is never a question of a nursing home or anything like that. My dh is the baby of the family and a total mommys boy so I think it is just understood that he will be taking mommy in when she gets to that point.

His only other sibling is very self absorbed and will be useless I am sure when it comes to this stuff. That is why his mom always leans on us when she needs something.

So I need advice on how I am going to cope with her living with me because I don't have any other options.

But star I completely agree with what you said!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 10:32PM
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I have had my MIL with me for just short of two years now. It is extraordinarily difficult, and mine is 88, disabled, and hardly ever leaves her room. I can't imagine doing it if she was able to move around the home and comment on every facet of how we live.
And I don't have children living at home or a "real" job.

All I can suggest is that you don't do it if you have misgivings, because your imagination is nothing close to the 24/7 reality of it all. It would be far, far easier to never let her in in the first place than it would be to get her out once she is there. Believe me on this.

And if you are considering it, a frank and open discussion needs to take place between the three of you before you take such a huge step. And don't hold back and try to be nice- tell her exactly what your misgivings are and how you expect it to be. Be very clear with "You may not harass us about church. You may not disagree with our child raising decisions." and so on.

Insist that your husband be on the same page with you in regard to all the house/children rules- a united front is the only option here. You and he will be together long after she is gone and the relationship between the two of you trumps her relationship with him. This is difficult for the men because they are used to obeying Mom and doing what she wants. You have to make sure he has the strength to take a stand with her and stick with it. Otherwise, no dice.

Think long and hard about this- your husband will likely be very little actual help. Mine is a saint and yet he is not here during work hours so everything falls on me, and no matter what I do it isn't right. I can't put him in the middle of every little "chicken noodle or chicken and stars" squabble, his siblings are out of sight out of mind, and so I am dealing with it.

I have read that a wife caretaking a MIL is the most difficult care giving situation for all parties involved, and I believe it. Two strong willed women in the same house can be difficult if one won't give in, and that one can't be you.

Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 1:45PM
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she won't always be as she is now and after she moves you will never be able to move her out. I took care of my husband for 5 years with Alzheimer's, I started having vascular problems in the brain and two doctors said if I didn't stop the stress I would die, then who would take care of him. After I put him in a care home, my sis started shifting Mom's care to me. I put my foot down and said I couldn't do it, I was stressed and I figured my life is just as important as my husband and mom's. I guess that is selfish, but I have made my peace with it and will have no regrets.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 5:29PM
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Everyone else has given you good advice. Moving her in with you seems like such a simple solution until... reality kicks in. Could she get an apartment nearby where she wouldn't be actually living with you but be close enough for you to monitor? Would she qualify for senior housing? You might want to talk to an elder care attorney just to understand the financial & legal implications of bringing her into your home. It could affect what help Medicaid will provide too.

One thing's for sure, if she does move in, you've got to rearrange your home, maybe even remodel parts of it, so she will have her own suite. If you give her the run of the house, she'll take it and assume she's co-equal to you.

As Star said, she won't stay the way she is now. Her health and mental ability may decline and taking care of her may put a horrible strain on you physically and emotionally. The real problem when you're a woman dealing with an in-law is that even though it's your husband's parent, you're the one doing all the work and bearing the burden.

You really need to discuss this openly and honestly with your husband. I know it's hard, but it needs to be done. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 8:59PM
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Wow, I hardly know where to start with this. I don't know a lot, but I guess this is a subject I'm almost an expert in and still feel lost most of the time. My MIL moved in with us about 2 years ago after the death of my FAL. It was difficult sharing my house with another woman. We are very lucky in the respect that we were very close and had a great relationship before all this happened, but it was still difficult.
We had no idea before the move how dependent she had become on my FAL--he did most everything for her.
I think the hardest thing at first for me was the fact that although we were close, we really had different ideas about the most basic things (housekeeping), throw in the fact that she had difficulty doing the most basic things--well it about drove me crazy. I spent a lot of time biting my tongue and quietly cleaning up disasters (after working a 10 hour day) She tried to cook (set fire to the kitchen and burned up my new cookware and kitchen rugs), she tried to do laundry (shrunk most of my good sweaters and sorted NOTHING--good stuff with lintly towels and used hot and high heat on everything, sometimes she would forget the soap and have to redo a load 3 times and I finally hid the bleach, well you can imagine). She tried to do dishes (would forget and leave the water on and overflow the sink, or leave out the dish soap). Then there was the constant rearranging of my stuff. She has her own rooms (bedroom, bathroom and sitting-TV room) but she would remove pictures from my walls and replace them with hers, take the pillows from my couch (the ones that came with the couch) and replace them with wild colored worn out pillows from her old house. She said it looked better than what I had. I LIKED what I had. In a period of a year I went from one blood pressure pill to two and my Dr. was telling me to drink a glass of wine before bedtime to mellow me out. There is a million other things if I wanted to get picky, but for me those were the biggies.
Several months ago we realized she could no longer be left alone and I quit my job to care for her. Her memory, health and mobility have really declined and we feared she would cause herself harm. Now the biggest thing for me is my inability to go when I need to. The smallest thing has to take great planning to get someone to sit with her so I can even go to the dentist or anything else. I have certainly put her first--we all have because she can no longer handle the simplest things.
Thats the bad stuff...Now for the good...
She is sweet, funny and believe it or not we still manage to have a good time together. I don't regret taking her into my home, she is a blessing to me,I love her dearly. I've had to rethink a lot of things, and certainly shift gears. I try to deal with things calmly and with love because thats how she's always treated me. I no longer think in terms of what I can do but what would be good for "us" to do together. She often tells me I'm superwoman and thinks there is nothing I can't do, she rarely complains or fusses and always has a smile or hug for me. She has declined, but inside there is the same woman I've loved and admired for years.
I still go crazy but I have a great support system so I can get a break from the "madness". Somedays I have to take a deep breath and just deal with it. Some days are easier than others, learn to embrace the good ones.
I didn't mean to write a book here. If I had to do it over again, I would. My advice is to talk with your husband (all your family--you will need them) because this a huge undertaking and it will take over all your lives.
I really wish you lots of luck with all this. God bless.
One more thing, it's not failure on your part if this isn't something you can take on. You certainly won't be doing either one of you any favors. Sometimes the best care you can give someone is to place them with people who can provide them that care. Don't ever feel guilty if its whats best for them and your family.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 10:09AM
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Thanks so much for sharing all your experiences. I felt so awful even saying that I have doubts about her eventually moving in with us.

I know my husband feels strongly about taking care of his mother when she needs it and I want to be supportive. But then reality sets in and I realize that I will be the one providing most of the care and I will be the one uncomfortable in my own home. If she critiques him he does not take it to heart like I do.

I do want her to live with us instead of in a home. I just have to get all my feelings out I guess. Thanks so much to all of you!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 8:26PM
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I'm glad we could help and for goodness sake don't ever feel quilty about voicing doubts about this. This site is great because I can come here and feel that I'm not alone in all this (especially when that overwhelmed insanity creeps in). Take to heart when everyone here says that you will be the primary care giver. 99.9% will fall on you with your husband and the rest of them as sort of "backup"
My MIL is also very religious and for months she and I attended the church of her chosing. For a good while I honestly resented it. I felt like she was taking over everything including how I worship..then I felt really awful for feeling that way. Her mobility has gotten so bad the last few months that we have been TV churching it. It would just wear her out to try to get her ready and there on time that she would fall asleep as soon as we sat down. Honestly, she seems more content to have found some good "preachin" on television. She has also become incontinent and she feared having an accident. It all sort of works out somehow.
Please check in with all of us and let us know how it's going. We all are sort of in the same crazy boat here and we really do care how things work out.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 2:42PM
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If she pretty much cares for herself and gets around OK, why have her live with you? Are there apartments for the elderly where they are still independent but can get assistance? I don't mean assisted living where it's this teeny tiny room where no room for anything.Some towns have such complexes where it is an actual apartment with separate rooms and the person has their own personal belongings. The assistance can be transportation, medicine or whatever they offer. Some have a nurse on duty 24/7.
She would have people her age to make friends with and do things. She'd have transportation for wherever she needed to go. She would have help taking meds if she needed reminded. BUT, she'd still be independent.
Perhaps this might be an option your husband could live with and you could keep your sanity.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 11:58PM
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Don't be sure that you can.
I'm going on nearly a year with my 83y.o. mom living with us and I'm not coping very well. It's a very gradual thing and the situation hasn't really worsened, but it's just wearing on me, the negativity, subtle criticisms, her "needing me" taking priority at every moment. I need a serious break but there's nowhere for her to go.
My DH is making me go see a counselor in the next week or two and I need it before I have a breakdown. I just don't know how much of it is my hormones, but my mental state has definitely taken a turn for the worse in the past few weeks.
Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 8:36PM
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Connie Kru

Hi Everyone,
I took care of my mil for 5 plus years. She was 89 when she came and almost 95 when she passed.
I know the stress, believe me there was alot, especially in the beginning, but when all was over, I am so glad I did stay with it. Now having said that-The thing that helped me the most was giving myself permission to get some help in.
I got someone to come and stay with her when hubby and I had something really important to go to and I also got someone to come in the last 3 years just so I could stand in the middle of the road and scream (if I couldn't find anything else to do). This helped me more than you can ever imagine. For me this was 2 or 3 afternoons a week for about 4 hours each time.
Take care of the caregiver or you can't give care for any length of time

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 10:41PM
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I took care of my husband for 4 years and started having stress related vascular problems in the brain. Two doctors told me to rid myself of my stress or I would die, then who would look after my husband. One of them told me "your life is just as important as his". I put him in a care home and most of the problems went away. 60% of the care takers died before the patient. I would not make that kind of sacrifice for an in law.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 8:11PM
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I have both in laws. And we have no life. Dont do it unless you are ready to give up your own existance. I believe I am here so I know not to do this to my children. We are in our mid 50's. Lost all friends and aquaintances,and I personally no longer have the energy to do anything. My mother in law MUST have all the attention, making herself ill if she doesnt. She is thank god now recovered from COlon cancer. We were there for all the chemo which was not as bad as we thought,or she thought. The Dr is thrilled, she has 2 therapist coming n 3 times a week and we have found a federally funded program through The Agency for the Aged program here in Florida to come in for 4 hours a day(since we have 2 seniors, 2 hours each) Look into this for your MIL to have assistance in her own home. We both work, and the minute we walk into the house,its hell. I dont want to come home anymore.Trust me, I would do this for my parents, my mother passed on last year,and my Dad is still healthy. My parents are not selfish or mean. My MIL is MEAN and Selfish. Has always been. I wish someone in the family wouldve had the guts and taken me asside and tell me, hey we arent doing it because we cannot handle the meaness she dishes out. Run, do not walk away from this. I know I sound mean,but if you dont have to do this, if there is anyother alternative, seek it all out.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 1:42PM
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I don't think you sound a bit mean, just being realistic. I feel my life is just as important as any family member's.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 7:37PM
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We are fortunate in that my MIL is not only a very sweet woman, but she also sold her very valuable house to move in with us, so (even after the decline in the stock market) she has sufficient funds to live comfortably into an advanced old age, even if she has to go into senior housing.

But as sweet and accommodating as she is, it is still difficult. She can't see, can't hear, and was trained to be totally helpless/incompetent by both her husbands. An albatross around one's neck is still an albatross, even if it gives you a kiss afterwards, LOL.

She is showing slow but definite signs of dementia (not Alzheimer's, there are 27 different kinds of dementia). I've had to set hard limits and repeat them constantly because she forgets - no buying food because she has no concept of nutrition, no kitchen clean-up because her idea of cleaning countertops is to smear the same dirty sponge over all 30' of surface before rinsing it with water (no soap), etc. etc.

She is mobile, and able to see to her own laundry and takes care of her own bedroom, so we're fortunate.

When my DH retires next year, we are already planning to investigate various nursing and senior facilities around the area to see what might work for her if she becomes bed-ridden. We both see that if she needs full-time care, it is best provided by professionals and not us.

When other respondents to your discussion thread have said it is important for you to have a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse, I cannot emphasize enough HOW IMPORTANT this is. And it will not be just one talk, but an ongoing discussion. There are serious legal and financial issues, in addition to the emotional ones, about bringing an elderly person into your lives. These must be faced honestly, or those issues can potentially create toxic ripples that affect succeeding generations.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 2:29PM
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Hello All,

I found your forum while researching how to live with my MIL. She was in NYC and we moved her here to FL to live. Like one of the other posters, she is financially capable to sustain herself so she paid for the addition to our home that is essentially a small 2 bedroom 1080 sf home added on to ours, but joined through a door which will be beneficial when she ages.

I know this is selfish but I have to admit that it is one of those hard lessons that our children will appreciate when we age to the point of needing cared for. I grew up in the country in Texas and my wife is the child of Irish immigrants. My stepfather was a Mexican immigrant and he took care of his parents. Basically I am the son-in-law that learned to respect and care for my elders.

She is also OCD with cleaning, and we have a small 13 acre farm with 3 big dogs, Great Dane included, and our kids are typical muddy country kids. There will be mud/sand in the house. My wife is an RN and I am a recently retired Marine that still works for the DoD and well, I am ok with dirt on the floor and a good mopping once a week, not every day.

So, the talk was inevitable, the one I agree with everyone on that you must have, set ground rules or at least some guidelines of do's and don'ts.

I have found that honestly, she has good intentions, but I also know the road to hades is paved with good intentions, as others here have noted.

We started out with, "well you can do this and this, but not this." It has morphed to, Mom, you MUST do this. I was hesitant at almost commanding her to do it (it was water the garden and feed the chickens, in case anyone was wondering what the mean Marine said ;)).

I feel terrible telling her to do it, but she would be in misery because she can't do things her way, the way she has done her whole life.

The kids are the ones I notice react the most. They have told me they HATE when "grandma" does something they are not used to but they love the junk food, go figure.

I will update anyone as things progress, but the bottom line, we are trying to take care of her as I was raised, as "old country" as possible, despite me being a mutt from Texas :0, I know it is how I want my children to take care of us, but I will not require them to do so, as that would be forcing a way of life on them and we are very strong believers on letting them make their own decisions.

The only thing you take to your grave is your conscience.

Thank everyone for letting me find this link.

On a lighter note, I am into my second year of figuring out what grows in this darn sand organically.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:09AM
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SandFarmerFL, thanks for contributing to this old but still valuable link. I don't know what happened to the OP, and wish they could come back and update us. I contributed on 5/12/09 and here's an update:

Even in the best of circumstances (as I said above, she is a very sweet person), living with an in-law can be stressful...and when they have dementia -- yowza! First she became negative - "no, I don't want to" was her answer to social activities unless we went with her. Then she became anxious - "When are you coming back from your trip (we're retired)? Can you come back earlier, I don't want to stay with my goddaughter any longer (which hurt her goddaughter's feelings very much, especially when MIL had only arrived 3 days prior)."

We struggle with her decline which has become more noticeable by 2011. We are helped by "T", a close friend who works as a personal asst. but specializes in helping seniors. She and MIL have bonded well and enjoy being together. T is our personal acupressurist and always gives us a full update via email (so we have a consistent observation record between her and us); MIL is starting to have more "off" days than "on" days.

Her doctor, an excellent geriatrician, put her on anti-depressants in late 2012. Mild dose, but made a big difference. Still, the anxiety continued.

Then she developed loss of appetite. It was a fight to get her to eat. She fainted once from low blood sugar. Unfortunately, her reaction to "not feeling right" was to not eat anything, creating a potentially dangerous cycle. No matter what portion you gave her, she cut it in half and "saved the rest for later". Aaarrrggggh!

Realized she comes from an era and country where education is only free up to the sixth grade. She never went any further than that, and has absolutely no idea about nutrition. What she knows comes from TV commercials. She honestly believes if she doesn't eat her 1/2 cup of Cheerios in the morning, she will have a heart attack.

DH and I start investigating seniorcare facilities, without MIL along. All are different, but 8 have Memory Care units and are within 15 min. of our home. We winnow down to 2, making multiple visits. We select one; setting up multiple visits with MIL so she can become visually familiar with the facility and people.

In Nov 2013 we move her to the facility. It is non-profit/non-denominational, but has a heavily Catholic percentage of residents. She's happy she can go to Mass every day. The staff is excellent (one of the top 3 facilities in the state); even the food is good. She's assigned a table with three other residents, and discovers she's the "young one" at age 86! One of her tablemates is over 100 and has lived in her studio apt over thirty yrs.

The mild level of activities (movies, bingo, escorted shopping) is perfect for MIL. She loves the security of an alarm bracelet she can press for assistance, and someone to help her shower so she doesn't need to be afraid of falling. There's a hairdresser on-site; no more schleps 30 miles to get her hair cut by her old stylist. She's made friends with all the staff on her floor and in the dining room, and they love her (she remembers their names, and always thanks them for doing anything for her). No more problems getting her to eat.

The facility takes care of all her medications (yes, that was a hassle for us too). She had an attack of gout; we took her to the doctor and wow, he called in the prescription to the facility and the next day the on-site medtech was handing her the newly added pill. Easy-peasy.

In short, this has worked out exactly as we hoped it would. MIL desperately needed the socialization and easy-to-understand routines the facility offers. Her unit has a beautiful hillside view -- she can in fact see our neighborhood from her windows. This was her choice; all units have either Bay views or hill views. She has nice new furniture, the housekeeping and laundry are all done for her, her favorite pictures and photos are on the walls.

The dementia has continued, but is still at the milder end of "moderate". It is wonderful to see her so much happier. Her satisfaction with life has improved tremendously. We take her out at least once a week and to all medical appointments, and attend the facility's special events with her. When she eventually requires full care, we'll have the choice of moving her to a special wing or letting her remain in her unit with the highest level personal care (same price for either). So far, a happy ending on both sides!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:17PM
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My answer is simple, if you want your marriage to remain intact, then find another avenue for the mil.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 11:41PM
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My nephew told me he was going to take care of his parents and his wife's parents when the time came. I said, "you" take care of the parents, but it will be your wife who actually does it because you work, right? He grudgingly admitted she would be taking care of them.

That will never work, his wife does not even like my sister. If my husband tried that our marriage would end abruptly. I may not have felt that way before I took care of my husband. When I was younger I just thought it would be letting them live with you.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 4:03PM
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