Help with Mother in law

boystownDecember 23, 2013

My 92 year old mother in law has recently came to live with us. She does not have any ambition or interests (does not want to do puzzles) and all she wants to do is sit all day and at the end of the day, she comments that she has nothing to do.

Looking for ideas to keep this lady a little busy. She uses a walker so her activity is limited. I have asked her to sit and fold wash cloths and she says she is not able. She is not ill, just lazy.

What should I do?

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Check your local Area Agency on Aging and look for Senior centers. Many will have lunches (low cost or free), bingo and other activities.

If you find something, go with her, don't just drop her off. She may not know anyone, and sometimes it takes a bit of time to feel comfortable.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 10:34AM
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Does she have to live with you or could you get her into an assisted living place. There she would be encourage to at least talk/visit with others. She apparently is not interested in puzzles, may have trouble seeing, or picking up the pieces. Is there a senior day care center? or a Senior Center that meets once a week, or has other activities. Do you work and is she by herself? What other health problems does she have.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 10:04PM
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Has MIL always been lazy or is it possible that she is just deeply depressed? By this point, everyone else close to her age that she ever knew is probably dead so she may feel she has no one to talk to that really understands her. Plus, in my experience, people of that generation have a deep NEED to be needed and they get depressed when they feel worthless and a burden on others.

Problem is that depression makes it harder for the depressed person to WANT to do anything so they actually become more of a burden on others... which makes them feel even worse about themselves.

You might try figuring out some things that your MIL CAN do and then asking her to do them FOR you. Even if it is just the simplest of tasks like stirring something on the stove while you prep the rest of the dinner. Or setting the table. (Even with a walker, if you put the stacks of dishes/glassware/etc on the table, she can set everything out properly) Or dusting...easy enough to do with one of those lightweight dusting wands. Or maybe she could teach you how to make some signature dish that she used to make?

Does she make her own bed? Pick up her own room? Do her own laundry? If not, do you think she is physically and mentally capable of doing these things? Don't assume that using a walker makes a task utterly impossible. I've seen determined old folks who use walkers continue to do a very wide range of activities. Motivation is the key.

Try presenting the tasks as things you NEED for her to do FOR YOU. IF she feels that you NEED the help, she may rally to do things that she "doesn't really feel like doing" because DUTY is a huge motivator for those born back before the depression. Really, it doesn't matter what you get her doing, as long as she feels like she has been a help to you, she'll probably begin to perk up.

My 83 y.o. father just moved in with me a couple of weeks ago and is still recuperating from major surgery. So I've been doing EVERYTHING for him. This morning he got up clearly depressed. My youngest brother and his two pre-schoolers were here for Christmas and just left yesterday so that probably had something to do with Dad's depression. Nevertheless, I decided there was no way I was going to let him sit around all day feeling sorry for himself.

So, after breakfast, I said "Dad, I've got about a jillion things I need to do today iand nowhere near enough time to get them all done. Do you think you could help me out by taking care of all the laundry?" We had several loads just of sheets and towels from having had company. Dad jumped right in. I showed him how to run the washer and dryer than the two of us Went around and pulled all the sheets off the beds and gathered up all the towels and other laundry out of all the bathrooms. I figured I'd have to do the sorting but Dad started in and it was clear that he knew what he was doing so I left him alone to do it. Laundry room is right next to the TV room so he watched football and did laundry pretty much all day....even hung things up on hangers and folded up the fitted sheets, etc.

When I started fixing dinner, he came in and asked if there was anything he could do to help! That's the first time he's offered to help since he's been here. And it is obvious that his mood is about a thousand times brighter than it was 8 hours ago. Plus, I actually managed to get a few things done that I've been postponing for weeks because I've been waiting hand and foot on Dad.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe we try a bit too hard to "take care" of our aging parents,

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 6:53PM
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Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions and I really appreciate all of you.

We live in a small area that does not have a Senior Center but we have a Wellness Center that does take seniors with some limitations. We have apply for her a membership and hopefully, we will be able to take her real soon to see if she would be interested.

My MIL has always been disorganized and somewhat lazy. I believe her problem escalated as she lived by herself so long. Her daughter that lived nearby would bring her Boost Nutrition drink and chocolate chip cookies and this is what she lived on. She cannot hear well and cannot remember what happened 2 minutes ago. (We honestly did not know she was in such bad shape until we made a trip to her house in early December and found out what she was eating.) She had a TV and when we would speak on the phone to her (we got her a phone with a magnified receiver) she would say she never watched TV. We summarized that she was living in a silent, lonely life and this is why we brought her to our home.

We took her to the doctor and they run a lot of tests of which we do not have all the results yet. She has a strong heart and lungs. The doctor put her on Aricept for now.

Her hygiene has suffered terribly. It is a battle to bathe her and wash her hair. My DH and I are doing our best to put some structure in her life. This week we had her hearing tested and for sure, she is very deaf. We did get her hearing aids and we are asking her to wear them for longer periods of time each day. She ways everything is too loud. We never leave her alone for fear that she will fall again. I could go on and on.

As for household duties, she always tells me she is not able. I was taking down the Christmas tree today and asked her to help me wrap the ornaments in tissue paper, she told me she was not able. She does not make her bed, she does not tidy up her room or bathroom. She would be perfectly content to never bathe, never have her hair washed, never change clothes. In fact, sometimes she wants to hop into bed with her clothes on and I talk her into a gown. I assume she slept in her clothes when she was living alone. Her home looked like she was a hoarder as she never cleaned and neither did her daughter.

This is all so sad. We are ashamed that we have neglected this lady and guess we are trying to make up for lost time. Her daughter would always say, she is fine.

bevangel: Your comments are so wonderful and sounds like you know exactly what you are doing. I guess we do try to hard to care for our aging parents. I will try again to ask her to help me but assume the answer will be that she is just not able.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 8:12PM
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CA Kate

Your latest addition to the thread makes me wonder if she was getting enough water/liquids. I understand that the lack of fluids can cause many of the problems you describe. Good for you for rescuing her. I know your life won't be easier, but, perhaps, better for it.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 1:17AM
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That med is for AZ and is very serious stuff, my husband was taking it. He ended up with multiple ulcers and his blood count was down to 6 before we realized anything was wrong with him. His urine was black from an infection. When I went to fill the prescription the pharmacists said nothing for AZ had been tested or proven to help. He said we are being used as a guinea pigs when it comes to memory drugs. The site below gives you the side effects to watch for.

My former doctor put my sister on it without even telling her what it was. My sister was really angry with the doctor, but still goes to her. I got a new doctor. My sister's memory was just fine......after she stop taking all the drugs the doc prescribed for her.

Here is a link that might be useful: Aricept

This post was edited by EmmaR on Wed, Jan 1, 14 at 10:13

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 9:58AM
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"I can't" sounds like classic depression talk, and so is never wanting to bathe and repeatedly climbing into bed with one's street clothing still on. Do ask her doctor evaluate her for depression. There ARE some very good meds available that can help to break the depression cycle.

Kudos to you for rescuing your MIL from her lonely silent world! It's probably going to be an uphill battle for a while and I'm sure there will be many times when you will wonder why you are even bothering...especially when she fights against your efforts. But stick with it. You will KNOW why you bothered the first time she responds positively to your efforts. And if/when she gets to the point where she is behaving reasonably normally and taking an interest in life and in taking care of herself again, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave her her life back again!

Sending blessings and virtual hugs to you, your DH and your MIL.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 4:26PM
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My MIL was similar. She can't/won't do anything for herself, and her appt at the assisted living is a mess. Won't do anything to help herself and is always very negative. Sleeps late every morning but stays on the computer all night, and has a Facebook account! She's cheery and upbeat when she wants to be but when she doesn't get her way she says she's depressed and worthless. It's a roller coaster ride!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 8:51PM
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