Caring for mother in law with brain injury

Hello. I’ve joined because I need some support. My mother-in-law had a head injury 20 years ago, before I married her son. To most people she seems fairly normal but her head injury is complicated. It means her understanding of the simplest of things take ages to explain. Her speech gets worse as the day goes on as well as her understanding. She is very needy and lonely and relys on us to sort all her financial bills etc, along with sorting out gardeners, hospital appointments etc.
However, the area that has become unbearable is the needing to come to our house every day! I’m exhausted by it and am unable to relax in my own home because she just keeps coming round. I’m a busy mum of a 9 and 5yr old and I obviously have my own home to sort out too. She has a key, which I now regret but she would be so upset if I asked for it back, so she just turns up.
When she’s at my house, she constantly comments on if the washing ups not done, or the mirrors are dirty or there’s toys around… it’s exhausting! She has no filter/empathy, nor does she consider we have a life! I’m getting cross and suffocated and don’t know what to do. She has no one else so I don’t feel I can tell her how She makes me feel! I don’t like to offend anyone but I’m losing it. My husband works so isn’t around a lot of the time. He can only cope with an hour of her then puts his head in his phone and leaves me to deal with her! I’m falling apart. Any advice please? X

YOUR needs and YOUR children have to come first, and counselling will support you through a difficult few months getting this sorted once and for all.

I would strongly recommend getting some counselling to help you manage her better.
It WAS a big mistake for her to have a key, but that is easily remedied, you take it away from her. She has absolutely no right whatsoever to criticise your home, be clear that if she keeps doing this you will ask her to leave.

The underlying problems seems to be that
she has no life of her own
she lives very close to you

and worst of all, your husband is behaving like a child. He needs to man up and defend his wife from his mother’s behaviour!

(You don’t say how old she is. Is there a possibility that she is developing dementia?)

She’s 70 this year so yes dementia is a possibility. Yes she lives just a 10 minute walk away and walks her dogs up near us twice a day although there are plenty of places she could go.
I feel so guilty talking about her this way. The kids think she’s great and she’d do anything for them. I think it’s just been building up for such a long time and I’m struggling.
My own mum passed away 2 years ago and I cared for her too. But She wad MY mum so I would have done anything for her. I struggled with her passing but am getting through it.
I didnt imagine having my husband’s mum being so needy or suffocating. Some days I want to scream/swear from the rooftops because I just keep taking the intrusion in our lives.
E.g… Saturday morning I decided to have a lay in as I’d been busy, I had a cold and women’s problems, I woke up at 9am to her coming in the front door and when I cane downstairs there were comments about the washing up not being done and the room being untidy. Then she kept asking if my boys wanted to go to the park… they too were in their pyjamas and were tired after a busy week at school. She left in the end but by then I was pissed off! I feel like I’m getting depressed by it.
I’m thinking of getting the door locks changed and telling her we could only have 2 keys! I know I’m coping out but I don’t want to upset her… silly right!

I’m afraid this is going to continue until YOU do something about it.

Does your husband ever say No to his mum, does he still behave like an obedient child as far as she is concerned?

It took counselling to make me realise that was what I was doing, so don’t see that as criticism. We are all conditioned by our parents from birth, good or bad.

Of course the family should have a lie in at weekends if it wants to. It is NOT ACCEPTABLE for her to let herself in like this without prior notification.

In my family, mum and dad 6 miles away, brother near them, in laws 4 miles away, we all had keys to each other’s houses in case of emergency, but we always respected each other’s privacy too.

Does she feel she has a right to do this, or can she simply not understand that it is inappropriate, due to the brain damage. My 40 year old son was brain damaged at birth. Some things he can do well, but there are “black holes” too, we have to accept now that he can’t read, write, or do any maths. Really difficult to accept though.

Hi Jemma,
I too am 70 this year. My daughter and family live 5 mins away from me and I very, very, rarely ‘pop in’ on her. I always text or phone and ask whether it’s convenient. They, on the other hand often call on me unexpectedly. I’ve always taken the view that my home, which was hers growing up, will always be her home too but their home isn’t mine. I do have a key, for emergencies only.
I think you are going to have to be firm, but kind, to MIL but if she can’t or won’t understand that it’s not right that she walks in whenever she wants, then changing the locks might have to be the way forward. It should be her son who ‘has a word’.
At the moment, you are so frustrated by it that every little thing is becoming exaggerated and if you saw less of her you could ignore or laugh off the mention of the washing up.
The old brain injury could well be causing the decrease in understanding etc that she is displaying and perhaps it’s time for further medical diagnosis?
If she is able to get out and about is she the kind of woman who would enjoy joining in with a ‘Silver Lunch Club’ or something similar? Maybe if you found something like that in your area you could take her at first so that she gets used to it?
When my Mum. then aged 90,moved to live near me some searching disclosed a number of facilities for the elderly in my area. Not all of which were suitable for my Mum but those which were I helped her take advantage of. A local ‘Good Neighbours’ group had a ‘visiting’ service as well as a number of activities, coffee mornings, art classes and so on as well as an offer to collect her and bring her home. The local Church had a weekly lunch group.
If your MIL can’t or won’t consider anything other than relying on the company of you and your family then you have to sit down with your husband and sort out exactly what you are both prepared to offer MIL in the way of companionship and care and how to make her understand the limits of your availability. Hubby can’t leave it all to you and you must make the situation manageable before it spirals into you being her full time carer which could go on for years and years.

Don’t feel guilty about ‘talking’ about her. You are anonymous here. No-one will be pointing a finger. Everyone will want to make helpful suggestions, some of which will help and some of which will at least let you know people want to help.


Hi Jemma. I’ve just read your post and it reminds me very much to how my MIL was 20 years ago. My MIL completely ‘took over’ my sisrer in laws home. Father in law made things 100 times worse by being very critical towards my sister in law. Things got so bad that one day my sister in law walked out on her young children and husband. Very sad situation.
Please, please don’t let your MIL behave in this way. It sounds like she is trying to have control over you and your children - don’t allow it. You are going to have to be very tough with MIL.
Also your MIL might be copying how her MIL was to her.
Change your routine so that when she arrives you and the children are out or just about to go out. She might take the hint after awhile.
I really hope this helps - you and your children are the important ones here - not MIL. Let us know how yiu get on x

Hi Jemma
I too have family 10mins walk away from me. I don’t just call in on them without asking if its convenient, because they are entitled to privacy. I don’t have a key to either of their homes, because they have an arrangement between themselves. Never just walk in each other through. They have keys to mine. However, most of the time they let me know they are coming to see me,with the exception of my younger daughter who occasionally pops in with their family dog if been out walking. So, respect and privacy all round. Which is what you are entitled to. Its great that the children love her to bits. But as they get older they may feel suffocated by the constant calling in and the criticism. So, I agree, change the locks, and don’t give her a key, even if you have to say only 2 were provided and you can’t get any more. As you suggersted.You will I think have to be firm still because she will probably still arrive unannounced, and be knocking your door. So arrangement’s need to be made. Your husband needs to be involved in this change, its not all down to you. She as Elaine wisely points out, needs something else in her life. Its a must, in order for you to have a happy family life and marriage. Resentment is already getting in the way.
Good luck and the starting point is to explain to your husband.I realise she has brain damage, but seems to manage OK?

Hi Jemma,
This sounds like a really tough situation and I suspect you are dealing with it much better than you think.
I feel the key to changing things is your husband - he really should try to reason with your mother or at least talk to her about not coming to the house everyday, or at least ringing first to see if it is convenient. Perhaps he could suggest that she come only on certain days at certain agreed times. It isn’t fair that he is letting you deal with this on your own.
It is worth a try…
Good luck.

Hi. I just want to thank you all for taking the time to reply. I felt so alone I thought I was going mad!
You are right that I need to make some changes and am still considering changing the locks!
I did manage to have a shower yesterday as I found out I could lock my door from the inside so I did! It was so nice knowing I could just have a slow shower without the possibility of her being in the house when I got out!
I need to find a way to manage her and possibly say to her there are only certain days of the week she can come round. I am feeling a bit more optimistic than the other day. Fingers crossed eh. Xxx