Hi I'm new here

I was already a full time carer to my wife (who has multiple disabilities - some of which are genetic) and a son and daughter (son has scoliosis like his mum and daughter has Asperger’s). Two year’s ago, my mother in law died suddenly from cancer - she passed away three weeks after diagnosis. The problem we’re having is with her husband (wife’s step father). He suffered a stroke 27 years ago that left him with right sided weakness and badly affected his speech. However, he coped extremely well whilst married to my mother in law. Things started to go downhill after she passed away. He lived in a council bungalow a couple of miles away but, the council, in their wisdom gave him a drug addict for a neighbour. After she smashed his bedroom window and door to the bungalow - she then smashed his car up (yes, he still drives - or should I say ‘did’ up to last month) He suffered a heart attack in December last year due to all the stress. We asked the council to relocate him closer to us - they did and it’s probably the worst decision we ever made. I can be helping my wife getting in the bath (she has a bath lift so I have to help her) and my step father in law will ring. If I don’t answer it, he keeps ringing and ringing until I pick the phone up and it’s usually for something minor like picking him some dog food up from the local shop. If I don’t pick the phone up (landline - ie. when I’m out taking the children to school/college/shopping/dentist/dr’s/pharmacy- he will pull his ‘help’ cord and say he has chest pain - and the company we have the pull cord with automatically send an ambulance out. We know he is anxious after his heart attack but, it’s getting beyond a joke. The ambulance staff usually arrive, perform an ecg - check his obs and everything is ok and they don’t take him into hospital. Immediately he perks up. Today, again - he’s rang and asked me to take his dog to have her claws cut. She had them clipped 2 weeks ago - she’s a little Jack Russell and hardly has any claws to start with. I explained to him that she isn’t due for her nails clipped. Ten minutes later, the pull cord staff ring to say step father in law has chest pain and they’ve rung for an ambulance AGAIN! I had to leave my wife (who has been up all night with the heat and constant pain) and hot foot it round to the bungalow. He was sat there and I asked him what was wrong and he said ‘headache’. Honestly, my wife is in a worse condition and she’s 30 years younger than him. My step father in law doesn’t have children of his own and his family don’t want a relationship with him. You might assume that he is lonely but, he sees his neighbours who pop in every day (sometimes several times a day), he has the district nurse go in and the continence nurse (long term catheter due to prostatitis). He also has private meals on wheels. My son and daughter pop round to see him and take the dog out and I seem to be there constantly but, it’s like he’s wanting constant attention. We don’t want him to go in a nursing/residential home. He would refuse to go in anyway. He’s on tonnes of medication to prevent further heart problems and as the ambulance crews have said, there’s no changes with his ecg every time he pulls the cord. We take every call seriously because we don’t know if he’s fibbing or if he’s being genuine. He’s now stopped driving his little car as he’s figured out that I can do what shopping/errands he needs. I’m going off on a tangent here but, he rang late in the evening last week to say his toilet was ‘broke’ - I thought he’d blocked it, so I went round and it was the blue block that needed changing. It’s hard because of communication problems and he can’t often explain himself but, he could have waited for me to go round the next day and show me his toilet block wanted changing - it wasn’t an emergency. He’s now also decided that he can’t use his washer and dryer and I get handed a black bin bag of laundry every week. I’ve simply had enough. I’m in my late fifties and could do without all this stress (from my step father in law). Any advice would be greatly appreciated

A very common problem with the elderly. If you let them, they will trample all over you, mentally, physically and emotionally. You have to drill down to what he needs, not what he wants.

If he still has mental capacity you have to lay down some ground rules and he has to stick to them.

If he abuses his pullcord/lifeline then that’s up to the operating company to sort out.

No-one can be forced to care for another person whatever their relationship. Tell his more immediate family and tell Social Services that you’re no longer prepared to be responsible for him.

Welcome to the forum. Another forum member, Paul, also has fairly similar problems with his dad.

I think it would be really helpful for you to have some counselling aimed at “managing his expectations”.
Start by putting the answerphone on, and leaving it on.
He has a pull cord, if he genuinely has a health problem, he can use that. Tell the call centre YOU MUST NOT RING ME.
He’s cried “Wolf” too often, and must now take the consequences.

He is NOT a blood relative, so that means even more that you do not have to run round him any more. Yes, he’ll play up, like Paul’s dad, but after several years “retraining” it’s much easier.

He must now either
Accept carers arranged by Social Services
Move into residential care
Manage by himself.

Is he receiving all the benefits he is entitled to? Attendance Allowance?
He should employ a cleaner, get someone to do his cleaning and shopping.

YOUR priorities must be your own relatives.


Yesterday, I accompanied my brother (who is registered blind) to our Auntie’s caravan to meet up with her for the week. I had called on my father in law before I went to see if he needed anything urgently. Our daughter stayed in with my wife whilst I was gone on the 5 hour return trip. I rang my wife at around noon to let her know we had got there safely and she said that her step dad had rung several times. He said ‘tv won’t turn on’ to her in his limited speech yet, my wife could hardly hear him on the phone from the noise from the tv that wouldn’t switch on. She was puzzled as he’s had the same tv for 3 years with the same freeview box and she could hear it down the phone. My step dad said to her ‘send him round’ - meaning me of course. She said “He came round earlier to see you to explain where he was going and he won’t be home until at least 4pm”. She said her step dad then slammed the phone down. I arrived home at around 4.30pm and the phone rang - step dad. Wife answered it and it was her step dad saying “is he home yet - MY tv !!”. I went round and used a different car parking area than usual. I could see him standing outside the bungalow, looking towards the car park I normally use. He turned and saw me and I’m not kidding - he ran into the bungalow. A few seconds later, I arrived at his front door and he’d locked it - so I had to use the key safe. He then came out of the bathroom saying he’d ‘took short’ (he’s got a catheter in) and was pretending to do his flies up. He then did the really slow walking in front of me until I got to his lounge and said “I thought your tv wasn’t working?” … he said “It won’t turn over”. So, I went to the back of the tv and pretended to fiddle with wires - I was literally tapping on the tv cabinet - nothing else…and I hollered ‘try to turn it over now’ and he grabbed the remote and turned the channel over ! He then started laughing and said "that’s it ! " and I just said “I’ll see you tomorrow”…

Hi Wayne,
So why exactly are you doing this? For your wife because she loves her step dad? Because MIL would have wanted you to? Because you both feel ‘responsible’ and feel you must? If I said change your telephone number and never see him again, how does that make you feel?
That’s not for you to answer me, but to ask yourself. Your gut reaction might help you plan a way forward.
It seems too much. Your priority surely should be your wife, your family, equally yourself and perhaps you must lay down some ground rules and stick to them. ‘I’ll call on this day at this time’ for example and as has been suggested put the phone on answer machine and ignore non essential demands like clipping the dog’s nails. Give your step FIL a framework to rely on and put a stop to this ‘push your buttons’ ploy he is engaged in, whether it’s a calculated attempt to get your attention or old age anxiety. Retrain his behaviour. Cut the puppet strings and take control so you manage his needs rather than constantly being the one on call.
Practise saying ‘No, not now’, If the problem isn’t a danger –TV channel for goodness sake- why rush round to fix a problem you know isn’t real and isn’t exactly life threatening?
BB has suggested counselling to help you both manage unreasonable demands, others would suggest the same to help you both recognise that you are just as important.
I think the paramedics/ambulance service will have him flagged as a ‘cry wolf’ caller. They still have to attend while someone in real need, perhaps truly having a heart attack, has to wait. However as such there may come a day when his ‘chest pains’ are real and they attend elsewhere first.
Something he should think about?

Hi Wayne

I second what Elaine says. This is really too much for you and his behaviour over the TV really hits that home. Set yourself and step FIL some really strict ground rules. This doesn’t make you a bad person. You have bena saint up to now!

Best of luck. Changing the status quo isn’t easy, but once the initial pain is over you WILL feel much happier. Promise!


you have been given lots of good advice - only you can decide whether to carry on as you are or to make changes.


Hi Wayne,

Echoing what’s been said here already but too much expectation is being placed on you. He may enjoy your company and “cry wolf” as a result. But he needs to respect that you have a family to take care of.

How does your wife react to this?

Thank you for all your responses. I’ve got an update. On 15th September I had a near fatal heart attack and I was on Coronary Care for two weeks before I was discharged home. Two nights after I was admitted my father in law ‘fell’ and too was admitted to hospital as a ‘social case’ (as there were no injuries). He was discharged on the 14th October after spending a month in a bay with four other gentleman who had dementia. Social workers finally agreed to help us and put in place a care package for father in law when he returned to his bungalow. He was home for one week when he sent the carer’s packing! He had a form to fill in for financial assistance for a long term care package - he tore it up! So, now we’re back to square one - he’s ringing all the time - although, he hasn’t pushed his emergency button for an ambulance - I think the recent extended hospital stay has put him off.

I’ve explained to him that I have to take things easy and I cannot go round every day with shopping for him. Yesterday, I picked up his dirty laundry and he’s just rung again, demanding for his clothing to be washed and dried and returned to him by teatime. In the bag was a pair of socks, a vest and a pair of underpants. The man has 20 pairs of identical pants, vests, socks - you name it - he has it!

He has a lovely neighbour that pops in a couple of times a day. He still has the district nurse and continence nurse visit twice a week plus, he’s having meals on wheels every day. He’s also handed his Motability car back and has decided he no longer wants to drive


Tell him to get a washer/dryer and get a carer - not you - to come and do HIS domestic jobs.

Time to be assertive. Say no and mean it. Can he afford to hire a cleaner or not? Does he have a laundry room? Alternatively you could look at laundry aids for disabled folk online. I am sure they exist. Why did he hand his car back? It seems to me that perhaps he needs his confidence built up slowly. Maybe compile a list of goals for him to achieve on his own too. This is serious. Insist on carers. You seriously need a break.

Make a list of household tasks. Then find out if there are any good local care providers who can assist him. Refuse to discuss the matter with him until a carer has been hired. Does he have a care plan or not? Speak up. If you do not, he will not stop I’m afraid. You have your own family etc to consider.

Teach him how to use the washing machine then back off slowly. Stop answering the phone when he calls. Say that you are busy (assuming that this is true) with your own family. Can you mute your phone? Will that work? Try to get some me time as well. Please get in touch with a therapist or counsellor. Do you work?