Manipulative Ma-in-Law

I’m new to this forum and would like some advice, or probably moral support.
I’m sure I’ve posted this in the wrong space, but couldn’t quite work out where to do it as the posts were quite old on various sections.
I am increasingly taking on more care of a very demanding mum in law. She is 95 and going strong.
However, she has the ability to totally drain the life out of me. I suppose what I want to know is am I doing enough?
I provide five home cooked meals per week which we take around to her and stay for a chat and cup of tea; do the shopping and washing; order and prepare medication weekly; take her to all health appointments, of which there are loads as she insists on every pain or ailment being thoroughly investigated ( nothing identified since she was 60!), fortnightly trips to the hairdresser and occasional outings.
I am aware that some elderly relatives live with their family, so perhaps my situation is better than that.
However, when I wake up in a reasonable mood ( which is becoming less and less) on speaking to her during our morning telephone call, all good cheer drains away as she talks about what pain she is in, how bored she is, and so on…… it makes me feel like what I do is meaningless and certainly not valued ( or at best, “expected”.)
I have never experienced stress like it. My heart literally jumps when the phone rings in case it’s her, and yet I feel the need to call her just check she’s ok and can get on with my day. I know you’ll think I’m a wimp, but I just don’t understand how what I’m doing is not enough.
I had dreams of moving to live nearer my adult children so visiting would be easier and more frequent, but of course, we can’t leave her.
I have recently become a grandmother and have only seen the baby twice in 5 months.
She has a tendency to become tearful if we want to go out and has phoned us on occasion to say how “disgraceful “ we were.
My husband, her son, would never see her again if he had a choice. He said she has never been any different - very manipulative- and would “faint” when he was younger to prevent him going out.
During her own 60s- 80s she had three holidays a year, went out weekends and did what she wanted, something I can only dream about.
Please, I’m hoping I can get some reassurance that I’m not the only person to feel like this. To make matters worse I’ve recently ( last week) been diagnosed with a heart condition and told to cut down the stress!! Not very easy.

Hello Jane and welcome to our forum.

I have moved your post to a more appropriate area (Roll Call is our “chat over the garden fence” area :slight_smile: ).

Caring for elderly relatives is never easy even when they are appreciative of our efforts . One of our members describes the unappreciative ones as “elderly toddlers” - always needing to have their own way and throwing tantrums if they don’t get it !

I’m sure others will be along soon to add their welcomes and offer support.

Hi Jane, welcome to the forum.
Does MIL have more than £23,000 in savings?
If so, it’s time she used her money to arrange her care how she likes it. That does not and cannot include you any more.
How old are you and your husband?
Have you ever had a “normal” retirement, or has MIL dominated everything for so long?
I’ll be back later, major sort out going on at home today, my last free weekend for a while.

Many thanks for doing that for me.
I felt some sense of relief just writing my feelings down. I just need to alleviate the guilt I feel for being so harsh, or selfish I suppose.
But thanks again.

Thanks bowlinbun,
I totally appreciate your need for free time.
I am 63 and my husband is 68.
We have been “ caring” for MIL for about ten years now, although the last couple of years has been far more intense.
It’s not even the physical aspect of the situation I mind, it’s the constant feeling that we are not doing enough and her belief that her “friends” the few people left who she is aware of, are receiving more support from their “lovely “ sons and daughters!
This includes a woman whose son makes sure her freezer is full and then jets off to Portugal for two months!
On a Serious note, my own mood is deteriorating, which is a new phenomenon.
I was happily painting a garden fence just a while ago and she called to say the pain in her arm is unbearable and she will need an X-ray. She then went on to say that her eye appointment had come through and she wants a physiotherapist referral. The thought that this was the timetable for the next week or so slaughtered me in one fail swoop.
When I reminded her that she’d been to physio and stopped it because she said it made her worse and that the painkillers made her constipated, her voice changed ( it sounds like she will cry) and she’s says I don’t want to be a nuisance but she can’t help being ill.
I know being old must be horrible and depending on people frustrating, but what about the carers?
I have found health staff to be the worst for that in that at various appointments they have said. “ I’m sure your daughter in law will take you out for walks”, I’m sure your dil will do this or that” and recently I had to visit four times a day for a week to put eye drops in. All of these assumptions are made with asking me what I already do and what time I actually have.
She has plenty of money, so no issues there.

In that case, you both need to agree a plan, so that you can look after your own health and enjoy whatever time you and your husband have left together. An odd idea perhaps, but I was widowed when my husband died at the age of 58 from a masive heart attack in his sleep. We had both been doing too much for too long, all four parents were disabled and in and out of hospital for years, each expecting us to do things. The medical profession were worst of all. I could write a book on this subject!!!

Do NOT allow mum to blackmail you with tales of other more dutiful sons and daughters.
Put your answerphone on and leave it on, as you are now “ill” yourself.
Make sure she has a pendant alarm, in case of genuine emergency.
Put your answerphone on and leave it on. Then you visit if and when you want to.
In fact, you CANNOT be forced to care at all.
Read your earlier comments. Count the number of times you said “Had to…”
Start thinking differently.

If she needs an appointment somewhere, then the doctor can make the appointment and she can call a taxi or hospital transport.
If she wants something done, then tell her to arrange it, not as abruptly as that though.
Don’t be as available. Say you have something planned for that day but do NOT justify it, which then gives her the chance of giving her view on whether going to the cinema, a walk, or anything else is more important than her. It never will be!

Cleaning? Get a domestic.
Gardening? Get a gardener.
Shopping? This can be done online, by someone else, not you.

Think how she would manage if you lived in Australia. Services would be arranged for her, or she could do it herself. You are no more than the easiest, quickest most convenient way of getting her odd jobs done, presumably at no cost.

On the subject of money, has she made a will? Does your husband have a Power of Attorney?

Does she say Thank You?

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
On an intellectual level I know everything you say is absolutely right, so it is me that has to somehow overcome the feelings of guilt , and start to be free of the dread I experience when the phone rings.
She has an alarm, a cleaner, a gardener and her neighbour pops over most days for half an hour.
Alongside what we do she speaks to people a few times a day, sees us for 4/5 days per week and spends Sundays with us, but she says she is lonely!
I did contact social services who when they heard what support she had around her and the fact she has outings and visits the hairdresser ( one of the few days she’s not ill!) they said she really wouldn’t meet their criteria for a service as she had everything. She has all of the necessary equipment in terms of stair lift, various rails and my husband has just put further railings in the garden so she can sit out there. However, nothing ever seems enough.
She has always been very demanding and would often not speak to us if we forgot to call her - this was when we were in our thirties, had three children and busy jobs, I would genuinely forget. Her late husband would then call asking if we realised how upset she was as we hadn’t spoken to her. I think he just wanted a quiet life, I could sense he felt awkward saying it.
We have not had a holiday in 7 years as she has had various health issues which never really need ongoing treatment, I just don’t know what to do next.

There is a will and POA as I deal with all her bills etc

Would you consider going to a councillor for yourself. Our lovely Bowlngbun did eventually. I’m sure won’t mind me saying. Helped her re think.
My circumstances are different to yours. No need for me to go into great detail. However my lovely late husband suffered strokes, vascular dementia and other issues. Was a long good-bye. Personally I only had one years retirement before he started the decline He died 3 years ago having just reached his 74th birthday.
My point being, you and your husband deserve time to do the things you want to do, without guilt! Deserve to make the best of your own relationship and lives. Having run the extra miles for your MIL it really is time to find the strength to say enough is enough. I don’t like saying before it’s too late but no other way to put it. I don’t mean stop altogether, although I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

Hello pet66, again, thanks for taking the time to reply.
I know what yourself and bowlinbun say is wise and makes total sense, but I think I will need help to break the cycle that has developed.
I will think deeply about a way forward.

I was on the verge of a breakdown 10 years ago, counselling put me back together again, and much of what I write comes from the help I was given.

You have a RIGHT to enjoy yourselves.
Book a holiday, expect MIL to kick off lots before you go, lots of blackmail. Most of all turn off your mobile phone.

If you have given so much of your free time or the last seven years, then you have every RIGHT to a break!

Thanks bowlinbun.
I intend to try but know I will need support.
I think what makes it worse is when I even raise any difficulties, peoples immediate response is that we must be so proud of her, and how brilliant she is to have reached that age - ( I am wondering if it pays to be self centred!!)Her neighbours in particular see the good side of her and often call us to make sure we’re seeing her that day or if we’re going round later. She says her phone is broken and she cannot reach us!
Anyway, I’ll stop ranting now.
I was wondering if anyone is able to recommend the best service to approach for counselling for carers.
Is it a referral to general counselling services or is there something more specific?
Also, MANY THANKS to those who responded or who read about my situation , it has made a real difference being “heard” and understood without being judged.

You have to understand what other people are saying/thinking.
They do not want to do any more or help, and think that by telling you how wonderful mum is etc. etc. you will keep doing things so it won’t upset their own lives too much. Horrible, but true.
Is her phone broken, or is she not using it properly? Have you checked?

Whether or not it is, or is not, it is NOT your job to do everything for her, but she thinks it is.
It’s a well known trait of the very elderly to lose the ability to see how much others are doing for them, they are totally focussed on themselves, and want more and more.
Only you can divert some of this want, but I do think it’s time others were involved, as her care needs will keep increasing until she dies.
You deserve a happy retirement too!!