Night care for Mother-in-Law. Difficult new stage

Dear All,
I have had a lot of support from this site in the past, I’m always grateful for that.
Mother-in-Law, nearly 94, no serious chronic illnesses, managing generally on her own but with my Husband staying with her every day at lunchtime for 2 hours but more and more often he is needed 2 or 3 times a day and sometimes he stays overnight. Her place is within walking distance, the personal alarm does its job.
She is recovering from a chest infection that made her really frail. She had a fall and yesterday she told OH that she needed somebody to stay with her for the night permanently :ohmy: Tough stuff. Her behaviour towards me is hurtful. On the other hand, I can see that OH is close to burnout. For now, I decided to stay with her 1 night a week. But to spend each night and effectively mornings apart does not seem to be good either for our marriage or for our children. Big change and I’m scared of it.
I try to negotiate:

  1. one night a week we need to be together
  2. the “night shift” starts at 9pm, not at 8pm so we could do proper bedtime routine with kids. But at 8pm MIL would expect to have her sandwiches for dinner. I said to OH: can you leave sandwiches covered on a plate after lunch so she could have them later? Can you buy her a thermal cup so she could have her tea warm by the evening? But even such small things are very difficult to negotiate with MIL. :cry: She’s got her strong opinions and my OH struggles to set out his boundaries. I’m struggling because I can see I need to be “the bad one” here to fight for some normality for our closest family.

We are also thinking about employing one of our friends to stay with her one night but the budget is tight.

She is in the last stages of her life, and will need more and more care until she dies.
A friend cared for his mum until she was 104.

Think about what this would mean for you!

Does she own or rent her home?
Have over £23,000 in savings?
Claim Attendance Allowance?
Had a Social Services Needs Assessment?
Have you asked Social Services for a Carers Assessment?
Does she have any dementia?
Does husband have Power of Attorney?

How old are you, husband, children?
(Quick questions, family poorly).

Thank you for your prompt reply. I hope your family member(s) will recover soon.

Yep, MIL
owns her house
savings - some, no idea how much
she’s got Attendance Allowance
no dementia IMO but a lot of confusion (calls my OH with our sons’ names recently)
no SServices assessment
Power of Attorney question stuck due to difficulties I don’t fully understand; she needs to be assessed if she is capable of doing that or something like that

Today my OH for the first time said he hated his Mother although he is one of the most caring and kind people I know. I’m worried. :cry:

WIth 5 nights a week as a carer, I think Husband can claim Carer’s Allowance?

You are right to be worried. Be aware that the more you offer to help your MIL the longer this will continue.
I think employing a friend to do the night time shift is a good idea - but you should not have to pay for that. MIL must pay for her own care.
Carers allowance is a benefit for someone who is on a low income, currently £128 per week or less and who cares for someone 35+ hours per week.


it sounds as if MIL’s needs are now too great for your family to manage without seriously affecting all your wellbeing. Once someone needs care over night - they really need 24/7 care and that means a live in carer or residential care. It isn’t up to your husband and you to fund MIL’s care - it is down to a financial assessment and either she or social care or a combination of both pay for it.

To claim Carers Allowance your husband needs to be providing 35 hours of care a week - that includes, errands, emotional support on the telephone etc as well the time he is spends with her. He is easily giving her that much care.

Since she is receiving attendance allowance what is that being spent on? It’s meant to pay for support with things she can’t do for herself.

I think you and your husband need to sit down and have some big conversations and then talk to MIL.


Does your husband have any siblings?
Sort out the Power of Attorney asap. If your MIL has a family solicitor, get them to manage this.
If MIL wants to stay in her home, you now need to know about how it’s going to be funded.
If she’s getting muddled (either through dementia or strong medication) then this is really important.
Be open and honest, tell her that she needs to let you gather up all her paperwork and sort it out.
Bank statements, savings accounts, bills etc. so you can work out exactly what is coming in and going out each month.
Use ring binders, Mylar dividers, polythene sleeves.

No siblings.
Power of Attorney - well… she was so suspicious, she thought we (I mean, my husband) would throw her out of her house if OH has POA. Very sensitive issue. I have no idea how to sort it out.

Does she have a family solicitor? otherwise, ask another one to come and see her.
Make it clear that unless she does this, you (ie. both of you) can’t keep helping her, it’s got too much.
It’s no longer a choice, in fact it’s the only way she can stay at home any longer.
If neccessary, you can remortgage the house to pay for live in care, rather than move into residential care.
If you and your husband have savings, you could even consider buying a portion of the house from her.
Then it could never be sold to pay for care later.

Thank you, that is very useful. I need to discuss it with my husband again. You know, MIL is so suspicious that I want to hurt her, rob her that I’m trying to stay away from POA issue.

The husband of one of our members, Pet, developed dementia. She didn’t have POA.
It took ages to go through the Office of Public Guardian to get Guardianship, and lots of paperwork is involved.
To be avoided if at all possible.

Please try to get POA or something in place. Court of protection route is very intrusive extremely expensive and upsetting.
My husband was in agreement one week for the application of POA. The next week his dementia had declined considerably and he had no idea what we were talking about. Heartbreaking.

So, I lost it tonight.
My husband told MIL that he would come to stay overnight at 9pm. I wanted him to stay with me and the kids for as long as possible. I suggested leaving MIL something to eat by her bed in case she gets hungry. She said: “no, I won’t get hungry”. My husband did not leave her anything. At about 8pm she calls she is VERY hungry and why he is not yet with her. :confused: :frowning:
I got furious as my OH agreed to go ASAP. We spent another 15 mins arguing. I told him not to give in, this is our family time, she will not die of hunger for one more hour. He says she forgot it was 9pm although he told her twice. She is forgetful, she calls him by our sons’ names, she’s getting confused. Ok, I get it, but she had enough reason and memory to call him precisely at 8pm. Now I’m feeling like a completely selfish person bargaining for stupid one more hour. I told OH to tell her again and again that he comes at 9pm every night. I also told him to leave her something to nibble on by her bed in case she feels too wobbly to go to the kitchen. After he comes over, she can have her sandwich. He then says 9pm is too late for proper food for her. I say ok. 8:30pm then. Good grief, she has also had sudden hearing loss with her infection. It is getting really hard.
At least we made peace with OH before he left.

Something MUST change for the sake of your marriage!
You have to write down all the issues and agree a plan of action.
Is MIL English, or was she originally from a different culture?

Thank you. We are all Polish, but OH was born in England and culturally English, MIL in the UK for half-century, speaks English. But yes, in Polish culture there is the tradition of children caring for their parents and sacrificing a lot for them. But the elderly there used to live in big houses with extended family. We don’t have any family support in the UK, everybody in Poland. You know very well how uncertain life in Poland has become recently… That adds to my level of stress. I’m telling myself that at least no bombs are dropping on our heads and feel even more selfish. Well, I have my own limits.


I agree, a sandwich left by her chair and a thermos of tea should be adequate. If she wants to be supported by family then she needs to be flexible.

What care does she need from your husband after she has had her supper?

Unfortunately, your husband needs to stand up to her. Others on here advise that the roles swap when parents become very elderly. We become the wiser ones and we have to take control. If his Mum was a child would he let her dictate what he did at the expense of other family members? I don’t think so. However, you don’t want his Mum to come between you - so best to have these sort of conversations when you are both feeling calm.


Thank you for your question Melly1.
You know, it looks like MIL thinks it is her right to receive care from us, and on her terms! I’m trying to explain OH: no, on our terms first of all because we have our needs. She needs overnight care because of her recent chest infection and a fall. IMO, it is for reassurance and company which is understandable but we live a 2mins drive from her, she has a personal alarm and phone at hand. It works well, my husband can see her anytime day or night.
I still hope if she feels better after her treatment, maybe she won’t need our company each and every night.

Hi Jolanta.

If its really only for reassurance and company, the phone should be enough with the back up of the personal alarm. Unfortunately the more support he gives, the harder it will be to withdraw as she will become used to and reliant on the extra support.

I realise her expectations are influenced by her Polish culture - but the situation is not the same as you aren’t all living as an extended family in one big house. The level of support she is expecting isn’t sustainable with family life.

A member of our family is married to a lovely Polish man, very worrying times.

Does your husband juggle working with caring too?


That’s what I’m saying to my husband: tell MIL straight away that she needs to manage on her own one night per week. End of story. But now I’m worried he would give in again. I don’t want to be in his shoes, honestly. My husband decided to quit his job to look after MIL, but that was not the only reason. We have a stable but modest income, I work as a freelancer part-time, I hope to work and earn more (new qualification achieved).

As he has given up work (!) I hope she is paying him for his care???
This means you have to work harder than ever, that’s not fair. So effectively you are paying for her care, not for a better life for your family?

Hi Jolanta

Very quickly: Power of Attorney sounds as if it may be too late. She’s getting names, etc., confused, and that can be dementia. If someone is talking about assessing her it’s to make sure she has the capacity to grant Power of Attorney.

Either way, it will take not less than 4 months at present for Power of Attorney to come through because of the backlog. Deputyship applications to the Court of Protection when capacity is lost and POA impossible are taking up to a year on average.

But you and your husband need first to come to an agreement about what you are willing to do. And be clear that that is all that you will do. Set your boundaries and stick to them.

If she really does need overnight support, then frankly she needs to consider a care home: it’s not reasonable to expect either of you to give up a large portion of your life for her. It’s not fair on either of you, and absolutely not fair on your kids.