Permanent stress with Mother-in-Law

Hi All,
I have had great support from this site. You are doing a great job here!
I posted a few weeks ago about a possible need for night care for my Mother-in-Law (now 94, no major illnesses, worsening frailty, anaemia not investigated because MIL refused endoscopy). How lucky we are that she needed night care only for a week. But anyway, my OH who is her main carer spends at least 2 hours a day with her but often more + several phone calls every day, shopping, errands etc. I work, we are financially ok but it could be better. We have 2 school-age kids. We live 10 mins walk from MIL.

The thing is, I would like my husband to have at least one day off caring, not 7 days a week. She did not accept the carer we found for her. One neighbour has kindly agreed to pop in from time to time but it is clear mum would need a professional to help her with laundry, meals, keeping company etc… She said she would have called her friends who hire carers and ask if they can recommend anybody. But she also thinks that it should be done Eastern European style where children look after their parents because they will inherit property after their parents pass on. My problem is I don’t want my OH to get any more involved than he is now. He gets more and more burnout. He had no holidays with an overnight stay for 4 years. Yes, I can replace him temporarily but that’s not the point: we need some time away together and with the kids. To be honest, I want to avoid caring for MIL. She is not fond of me, I’m tired of her constant criticism, complaint and manipulation. For example she accuses me that we don’t want to take her to church or on holiday but when my OH asks if she wants to go, she refuses. She says things like (my husband not present at this conversation): “This is me who bought my son his first car and for cash! This is me who paid for his private education. He would not be who he is without me! You should be grateful that you have such a great husband”. I’m sick and tired. Of course, when she sees my husband separately, she is able to criticise him harshly and the next day she is tearfully grateful to him. What a rollercoaster!
I’m feeling terribly guilty for not helping my husband more with caring for his Mum. I said I could once a week for lunch but only when we find a replacement at least once a week for him. I say to myself maybe I should be more resilient to MIL’s criticism. But I’m lost, really.

I don’t know what it is about in-laws. Mine were stereotypical in that I was never good enough for their daughter. And never would be, whatever the circumstances. Fortunately I knew exactly where I stood and was able to ignore it. I didn’t marry them, I married their daughter.

It’s not always easy to treat it like that, though, and the constant criticism and “bitching” is both unnecessary and wearing. The examples you gave are interesting: it’s not about love, it’s about money. Some people can’t see beyond it and don’t understand when it’s not the prime motivator. Probably why we have the governments we do…but that’s another issue.

I can’t really advise you on this: I don’t think I was ever successful enough with the in-laws to be able to. But take a look at how you deal with it. Do you let it wash over you, or do you let it get to you? More importantly, do you show that you let it get to you?

I’d guess that she’s feeling rather powerless in terms of what she can and can’t do, but she can certainly wind people up and exert manipulative control. The question is, do you let her do it or do you say no? Or even “take it or leave it” when it comes to getting help?

The son she gave private education to she is holding back by keeping him with her.

What is her worry about a carer? that she won’t see her son?
She believes it should be European style where the family care for the elderly because they inherit the estate.
They can be stubborn and manipulative and live in past values/insist on them, my step gran was a classic case but not in keeping us tied - shunning us and secretly relocating.

Has he gone through the care plan with her? how much and often he will be there and how much care she will get?

She seems to have made her mind up that she doesn’t want carers and she won’t like any of them.

Get a care plan in place and do visits, tell her cost of living, need to work some but will be having the visits to check on her and see that she’s right.
Don’t fall into the trap of having to re-do things because the carer didn’t do it right, just say it’s fine or wow that’s better than how I do it.

If she says she doesn’t want/like strangers the answer is that they won’t be after a few calls and their training is to get to know the client and establish a good rapport and relationship.

Reassure her that she won’t be abandoned.

Thank you ever so much for your empathy and advice.
MIL definitely feels insecure as she has probably always felt. That’s why she tries manipulation and making us guilty.
Funny and sad thing at the same time: she rarely shows interest in my job, family which was quite sad for me. But all of a sudden yesterday she asked me about what school I went to (not in the UK). I regret she asked because when I answered, she started talking about how poor the reputation of schools in my area has been :laughing: :unamused: :blush: Then she talked about hopeless women who came to the UK from that area and had terrible lives :S I don’t take it personally but it was difficult to continue this kind of conversation. So my OH tried his best to distract MIL. I appreciate his effort.

The care plan is building slowly and painfully. Thank goodness she accepted her neighbour for a short visit today so my husband could have taken our kids for a trip. Next step is to accept a professional carer. Fingers crossed.

Strong resilience and an impervious shield of steel every visit.

Jolanta, she sounds really horrible to me. So sad. I had the best mum in law in the world, never a cross word between us in 34 years of marriage. We both recognised we loved the same man! Never any competitoin between us.
Sadly, it’s too late for her to change. However, not too late for you to change, you don’t have to put up with it. You have every right to leave when she is being unpleasant, you don’t have to stick around when she is like this.

She certainly hasn’t got dementia, has she?! She set you up perfectly for a putdown. That used to happen to me, mainly because once I started work at a carers centre, I showed no ambition to “better myself.” My father-in-law had no idea what motivated me, and thought only in terms of getting ahead. My wife and I were only ever interested in doing what we wanted to do, and what was best for us. Her parents never really understood that, which is a pity. I used to frustrate my father-in-law because I never rose to the bait when he started on the “no ambition” run. But still he kept trying, thinking that my wife was putting on a show of support but secretly unhappy with me. I think he finally understood, just before he died.

Funny-pathetic thing again. I remember when once in my lifetime I had my five minutes on the national TV (not the UK) as a member of a music competition jury. My MIL watched it. After a few months, she said to my parents: “So your daughter was on TV and she was supposed to have a brilliant career but there is no career as I can see” :unamused: :laughing: I’m sure even if I won the US presidential election, she would not be happy. :unamused: :laughing:
Anyway, after a quiet week or so, we have another emergency when my OH has to spend most of the day with MIL because she feels frail. Is it the result of stopping some of her medication? Anaemia? Who knows but it’s getting harder and we still don’t have any professionals involved because MIL is reluctant and she probably does not want to spend her money. That’s how being too interdependent with her only child plays out. And again, I’m sorry, I feel like an icy, selfish person because I want to avoid sharing MIL’s care between me and my OH. I can do emergencies and help once a week, that’s my limit for today. The problem is, there are more and more emergencies… My Eastern European family would be appaled. This is the country where a woman is supposed to care for the elderly and patiently endure any criticism and unfriendliness.
My OH will go straight to heaven. He’s got his purgatory now.

As your MIL moved to this country, she should accept that we do different things here!
As a woman, she should appreciate the fact that you do NOT have to give up everything to care for an elderly person.
She is entitled to and should accept what is available to her, not ruin her son’s life.
Of course the problem is that as people get older they tend to revert to how things were as they were younger.
Stick to your guns, limit your care.
It’s a shame your husband won’t stick up for himself more, and start telling her that if she can’t cope without him, and won’t accept help from Social Services, she will have to move into residential care!
Or is she just being mean, have plenty of money just won’t spend it???

I appreciate that you read and reply to what I am writing here. It helps me vent and gain some perspective.

Well, sigh… my husband is staying for the night with MIL. We have had a long conversation. It turns out MIL has been giving him (us?) her Attendance Allowance money for YEARS. As far as I know, she thinks she “pays” her son for looking after her but this is only my guess. These things have never been openly discussed between MIL and my husband. I told him this was not healthy to have financial ties with her of this kind. What a mess! Now I feel like I have to accept his intense involvement with her care because he is being paid. So I told him the AAllowance money should be spent on a professional carer who would come over at least once a week. I doubt she will accept that…


Attendance allowance is approximately £60 for lower rate and £90 for higher rate - and the Living wage £9.50 an hour …


Thank you Melly1 for your calculation. I know it looks weird and I’m not sure what I should do. It doesn’t look right to be tied to your parents financially however slim the money is. There should be two independent budgets: MIL’s and ours. I can predict what happens if my husband tells MIL to fund her own care entirely. She would probably say: But I sacrificed so much for you! I paid for your education, I never went on holiday blah blah… Good grief, this is so sick.

Her attitude is horrible.

What she gave your husband was what any parent would do, to give their child the best start in life.
She should be encouraging him to live his OWN life, with you, happy, fulfilled, travelling, etc. etc.

Not chained to an elderly mother who doesn’t appear to love him?

Does she have over £23,000 in savings - that’s the Social Services limit for help with care?

I can’t agree more. My husband has been visiting her almost every day and sometimes several times a day since June 2018 when she had a fall. Before that, he visited almost every day but we still managed to go on holiday for a week or so. Going on hols together stopped 4 years ago. A few months after we got married, MIL told my husband she needed him to call her 3(!) times a day to check on her. I accepted that because I knew she didn’t feel safe in general. But now when I am writing this, I can see how manipulative and disruptive it is. The calls are usually short but when she demanded them, she was in very good shape for a person in her 80s. She was able to go to town shopping on the bus, she was seeing her friends… At the moment, I would agree, that my husband needs to check on her several times a day but 5 years ago it was not necessary for sure. He was told off for not calling her several times. :cry: :cry: :cry:
Most probably she’s got more than £23,000 in savings.

Given her age and frailty, your husband should have a discussion with his mum about finances and POA.
Does MIL have a pendant arlarm? Then in times of genuine emergency she could coltact the call centre.
It is ridiculous having to make all those calls.
Why not put the answerphone on if she gets a pendant alarm. Say I’ll call you at 6pm tonight.
Do NOT fall into the trap of saying because…
She has no right to decide what he does and does not do in his life.

Has he ever had counselling? It helped my when I was struggling with my mum.

POA and finances are almost taboos. My OH tried to sort out POA and it doesn’t work. MIL changing her mind all the time, the hassle of all of that, I’m just not getting involved.
Yes, she has had an alarm pendant for 4 years now and it does the job. Phone calls are a nuisance as MIL has suddenly lost some hearing due to wax in her ears (confirmed by a paramedic). But when my husband invited a private nurse to unblock MIL’s ears for 40 quid, she refused so now they are screaming at each other on the phone. :laughing: OK, I can survive calls because she needs to be reminded about taking her medicines but finances need to be sorted out.
We are trying to plan a holiday. Looks like I go with the kids, he stays at home but well… it is up to him to sort out respite care. I can help to find a carer but he needs to be willing to discuss things with MIL which almost for sure will be difficult.
I’m now pretty sure about one thing: our money can’t be touched in terms of paying for MIL’s care as long as she has enough of her own savings.

Its hard isn’t it … my MIL has 3 sons; I am married to one, another b@ggered off to Australia and the 3rd just b@ggered off … She has 4x daily care visits a day, but otherwise me and hubby do it all … lifeline calls, shopping, laundry, paperwork, liaising with other agencies, medical services, care agencies etc … just today I have received a letter to renew her council tax relief and last week it was accompanying her with a visit from speech therapist.

If you haven’t already applied, get on with an attendance allowance application, to atleast cover your costs for visiting/supporting her, although she must be told this money is for you, as it goes into her account, so she will need to pay you.

Sounds like you need to get Adult Care out to assess her and see what help she qualifies for. Is she able to pay or under the threshold for adult care to help with costs. Sadly, her abilities will only decline, so if you can get some help in place through a care agency now, even if only 1 or 2 days a week, it will enable you to extend this if/when she needs additional care in future. She might not like it, as my MIL is very resistant to any changes, but your hubby needs to get over the “guilt trip” she is playing on him and man up.

I told my hubby some time ago that I would do anything for his Mother, but he must remember I married him in sickness and health, not her, and he soon realised his loyalty to me, outweighed his loyalty to her. Sometimes you need to stand up to hubby as well, and if you also need to remind the MIL that if it wasn’t for your and her son’s support, she would no longer be able to stay independently at home, then that also need to be said to her face, and repeated, regardless of how small she may make you feel.

What would happen if your hubby stayed away for a day … would it threaten her life, safety …? Or just her self-esteem knowing you and he are not at her beck and call all the time … Tell him to try it … if she calls you or presses her pendant, ring her back, ask whats wrong, tell her you have a life and need to live it … it might upset her but she needs to learn to appreciate you again for what you are giving her.

We went away for a few days last month, for the first time in 3 years, partly due to covid, but also as we know MIL is reliant on knowing she can call us and didn’t want to not be here. Although it was at the back of our minds throughout, she knew we were not 15 minutes away, and didn’t call us at all. We told her the only other option if she was in trouble while we were away, was to ring the lifeline alarm and she would likely end up in hospital, then have to be assessed to see if she could manage at home again … very harsh but true if there are no family to run when they call …

Thank you very much for your very kind reply! Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I do apologize for not replying earlier. A lot of things have happened since I entered this forum last time. MIL has been at hospital for about 3 weeks now. Combination of back fracture, anemia and being underweight. There were 2 bouts of UTI.
I’m sorry for her but I’m glad we have had a bit of a break from care. She will be back in a few days at her home with a care package. But probably my hubby would need to spend a couple of nights with her to make sure she would be ok with getting out of bed and using her commode. She is able to make just a few steps with a frame. She gets more and more confused and has regular outbursts of anger towards my OH. She accuses him of forcing her into hospital. Guilt trips happen very often. She is under the deprivation of liberty because she was trying to get out of hospital a number of times. My husband does not have POA because basically, she doesn’t trust anyone. Potentially very difficult time ahead for our family. At least, she will have carers for free for 6 weeks to start with.
Thank you for reading this.

Jolanta, she should not be discharged home in that state.
The NHS has rules about a “safe discharge” and it sounds like these are being ignored.
If she needs overnight care, the hospital should arrange it.

Thank you. They are not sure yet about the discharge. Physio and OP would like to mobilize her as much as possible. They succeded a little but then MIL caught another UTI. Toilet trips are the most important. MIL’s outbursts of verbal aggression towards my OH sadly happen on a regular basis. She keeps saying she would sort out care for herself by inviting an Easter European live-in carer. Well, she is not aware of Brexit complications, the war and the rising cost of living. The good thing is SServices are now involved and my husband is getting well-deserved support.