Caring for Mom but We Have a Meddlesome Relative

Updated on July 29, 2010
J.R. asks from Chicago, IL
10 answers

So my mother in law lives with us, well not in our “space”, she has her own space and we have ours (thank God). We are fortunate enough to have an in-law apartment in our basement which is where mom lives; she has a kitchen, bathroom, frontroom and a bedroom. Let me start by saying my husband is now the only child left, his only other living brother passed away 5 years ago. Shortly after this we talked mom into selling her home and moving closer to us as she lived near DePaul and was very hard to get to her when she needed us quickly (it also helped that her only living brother moved near us with his daughter) and the fact that the house was falling down around her and we where having trouble keeping up two homes. My husband is an Ambulance Commander (paramedic) for the city and I also work full time, so doing her shopping, getting her to doctors appointments, was just getting to be too much for us with her not closer.

We purchased a home for her a few blocks from us and she was able to live on her own for another 4 years until we noticed that she was not taking her meds, taking a shower, general house cleaning, laundry, etc. and we were spending every night there, we decided it was time for her to be with us. During the first move, we threw out 4 dumpsters full of stuff, now on the second round I think we did another 1. We now have 3 storage units full of her stuff that we are paying for monthly, since there wasn’t enough room to bring everything to her new home. (Another whole issue.)

Anyway her niece, who takes cares of her brother (which is the nieces father), is forever giving her opinion; just last night again I was talking to her (she hurt her back and I called to see how she was doing) and there is going to be a family party the first weekend in Aug. and she asked if we are going and I said no, he is working and so we will not be able to go and she asked me if she could take mom and I said no, he has decided he does not want her to go. Then she asks why, what difference does it make; it is his mom, his decision to make not hers, we do not tell her what do with her dad! She does take mom to church every week (when she feels up to going, her offer) but when mom did not go for a few weeks she called up and said to us I need to come over and make sure moms okay? What she is fine, you talk to her almost every day, what the heck? The icing on the cake for me was the day (it was a Sunday when she had taken her to church) that she took mom to buy my husband a birthday card, then she could not understand why I was upset, why would she think I would not have a birthday card for mom to give her son! Then she says well I cannot tell her no, well first of all you’re the one who reminded her it was his birthday (she has the onset of dementia), keep your mouth shut! Second since you feel the need to open your mouth, tell her I am sure that I already have one at home for her to give to him!
So I tried to call her sister (who lives in another state) last night to get some suggestions to talk to her, so maybe she would butt out, but that did not work (she said that just does not sound like her sister). None of her siblings want to say anything to her since she takes care of dad and they only have to help when she needs a break or goes on vacation.

Any suggestions we are at the end of our rope with her???

Sorry, I should add that the cousin is also older and takes care of her 90 year old father, who does not bath, change his underwear, and is rude to people (which I know comes with age). So she also has her hands full with him. Our point is that we don’t tell her how to take care of her Dad she should not be telling us how to take care of Mom. Also the party is in another state and it is very warm here and she cannot handle the heat and we don’t want her getting sick there and us not being around to take care of her. We do let her take here to other functions whenever she wants to go and we have never stopped her from going, just this time we have decided that with the distance and heat it is not good for her to go. Also mom is the one who decided if she wants to go to church or not, not us, she calls her and lets her know that she is not feeling well and does not want to go (she has really bad knees). She talks to this niece at least once a day, so nothing there to hide, we don’t care about that either. Also my husband did tell his cousin to back off (nicely) and she hung up on him, she does not like confrontation. We both have a problem with her, not just me, she will not listen to either one of us, she just does what she wants.

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So What Happened?

My husband called his cousin and said I heard that you spoke with my wife about the party and that you wanted to take mom. He told her that yes, I am the one who said mom should not go and here is why; it is too far away for one, if she gets sick how am I going to get to her 150 miles away. Also it has been too hot out for her to be outside; I would prefer that she not go for these reasons. He also told her that he has no problems when she takes her to church or other places locally and that she can call mom anytime for those types of things, but if it is further out, please let us know first as we are ones who handle her med’s, which need to be taken at certain times and such.

He also spoke to his mom last night and gave her the invite for the party and she said why would I want to go there it is too far away and I don’t want to sit in the car that long! (You never know!)

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answers from Harrisburg on

I don't see what the issue is. You are all family and if she wants to share in taking care of her aunt, what is wrong? Is there more to it? Do you feel like she is taking the "glory" away from you - as you stated she jumped ahead and bought the birthday card before you did. I would negotiate with her when and who does what, so nothing crosses the boundaries.

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answers from Cincinnati on

Maybe you need to add a few more details? Because I don't really see the problem. We are dealing with a similar situation in our family with my husband's grandmother (who is suffering from pretty severe dementia at this point), and I think you may be looking at your husband's cousin's offers to help in the wrong way. It sounds like you are the only ones taking care of your MIL and you've gotten used to that, but maybe you should let go a little bit. If your husband's cousin wants to take MIL to her brother's birthday, I don't really see the harm. In fact, I would take advantage of the time off! I also don't understand why you were angry that the cousin took MIL to get a birthday card for her son. So what if she then had two? Your husband knows what condition his mother is in, and there is certainly no need to get angry about it. Perhaps you need to be more specific about some of the problems you're having with your husband's cousin, because nothing you described is really a problem, from my perspective.

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answers from Charlotte on

J., your rope sounds awfully short. It seems like you are trying to keep family away from your mother, and that's just plain wrong. You are far too controlling here. If this woman is still well enough to go to church, she is well enough to go get a card for her son, for heavens sake. So what if you got a card for her already? It was important to this woman's confused mind to be able to at least feel good about doing SOMETHING for her son. It won't be long before she'll be unable to do it. If you have never had to deal with a full-blown Alzheimer's patient before, you don't know what you are in for. It won't be long until there is no church, no parties, no shopping for cards, nothing but a shell of a person who won't remember anyone, let alone that they have a name. Bawling that woman out for mentioning her son's birthday to your MIL is acting like a bully.

You wrote here asking for people to agree that her niece is in the wrong, but you might not like the answers you get here. I know you don't like this one. The way you are acting, this young woman may feel that you are trying to hide something from her. A good family member would make sure that she is not being neglected. She could just call social services on you to make sure you are doing right by your MIL.

Just because you've done all this work for your MIL up til now doesn't give you the right to close her off from society while she is still able to interact. It doesn't give you the right to keep her away from family. My father-in-law is being a SAINT right now taking care of my mother-in-law while she lays in a hospital bed in the dining room of their home, unable to do anything but open her mouth for food. He is loving with her, talks to her, has hospice coming in to help, and caregivers coming by to bathe her. He is at her side almost 24/7. Family and friends come by every day to keep them company. She smiles some, coo's and know that someone is there when we hold her hand. Every one of them is like that niece, trying to make a difference in an old person's life.

It won't be long before she mentally slips away. Let her enjoy something left of her life. If you can't do it just for her, do it for yourself so you can have some time off before the onslaught of full-time care. Or remember that one day you may be in the same boat yourself, and you'd want someone to let you enjoy the end of your life.


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answers from New York on

i honestly do not see what the problem is. could you maybe add more? something is missing? niece is taking care of her father's sister. it's normal. it's sweet, it's expected of her.

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answers from Seattle on

First of all, how great is your family for taking in "mom" and helping to care for her and get her to drs appt. ect. I hope that I will have the same opportunity when my parents get a bit older (and I am 33!).
Second, I read this a bit ago, and didn't get what the problem was so I didn't answer. I was feeling a bit stupid since I didn't see what the problem was according to your question. But now I don't because the poster under me didn't know either! So, what is the problem. "Mom" asked cousin to take her to buy your husband a card, right? Well, how great of cousin to take her out and do that. Cousin takes her to church when she can. Sounds good. Cousin asks why "mom" will not be going to a family party...sounds like a pretty normal question to me. Cousin asks where "mom" has been the last couple of weeks since she hasn't been going to church and asks if she needs to check on her. Okay, two things popped into my mind. One, was she just kidding with you? Two, maybe she wanted to make sure that "mom" wasn't in some kind of "depression". I know that when my grandma was facing dementia that should would often get into a "funk" of sadness and missing family memebers. Maybe she just wanted to check up on her.
So, I guess I am the same as A.C. Sounds like cousin is trying to help. From what you have written I don' t understand the problem. Maybe there is something more you can add?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My first thought is that when you are a caretaker for someone you can get stressed out very easily and not realize it. I see this with my parents. My grandmother lives with them and they vent to me about some things that seem insignificant to me, but they bug the heck out of my parents. I listen to them to help them get it out of their system. Sometimes I make suggestions for how to make things flow more smoothly in the household, etc. My point is that perhaps a break from your MIL would be a good idea, even if for a part of a day. If you made some suggestions to the cousin about how to make your MIL's trip comfortable and safe for her would she follow the suggestions? You don't mention how long of a car ride it is. I would think an hour away wouldn't be so bad but if it were 5 hours I'd have to take issue with that. Do you think your MIL would want to go? Maybe ask her. If you still think the family party is a bad idea, maybe the cousin could spend a different day with her to give you a break.

I wouldn't be so upset about the cousin asking why you won't let her go to the family party. I think that is a common enough response to being told "no" in a situation like that. If you do give her a reason and she would offer an unflattering opinion on the matter I think I'd respond with something like, "We've put a lot of thought into this decision and we are sticking by it. I'm sorry if you don't like the answer but we are doing what we feel is best." I've gotten good at saying stuff like that when people question my parenting decisions.

As far as the birthday card goes, I wouldn't be upset about that either. It is possible the cousin was trying to be helpful and not intentionally stepping over boundaries. Also if your MIL's health is deteriorating, I think it is nice that she had an opportunity to pick out a card for her son.

My final thought is that you get caller ID and screen your calls when you aren't in the mood to deal with the cousin. You can call her back at your convenience. Best wishes to you.



answers from Chicago on

I think if mom enjoys the niece's company and the niece is caring about mom - you have no bussiness to push her away. The niece obviously has some history with the old lady, cares about her (in her own way), and they enjoy each other company. The old lady is not your property just because she lives on your property. You and your husband need to start including the niece more - may be there will be less confrontation and animosity, I am sure the old lady will appreciate it.
As for who's - who's relative, it is irrelevant, people form bonds with each other even if they are not blood relatives, or even if they are distantly related. You need to respect that. What if you get old and your DIL will come up with some excuses how to restrict your friends or relatives from seeing you? What right does she have to deside for you? Give that a thought...



answers from Boston on

I agree she should mind her own business. You just have to tell her where your mom is concerned, where you take her, where she can go and when is non of her business.Its very nice of her to take her to church and have talks with her everyday but that where it ends.

We just had our family reunion and my mom did not go for the same reason. It was so hot out and hours away. Everyone asked how come I did not bring her. I told them it was not a good idea in this heat. They offered to have her inside with the AC. It was way to much for her. I heard remarks all day about it. I did not care what any of them said. She is my mother, my responsibility and I will decide what is good and what is not. I mean if she had to be rushed to the Hospital I can count on one finger who would have come with me.


answers from Norfolk on

I don't think you are being unreasonable. Being a caregiver is hard work and a lot of people have no idea how stressful it can be. It's also very hard to watch a loved one slowly deteriorate. Perhaps you should ask the cousin how she's doing with her Dad. She might be under a lot of stress. Sometimes it seems easier to deal with other peoples problems than dealing with your own and so she pokes her nose into your business. When she starts in about your MIL, tell her the decisions were jointly made, and that's the end of that. If you want her to back off a bit, you tell her to - no one could or should do this for you.



answers from Chicago on

I would have your husband tell her, "we don't feel she can handle going to the party, so we won't be going." End of story. It's yours & your husband's decision to make & refuse to discuss it further with her. It's not her decision to make.

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