Family Conflict

by Anne
(Tennessee)

My mother-in-law is 84 years old and lives in her own home. For the past nine months, my brother and sister-in-law have made weekly to biweekly visits to check on her as they live 45 minutes away. My brother-in-law is retired and his wife works part-time.


I received a call from my sister-in-law stating they have no life because they have to attend to the needs of my mother-in-law all the time and no one helps.

Another brother lives 45 minutes away, but he and his wife work full-time. The other brother is 2-1/2 hours away and he and his wife both work full-time. Us........we live 12 hours away as we recently moved to Tennessee as all of our children and grandchildren live on the east coast.

First of all, I did not feel the call from my sister-in-law was warranted and told her I felt that the call should be between her husband and mine, my mother-in-laws sons. She complained about the drives.

She told me my mother-in-law is completely isolated now due to difficulty with ambulation.

She said she is not getting enough nutrition. During the entire conversation, I felt an undertone of anger and resentment. I did tell her that I really loved living in Tennessee because I get to spend time with my children and grandchildren and she told me, "So what! I don't get to see mine". Her granddaughter lives 15 minutes from her and her other two grandchildren live 2-1/2 hours away.

I was thinking surely you can drive down on a Saturday to visit since her days to visit my mother-in-law is Tuesday. The thing is, when we lived 2-1/2 hours away and 30 minutes from her son, she never once visited them or we would've gone over to my nephews house. I felt that was a comment she made due to underlying resentment because we moved to Tennessee last March.

She referred to her trips a grunge work. That saddened me immensely because my mother-in-law told me that she felt they enjoyed coming to visit to get away from the house.

I will never share this situation I'm dealing with with anyone but my husband.

I did order healthy nutritious food to be delivered to my mother-in-laws home. We pay 1200 per year for her medic alert and home phone. We have paid thousands to have her porch redone and got her a porch swing an she enjoys sitting on the porch. The brother-in laws assisted in the building and painting, but financially, we covered all the expense.

I am shaking apart inside and asked her why she was lashing out at me. I, personally, would never allow my brother-in-laws on my side of the family to make decisions for the welfare of my mother. I just feel this is something that should be between the sons and daughter of my mother-in-law, but I was verbally attacked and have never been treated so poorly.

I told her we appreciate all they do for her. I told her the appreciation was with the deepest sincerity. I admitted we don't visit as much as we should. We went to see her before moving to Tennessee in March. We just say her in May. Realistically, how often should we go when we live 12 hours away?

We buy her groceries when we visit. We take her out to eat. She knows if she needs anything we can help financially If she were to go into the hospital or anything, we would be there.

It just doesn't seem feasible for us to drive up 12 hours every other week as they want us to so we can take her out two to three times per week. We have dogs and have to rent a hotel room. That runs into a lot of expense.

I am shaking apart inside and asked my husband to call his brother and stop this. I do not know why I was targeted.

My daughter is a social worker and sent me some valuable links for resources I can inquire about. I did research myself and there is transportation for the elderly if she wanted to go shopping.

Groceries can be delivered which we can buy. I found resources that can assist with a handicapped ramp, installation of a shower, etc. There is a world of assistance out there, but I don't think my sister-in-law is aware of any of that

My husband is having me call to see what we can do and we will drive back 12 hours to meet with people who can help us. There are even meals on wheels that are delivered weekly.

My sister-in-law had complained that they have to make little dishes for my mother-in-law to microwave, so I thought perhaps meals on wheels would be a good alternative.

I need help. This family discord is making me a nervous wreck. I don't want family conflict.

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Walk a Mile in the Other Man's Shoes
by: Anonymous

I understand where you're coming from... I can't believe you can't see where your SIL is coming from!

My parents were good to both my sister and myself throughout our childhood and into our adulthood. I had (and still have) a stable marriage and my own family life is strong, my adult children are supportive.

My sister... not the same at all, she has had two broken marriages, and has lurched from one financial disaster to the next... my parents were the ones that picked her up and dusted her off, paying her bills and getting her out of one mess after another; she is a good person, I don't resent her that "extra" assistance. Or I didn't.

My sister has been in a relationship with a man we all don't like a lot (there is history between him and me, all a long time ago but hard to eliminate from our memories) but she is happy and so I am happy for her.

My parents by now in their eighties, and becoming more dependent on us for things like hospital appointments, help around the house... little things that add up.

At this exact point in HER life my sister decides to move 400km away, to a small holding they've had for years with the eventual plan of retiring to it.

The "little" things are becoming more frequently required and now there's only me to do them (and my ever patient hubby).

Four years later, guess what? I'm tired, and RESENTFUL; my folks are now 86 and 87... Dad has dementia, Mum is sharp as a tack but her health is failing; trying to deal with Dad basically on her own as she is aware of how much strain is on me as it is, as they can't get to appointments so I have to take them.

My sister comes up to visit every 8 weeks or so... she has retired early... she spends an hour or two with Mum and Dad (in the fairy tale world Mum has created that can only last a few hours at a time and even then provided you don't scrutinize it too closely, which my sister chose not to do(spends a bit of time with me, basically telling me how wonderful her life is, full of "PJ" days (I run our business full time) and perusing her hobbies and spends the rest of the time with her children and grandchildren, she may have fit in the odd "take the folks to lunch" but certainly not too many of the "sit in the Cardiologist's waiting room for three hours" that were the "norm".

I've been telling her for ages that on a bad day Dad is BAD, Mum pokes Dad into "normal" while she is up, Sis thinks there's little wrong - certainly that I'm overstating it.

This July Mum died in an accident. My sister happened to be up and has stayed with Dad ever since. I am grateful for the help, I still go over daily and am doing all the financial stuff and paperwork that goes with a person dying and getting Dad into Permanent Aged Care.

My sister declared the day Mum died - in fact made a scene at the hospital - that Dad was NOT going into Aged Care (as we who had been living the daily with him knew he needed to), she was here until he died... if that was six months or six years!

Three months in her partner is YELLING at me that she can't do this "on her own" wtf???? I'm over every day, putting out spot fires and taking Dad out or to my house so Sis can "have a break", we have him every weekend - and I've been "it" for YEARS, not having PJ days!

One point is that I missed a lot of things with my grandchildren looking after Mum and Dad's "little" problems, I did this because I love them and they deserve the help they so willingly gave when we were young.

The REAL point is that my sister had NO idea just how HARD, wearing, tiring, unrelenting, thankless and disruptive this "bit of help" was until she took some of it on for herself...

We are in the position that we could "pay" for some external help, but I know from experience that paid help doesn't really make you feel supported, it gives you a few hours to feel less guilty about those in your life you are basically neglecting, but that's about it... REAL help from those who really should be giving it willingly is what counts.

My sister is now asking every day if I've heard anything from the Aged Card facilities I put applications in for, the ones she didn't want Dad to go in to EVER... or until SHE had to do the heavy lifting!

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You all must come together
by: Anonymous

I would have to agree with all of the comments and the feedback you have received thus far.

After reading your post these were my first thoughts that came to my mind. I hope you stay in touch on this site and read what others go through and there you will find your Sister-in-law.

I take care of my mother who is 86 years old, but the good news for me is that I have the support of my siblings - they are there when I need them, but the brunt of it all falls on me, and I am burned out.

Your sister-in-law needs the support - she herself - and she is not getting it. Surely one can do many things to prop-up the parent in need, but who is holding up the caregiver - the one taking on the load? She is desperate! She does not know where to turn - she needs support! I understand you do not want conflict, but you are a family member as well... we cannot have the "out of sight, out of mind" attitude.

This is real life, and as a family, you all must come together for the sake of your sister-in-law.

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Complicated
by: Anonymous

The situation is complicated. Your Sister In Law is probably feeling deep resentment because all the responsibility has fallen on her. Sometimes financial help is seen as the easy help which is not really the kind of help needed.

She probably resents the fact you all moved so far away leaving her and her husband to do all the hands on work.

I have been in a similar situation and have often wondered why plans for moves so far away could have been postponed til after the death of the ailing Parent. Team work is best.

Please find reliable help to come and care for Mother In Law. Just make sure it is a licensed reputable organization. Hospice is great.

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Heavy Load
by: Anonymous

I have to side with your sister in law on this one, from my own personal experiences. That stress you feel from the conflict....multiply that times 10 when you are the "in law" holding the bag.

Men are just usually in denial about their parents dementia and degradation with aging, so the GRUNGE work falls to his wife. She probably DID ask her husband to talk to your husband, but he never got around to it AND out of desperation...called you. I would not consider this an attack.

Maybe she just felt more comfortable talking to you...and like most of us stressed out caregivers, it did not come out gentle and well put....it was a VENT!

The fact that she actually called you is a cry for help. Sure she does not live with MIL, but the emotional BOAT ANCHOR that comes with "HOLDING the BAG" so to speak takes a toll on your spirit, happiness, freedom and general health.

She wants FREEDOM! The fact that you spend half a day on the road each week, another day scrubbing bathrooms, running errands, anything and everything gets to be a grind.

If you are willing to help...do this: Hire an in home care giver to come every other day to clean, cook, check medications, laundry, run errands, do lawn work, help with bathing and a million other things.

Give up one week of your family vacation so that Sister In Law and brother can leave town for a break with out any guilt. Get the other sibling to give up one week of vacation a year as well. Send this Sister In Law a dozen roses and tell her you appreciate her holding the Mother In Law's world on her shoulders. It is a heavy load and she deserves a break!!!!

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Sister In Law is crying out for help
by: Anonymous

Your SIL is screaming for help! Taking care of an elderly parent is very hard and very time consuming.

She thought she could vent to you because her brother might not listen or get angry. Perhaps look into a service like Home Instead to give your SIL a break.

My siblings both live less than 15 minutes from me and my mother, yet, they only gave a teeny bit of their time.

My mom is more than halfway through vascular dementia, yet, she and they, pretended nothing was really wrong except being older - she is 80.

She lives in her home, but is alone in the evenings and all but a couple of hours on the weekend. She really needs to be in a facility where she can be monitored 24/7. Even her doctor agreed with that.

I was the main caregiver and had little help. My son developed serious health problems and I could no longer care for her every day. My brother was all set to go until he found out he, being POA, had to sign the papers - then it was a no go. Because I pushed hard for the move, he shut me out completely.

But I can tell you from my own experience that your SIL is in need of some serious help before she burns out completely.

Maybe arrange for weekends between the rest of you if you do not want outside help. But from personal experience - you all have to do something.

The home care is not the most ideal, but it would give your SIL some time. Your SIL will be no good as caretaker for your MIL if she is too depressed and angry at the situation.

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