Time for me to join this forum


My 88-year-old mother-in-law is moving to our city in two days, and I'm getting nervous. She has been living in Florida in assisted living, but after her boyfriend died -- shortly after his 100th birthday! -- she did not want to, nor was she able to afford to, stay in that facility, so she is moving to an assisted living apartment in our city.
I am not a caregiver as most of you seem to be -- at least not yet. She is starting to have a few memory and confusion issues, but not much (although she is anxious about it). That stage may be coming, and I recognize many of your stories, as I remember the challenges of the last years of my father, who died of Alzheimer's. (My mom handled it so well, I think she should write a book.) Mobility and initiative are bigger issues. She is very outgoing, so we are hoping she will make friends (and maybe even a boyfriend, if we are lucky!), but I have to be prepared to become her best friend for the foreseeable future.
So it was a relief to find this forum, because I know that I already need a place to look for advice and vent. GW people are the best. As I gain experience, I hope to be able to help others, too.
My husband's older sister lives in another state, but Mom chose here (she worships her son :-) ). It's fine, and I have the time to help a lot, and I'm glad to do it. But I am already getting frustrated, and she's not even here yet.
I have spent a lot of time buying, collecting, and arranging the furniture, appliances, linens, and all the thousand other things she needs for the apartment. I know there will be lots more work ahead, every week, forever. I truly don't mind doing it -- until I get micromanaged by my husband, or his sister completely fails to thank or even acknowledge me, or something stupid and little like yesterday when I asked MIL what kind of coffee she would like me to buy for her, and she said, "Oh, get whatever kind DH likes best! Because he will be coming to visit me!"
Now, I know she didn't mean anything by that. She didn't mean that she doesn't want me to visit, or that she is implying that I won't, or that she doesn't care if I like the coffee. But it was in the middle of a very, very long day of getting the furniture moved in, cleaning, shopping for, and setting up the apartment, on top of which it just happened to be One Of Those Days where every little thing went wrong, you know? (Even, amusingly and ironically, that the little treat I bought myself to cheer myself up -- that was one of my mom's self-preservation tricks -- turned out to be rotten and made my hands and my car stink unbearably.)
At times like this -- and, again, she's not even here yet! -- I feel like I just can't be the kind of person I want to be: patient and unselfish and mature, but not a chump or a doormat, either. At those moments, it feels like I either have to be a b***h or a saint, and I don't want to be either of those things; I resent feeling like I'm forced into that position. And then I feel guilty for not being able to set aside my ego more than that; why is it so important that I navigate this, even my own emotions, with impossibly perfect serenity?
Reading through some of the posts on this forum has already helped me, if only by seeing that I am not alone and reminding me how much harder so many others have it (and I may later).
So thank you already, and in advance, too.

Comments (3)
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What a journey you are on! My heart goes out to you, my wish for you is for strength and peace. Starting today, set aside time/place for you. Not to do your other chores, or things for other people, but just time for you. Make an appointment with yourself. It can be a walk in the city or in the woods. An hour at the library or a museum. A silly movie. A yoga class or an ice cream sundae. But it's for you. Time to be by yourself and for yourself. Be selfish for yourself, and keep it up, week after week. Make it a habit from today on.

To more practical matters, my helpful hint for you is to set boundaries, especially time-wise. My mother would call and need something at the store. Unless it was an emergency, I'd say, even if I had the afternoon free, "I'll take care of it tomorrow," or "We'll put that on your shopping list." I was rarely at her total beck and call, and I didn't feel guilty. I had to have a little control of my own life. Set schedules from the start. Your DH will run errands on Saturday morning, for example. Not on demand, but save up things for that time. Make sure that his investment in time for his mother is also structured. When you make her doctor appointments, make them by your schedule. Never ever change your own appointments for hers unless it is an emergency.

Hope this helps a little. Caregiving feels like a lonely road, no matter how many of us walk the same way. Reach out to others, find a support group. go into the woods and scream. It all helps.

2 Likes Save     Thanked by gellchom
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CA Kate z9

Ditto to everything Sushipup just said.

Also, it is important that your MIL get involved in the activities at the new place and meet new people. This won't happen if you spend all day everyday with her. At first you might make all your visits ones that take her out into the 'community' to get her started. (Some Homes are more proactive about this than others so you'll have to make a judgement on that.)

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I took care of my parents at their home until they passed but now am visiting friend every 2 weeks at nursing home. I'll call her Jo. when her hubby was alive she stayed in the room with him but after he died she seemed to stay in bed more until I think the staff encouraged her to "go to ice cream social" "church services" "exercise class" " try eating in dining room" well, it worked. She now does all those things. So find out all the programs they have at the assisted living place, things right at the home & outings she may be able to go on, "trip to mall" etc. Does she like to play cards or a certain board game, might be good to buy one & that can be good way for her to make friends. Usually they eat in dining room so see if you can eat there with her 1st time or 2. She will feel better about it & not so alone & you can maybe talk to couple of people & introduce them to your MIL If they are excited to meet her that's good, if they don't act interested, try someone else. Don't know about boyfriends, if he has mental decline might give her problems. I'd try with getting her acquainted with women 1st. I'm sure guys will come around soon enough if they are interested(harder to get away from them if you live in same building & find you don't like them) some have marriage on the mind or her money too) I'd set shopping for same day every week that way she can't call at 10pm & say go get me some ice cream, Ok mom, I'll put that on our grocery list. Notice I said "our" grocery list(she will feel like she has more control) We'll go to the Dr. or We'll ask what the Dr. thinks, OK mom. She will be much more agreeable if she feels included & will do better I think. Also by using "we'll" she knows you are helping her not taking over. If they have a nice outdoor area & she likes being outside, that's a great place for her to meet people but good idea if hubby & you are ones to take her out there 1st time, might bring a little treat to enjoy out there together. Good Luck & Be sure you try to keep your hubby on same page as you, You can laugh & say, mom(or whatever you call her) so glad you like same coffee as DH makes it easier to shop! On big decisions tho you need to be together. Like does she have a health directive, you need a copy & be sure exactly what she wants. Most of worry will be over when she gets there, lot of work to set it all up for her. Does this place have nursing home should things progress or do you need to look into 1 in case. Lot of time you can find out about ones in your area on Internet. Find 1 with good rating & good food if possible. Also if she wants to eat breakfast in her room be sure she has what she needs for that, might show up occasionally to see if she leaves stove on with no food or with food & pan is burning, etc. If she has a fridge with food in it you need to label things when you put them in & then see if she is eating them in timely manor. Good Luck!

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