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Old 11-06-2014, 08:35 PM
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I'm back again for some advice. My mother in law, the one we took to see her dying sister the other day. The dying sister, btw, has now been moved from Hospice to a Rehab facility. The dying sister, has so much wrong with her, and is not even ambulatory, and can't be operated on for the myriad of problems, because she's in such poor health, .. and so I don't expect the Rehab Facility will be the end result, I suspect I nursing home will likely be more the case.

But my mother in law, is the question this time.

Do old people get to where they begin to push people out of their lives and away?

My mother in law has a lot on her plate, with her sister, who isn't doing well, lives about 3 hours south of here, and she isn't able to manage getting their on her own, .. she also can't really be of much help were she to get there, with her own health issues, and I understand this is a trying time for her, very sad time.

But I'm seeing a pattern that is concerning me. She is pushing people out of her existence. She, at one time, had a group of church ladies that would come by once a week, and they'd sit and have bible study and sometimes they'd meet for lunch. She has pushed them to the periphery, saying she just isn't up to it anymore.

Her oldest son, disowned and doesn't speak to her, from years back (causes were unfounded on his part), we suspect he has some mental disorders that were never dx'd. But whatever, .. he hasn't spoken to her in years, or any of the rest of us for that matter, because of some perceived slight on the part of his mother. Unfounded. But so he's out of the picture, and that is deeply troubling to her as she progresses through her waning years. She will never be able to get a handle on the fact that he can turn and walk away from his entire family and not answer to it, which is what he did do.

This son has two sons, her two grandsons, .. and they never call her, (they don't live local). But years go by and they never call her. One of them finally did call the other nite to tell her Happy Bday and she didn't even know who he was, and when she did finally gather her witts about her, to understand who she was talking to (didn't help her called and woke her up after midnite)... she finally gathered who she was talking to, and basically told him not to call her anymore, that he never calls, he nor his brother, that she long ago lost their dad, and that she figured she'd lost them too, .. because they never call, told him to go have a nice life, and she really means that, but that she doesn't want him to bother with her.

She has a daughter that lives in another state, and that daughter is married to a guy who has suffered from a lifetime of Bipolar disorder, to the degree that he is on disability and pretty much just a shell of a human from the drugs he has to take to keep his BP in ck. And so the daughter, when she'd come see her mother, would always bring him with her, because the daughter has to be vigilant and look after him. Mother in law has told her daughter to not come anymore if she has to bring him, that she just can't be around it, and so she can't come, if she has to bring her husband, which limits the daughter's ability to come, because the daughter does have to look after her husband.

She is just pushing more and more people out of her existence.

Is this common?
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:13 PM
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While everyone is different, what your mother-in-law is doing is not uncommon.

Could be related to a hearing loss, even slight. Reduced visual acuity. Even slight memory difficulties. Reduced energy. Depression. Or, grief, which is different from depression. Could be that a lot of activity is too stimulating.

I just keep loving people as they go through their stages and phases of life.
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Old 11-07-2014, 06:11 AM
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She is in her mid eighties and does have some hearing loss, but not bad, and her vision is no worse than any other elderly person, her mind is as sharp as it ever was. But her stamina, of course, is not at all what it was, understandable, and her ability to handle frustrations and life's common mishaps, seems really diminished.

The normal frustrations we all experience, having to call the cable company because somehow your bill they sent you is too high, and navigating the phone tree, to talk to a human, and then that human is from some other country and she can't understand the person. Frustrating for all of us, but almost insurmountable for her. Yet, she won't let anyone take it on for her. She wants to handle things and remain independent. The normal daily grind of having to call the insurance company because they didn't pay such and such medical bill. She wants to do it herself, but finds it wears her out, staying on top of such things anymore.

She has balance issues as a result of a small stroke many years ago, and walks on a cane, and struggles with her balance. She probably would benefit from a walker (which she has), but doesn't want to give in and do so.

So, this is a person who has been more loving, and understanding through her years, than the average. She has seen a lot of trials and so forth in her life, and always very loving and understanding, and accepting of almost anyone and anything. But we're finding more and more, that her patience, tolerance, and the mere fact that she is pushing more and more people to the periphery, it's troubling.

Her daughter, who would absolutely breathe for her, if she'd allow it, comes .... or did ... as often as she can. In fact, the arrangement prior to the daughter retiring (which was this past spring) had been that once the daughter retires, they would spend more time together, the mother in law would go up that way and spend a few months, and vice versa. The daughter lives several states away. But now, now that the daughter has retired, and has come some, with her husband, she has told her daughter the above arrangement is off the table, she can't tolerate being around her daughter's husband, and that her daughter should not come either, if it means she has to bring him. This husband isn't abusive, or loud or obnoxious or anything else. He is just minded, constantly, by his wife (the daughter) ... reminded, like you would do a child, to take his pills, and reminded constantly to not eat certain things (he is diabetic) .. reminded constantly for most things that most of who function normally can do on our own, time to go shower, time to go shave, etc. That kind of thing, the mother in law, just can't be around it anymore. She resents the husband, .. and has said so, to her daughter, ..resents what his "condition" has done to take away what should be a vibrant active life for her daughter, who has relegated herself to a caretaker to her husband, and minding his every move. So she can't tolerate being around it, and has told her daughter not to come if it means she has to bring her husband. That now limits when/how long the daughter can come, because the daughter has no one else who will be as vigilant in watching after the husband.

It's just very troubling to see her push everyone away.

Even the ladies that used to come for bible study and they would occasionally meet for lunch, is now more than she wants to do, and has asked them to cross her off the list, and don't bother with her anymore. And they, after much attempt to keep her engaged, finally have backed away.

I feel bad for her, she is all but a shut in pretty much, anymore. She does drive herself (though it's debatable that she should do so) but about the only places she goes are to the doctor and the pharmacy and the grocery, that's it. We go and get her when we can, but we both still work for a living, .. we take her out to dinner/lunch, and she more than willingly joins me and my husband (my husband is her son) when we are available and ask her. She hasn't shut us out, ... yet. And we are all she has here. My husband goes over to do things for her, when he's got the time, change light bulbs, fix a fence, unclog a drain, etc. etc.

She lives alone, in the house she and her husband shared, and she wants it to stay that way. She isn't a candidate even if she had the money (and she doesn't) for assisted living facilities. She wouldn't go to that kind of setting even if money were no object. It's not her cup of tea. And besides that, (her words) "those are all old people, on oxygen, and barely able to move, and I'm not gonna go sit around all those old people and talk about all of our infirmities all day long".

It's encouraging that she did mention the other day that she is going to talk to her doctor about putting her back on the Zoloft (anti depressant) she was put on when her husband died several years ago. So, at least she recognizes, that maybe she is fighting some depression issues. I think the thing with her sister who is somewhere in a state of limbo between very poor health that is probably not survivable, and death .. but not at death's door yet ... I think that whole thing has her very sad, understandably so.

Her son who quit speaking to her several years back, .. she writes letters to him periodically that go unanswered. Letters that apologize for whatever she did wrong, that she doesn't even know, but she's sorry. It's sad, if it were most of us, who have jobs, responsibilities, kids, and other distractions, it would be very painful, to have a son do this to you, but it would be something you would, maybe out of necessity, shelve as best you can, because there's nothing else you can do, and life and it's demands require you to get on with it. She can't do so. She obviously no longer works for a living, and she is all but a shut in, for the most part, ... and so that whole situation eats her alive.

And just in case anyone wonders if any of the rest of us have reached out to this son to try to get this mended. Numerous times, and many of us. He doesn't answer to any of us anymore. We suspect he has some undx'd mental issues, but he is in his early 60's and there's nothing one can do for someone who won't even speak to you.

When we did reach him, a few years back and talk to him, and ask him point blank, "Ok, so you think your mom is the worst person to ever walk the planet, why have you cut the rest of us out of your life?". His answer was, "I want nothing to do with her, ever again .. cut me out of your lives, consider me dead, and to have anything to do with any of the rest of you, is to put me back in her life and I want nothing else to do with her, I'm dead to you all". And he hasn't spoken to any of us since, and attempts to call him, go unanswered, letters to him, go unanswered. We even went to see him (he lives in another state), purposely went there, just to show up, since you can't reach him. He was surprised to see us, of course, but not welcoming at all, and apparent he wanted nothing to do with us, and pretty much kind of vile about the whole thing. So we've left him alone.

This situation troubles her deeply and she isn't able to at this juncture in her life, absent any distractions, just put it away and move on. It would be hurtful for any of us, very painful. But, .. for her, at a point when her years are waning and her ability to distract with other things in life, .. it's almost more than she can deal with. And it tears her up.

It's just so troubling for us to watch all of this, and I just wondered is this a normal part of aging for some people, that they begin to push people in their lives, out.
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:14 AM
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It's very common.

She will eventually need a caregiver even if she is not in poor health. A better title for it may be a custodian or a companion to look after her personal business, such as bills, appointments, upkeep of the home and person, family matters, legal issues, etc.

If they run into medical problems, these things will get cast aside and snowball into something that can't be done alone. I've run across several situations where personal taxes weren't being prepared and filed for many years. I had to take more than 2 years out of my time to get 12 years of taxes and financial statements prepared for a deceased parent who stopped filing personal and business taxes after a heart attack. It was just too costly at the time to hire a forensic accountant to clean up the mess. The cost alone would've more than wiped out my mom's savings and put her home at risk. After he became ill, he became more secretive with his financial situation so no one knew anything before he died.
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:43 AM
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That's very worrisome. This is a woman who lives alone, thus far, in the home, which was actually reverse mortgaged before her husband died several years back. And so, there is no mortgage payment, the home will go to the bank in the end, which is fine, we all have homes, we don't need her home. We wanted her to be able to live as long as she can, where she's comfortable, and her own home fits that bill.

But this is someone who exists on SS income alone, that's it.

I don't know what we'll do when the day and hour comes that she needs more assistance, .. the funds aren't there. Her son and myself, .. we live here locally, but both are still working and that doesn't look to be changing, we barely eek by ourselves. My husband (her son) owns his own, (construction related) business, but it's just him and a helper, and so if they aren't working, no income. I work, but I don't qualify for FMLA, because she is an in law to me. I have checked, believe me, because there have been numerous visits to hospitals, and so forth, where she has needed assistance. My job can be placed in danger continuing to do so. So I checked into filing for FMLA, to be able to be of assistance, especially at a time that mother in law was hospitalized last winter. But I don't qualify, FMLA doesn't cover the care of in laws.

We are all she has here locally.

It's something that hangs over both my husband and myself, as we watch her continue to age, and worry what will happen.

My parents also live local and I am the only one for them also, but fortunately my parents are still very healthy.
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Old 11-07-2014, 08:44 AM
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If I may, I would say prepare yourself NOW (you and your husband) mentally, emotionally (and financially to a certain extent) to either be your MIL caretakers or caregivers/caretakers, OR fighter her to let you get more involved in her finances (so you can avert a financially disaster for her and make sure she gets the best med care -- OR be ready to be FORCED to the sidelines and watch her (perhaps) decline medically and mentally, while you just accept there's nothing you can do about it..that it is what it is. THAT last option will be the hardest, if it comes to that.

If you've been on these boards you know...that some elders maybe few -- I don't' know (like my mom), LET the adult child take over managing their finances and paying bills, overseeing investments, let the adult child start going to med appointments, and scheduling med appointments, an coordinating med care, her outings, keeping her social etc.

My mom was VERY compliant with all that needed to be done for her.

But I read here of many more stories of elders who fight their kids at every turn. THAT is the difficult situation. EVENTUALLY, the adult child has to decide how much am I -- CAN I time, energy, and money -- can I devote to constantly fighting with this person -- in order to help THEM.

Sometimes, people are forced to come to grips with watch their loved one live alone, in unsafe, unsanitary, unhealthy conditions -- dangerous and life-threatening conditions -- because the elder -- whoever it is (mom/dad/ grandma/dad, aunt uncle, brother/sister, son/daughter, even neighbor) -- won't let their own loved ones or people who care about them, HELP them to the extent that's really needed.

If bills aren't getting paid, if house maintenance isn't getting done, if med care is falling through the cracks -- then it's already past time for your MIL to let people starting taking over these areas. BUT, if she won't, you either have to coax her in to letting you do those thing, little by little....or it could get tot he point where she's putting her self in danger financially and physically -- by HER OWN DECISIONS.

It takes time sometimes DECADES....but that is why you sometimes read that a child has said, "when I get the call their in the hospital, or dead.....then I'll TRY to clean of the mess that's left behind. But until then, I'm out." I'm not spending money to go to COURT, to LEGALLY fight with him/her...to be made guardian, etc when 1) I might lose that argument...and 2) the whole thing could be avoided if they'd just be cooperative and let people do what's best for them.

The mental and emotional pain that accompanies that ultimate decision is palpable.

You MIL isn't allowing you to help her....when one grandson finally DID call, she told him don't call back. That's no way to keep people in your life...or try to open doors for improving a relationship. She told her lady friends (even if not literally) "cross me off the list." NOT the way to handle that if you really want to stay in touch and want to be cooperative and social.

Perhaps you can (if you don't already know) what her finances and medical conditions and situations are.....that way even if she doesn't let you manage those things...at least you're know what IS falling through the cracks, so when it all does deteriorate you won't be surprised by the mess you have to clean up.

Good luck. I hope you do NOT have have a long hard, draining fight ahead....even when the elder is totally cooperative, it's draining to start managing their affairs. BUt when they fight you providing the help, it's draining and frustrating.
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Old 11-07-2014, 08:52 AM
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Have you looked at getting property tax relief on her home? Many municipalities and counties will provide 100% abatement on the taxes. Her income is primarily Social Security. Her equity in her home is reduced now.

As I said, it's very common to things to go by the wayside when they're weakened by illness. The home is starting to go into disrepair, and I've started planning for remediation of the home and some remodeling for her loss of mobility. We had to get the stairlifts as an emergency measure when she got back from rehab after the last fall. She was able to climb the stairs with my help, but she soon lost the ability due to lack of interest in physical therapy.
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Old 11-07-2014, 08:54 AM
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OP - Its great that your MIL has asked her doctor about possible depression, that may be a part of what's going on.

After that - while I agree no family is perfect - if you (as a stranger) read about your MIL's family, well, its clearly no picnic. Her son has disowned her and she is pained by that. Her grandsons are unknown to her, and maybe the only way to make peace with that (for her) was to keep them that way. I can only imagine if she were to become close to them now, after never knowing them, and they decided to pull away as their dad had ... I imagine that would be tremendously heart-breaking. Her sister is dying and she can't be there regularly to provide comfort. Her daughter (whom she no doubts loves) has given up her life to care for a husband who (through no fault of his own) is a shell of the person she likely married. I applaud your mother-in-law for at least knowing her limits. She is likely afraid that if the husband is around too much she will say something she would regret, and so the only way she can maintain civility is to limit her contact.

Which isn't to say it wouldn't be better if she could forgive the husband, but let's face facts, sometimes after a lifetime of regrets/disappointments, there's one that just stands out that you perhaps can't-let-go. Maybe this is it for your MIL. She lost her son, and now she fears for her daughter, and all her hopes for her daughter are being destroyed - and there's nothing she can do to right the ship. So she just refuses to be around it.

She could scream and rant instead, at least she's chosen civility.

The fact that she has not withdrawn from you and your husband (I would assume you are the "normal" ones in the family) suggests it might not be wholesale withdrawl, but just that she can no longer "pretend" to be happy about circumstances that are not.

As far as the bible study, perhaps it was a lot of work to host the people? I know for my mother, the house would have had to have been perfect, and she would have prepared food (sandwiches/tea). If your MIL is on an extremely fixed budget, its possible that hosting them was becoming more and more difficult on her and she really just couldn't keep up with it (to her standards!). If she had difficulty driving (or walking) then simply having others host wouldn't have solved the problem for her. She may have been able to ask for a ride, but of course then that means asking for help - which she may not be ready to do.

Which isn't to say that her being by herself all the time is good, but that it may not be terrible - it just depends on why the decisions are being made. She may have perfectly good reasons for it, or it could be because of unseen issues (depression, grief) that are interfering with good decision making.

I would normally suggest you find some ways for her to feel needed (helping a grandchild bake cookies, caring for a fat lazy cat) - because often that is the best way for someone to stay engaged in the world, but you know her best to know if that is something that would cause her more stress at this time, or if its something that would bring her some feelings of competence and joy. (volunteering at the library for reading stories to young children?).
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:48 PM
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Thanks Briolat21. You are dead on with your observations of the whole situation. Her reality must be more than she can comfortably process in her later years.

She does have a little dog, and that little dog is treated like a prince, that's her baby, and her reason for getting up each day and functioning.

Maybe the doctor will rx some anti-depressant, and she will come out of this mode of pushing folks away, but maybe not. Maybe it's self-preservation more than anything else.
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Old 11-07-2014, 08:25 PM
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The subject has been brought up before. Many counties will provide help to the elderly where they have no family to do so. I believe it's staffed by volunteers so there may be a waiting list. For example, the county I live in has services to provide home aides, people to drive them to and from medical appts, meal delivery services, and so on.

Fairfax County Services for Older Adults*- Fairfax County, Virginia

Farther down the road when she needs instituttionalization, you're probably looking at getting her admitted under Medicaid. I've known several friends and acquaintances who have gone that route, including some I thought would have substantial financial resources to help their parents.
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