Wedding Woes

She doesn't see you are supporting her, and want to protect your kid and her.

Dear Prudence,

My mother-in-law has always been difficult, but right now she is driving me to drink. She is in her 80s and could no longer live alone after two bad falls. She needed round-the-clock care that her family couldn’t provide (we collectively have been paying for outside help for years). The retirement home is very nice with lots of activities. It is located 15 minutes from our home so our family could visit. Now I am wishing we went with the ones near my sisters-in-law.

My wife visits twice a week with our 5-year-old and calls her mother every day. And all my mother-in-law can do is inflect misery all around. She wants to die. They should have left her on the floor of the house to rot. She could be in heaven with her husband, and instead, she is here. She hates it here. She just wants to die. She has gone on these rants in front of our 5-year-old. My wife has come home crying and our child is hysterical because they don’t want grandma to die. All of this is taking a serious toll on my wife’s mental and physical health. She feels so guilty but there was nothing to be done. The doctors say my mother-in-law is mentally astute and has been put on antidepressants. My sisters-in-law visit and call when they can but my mother-in-law doesn’t feel the need to inflict all this misery on them. My wife is just the lucky one.

I have already put my foot down about taking our child on these visits. Two hysterical visits are too many. My wife tells me I need to support her here. I am trying to but I can’t stand to see her in such pain. Help!

—Misery

Re: She doesn't see you are supporting her, and want to protect your kid and her.

  • Don’t let your daughter go again, and encourage your wife to get into counseling. She may feel like she has to keep going to see her mother but she can have other support and tools to deal with the pain. She can choose to not go but you continually tell her not to isn’t going to help. 
  • I guarantee this is a family dynamic that has existed for a long time, it's just being pushed to the extremes now.

    I think it's smart to not let the child go, unless LW goes with them and can remove the child if necessary.  I think that LW's wife is really going overboard with the visiting, which is not only bad for her, but honestly for her mother as well. One of the things that my mother and I were very appreciative of when my great-grandmother had to go into the retirement home was that she was basically forced to socialize.  It's healthy for the person to be social and involved with the activities at the residence and I bet that LW's wife visiting and calling so often is allowing their mother to skip out on those things.

    LW's wife also needs to be in touch with the director or head of nursing.  These professionals are so used to dealing with elderly folx going through these very same things; they might have some resources and knowledge to help LW's wife.

    Then LW's wife needs to get into counseling to help support/unlearn/cope with her family dynamic and learn the tools to deal with her mother and her elderly mother (which are probably going to be 2 different things).
    charlotte989875downtondiva
  • Your wife needs to talk to the psychological staff on board and ask them for a recommendation for an outside therapist for HER.  She also needs to talk to them about the things that her mother is saying, past behavior FROM the mother and awareness that having your mental faculties does not mean you are not a gaslighting manipulating narcissist.  And the wife likely has a lifetime of guilt that is only compounded by the watching of her mom's deteriorating physical health and non stop guilt trips.

    Support your wife by getting her the help that she needs.  Put up the rules for your child's interaction but the only way to get your wife to understand all of this is for her to get this from an unbiased person who also has experience with this troubling kind of relationship dynamic. 

    FWIW MIL went through this SO MUCH with her mom.  And the staff in the places were SO HELPFUL because eventually MIL's mom would show true colors and they would be very much aware that she would turn on the routine. 
    VarunaTTshort+sassy
  • levioosa said:
    banana468 said:
    Your wife needs to talk to the psychological staff on board and ask them for a recommendation for an outside therapist for HER.  She also needs to talk to them about the things that her mother is saying, past behavior FROM the mother and awareness that having your mental faculties does not mean you are not a gaslighting manipulating narcissist.  And the wife likely has a lifetime of guilt that is only compounded by the watching of her mom's deteriorating physical health and non stop guilt trips.

    Support your wife by getting her the help that she needs.  Put up the rules for your child's interaction but the only way to get your wife to understand all of this is for her to get this from an unbiased person who also has experience with this troubling kind of relationship dynamic. 

    FWIW MIL went through this SO MUCH with her mom.  And the staff in the places were SO HELPFUL because eventually MIL's mom would show true colors and they would be very much aware that she would turn on the routine. 
    My dad’s mom is in an assisted living now, we had to move her after she could no longer care for herself. My mom and I have distanced ourselves for years from the manipulation and abuse but it was hard for my dad and his sister to see it. She was getting more and more erratic as age set it (late 90s). Finally the facility brought in psych after they figured out her pattern. And then psych confirmed what me and my mom had known for years, she was a textbook narcissist. In fact, per the psychiatrist, “one of the worst he’d ever seen.” Fun. But it helped open up my dad’s eyes to some of the family dynamics that had occurred over the years. Of course that only goes so far as the product of a narcissist mother who also refuses to get therapy and who also has taken some of the negative coping mechanisms and traits on, but at least it was a start. 
    And I'm guessing your dad needed a degreed professional to say this because when a loved one tells you it's hard to be believable especially after years of being gaslit.
    VarunaTTei34charlotte989875
  • @banana468 oh most definitely. My dad still gets upset at my mom but I can’t help that and it’s not my marriage to involve myself in. Meanwhile the rest of us (basically just not dad and aunt) were like “in other news, water is wet.” It had been the joke for years that everything had to be about her. It did feel vindicating to get an official diagnosis though. 


    image
    banana468ei34charlotte989875
  • levioosa said:
    @banana468 oh most definitely. My dad still gets upset at my mom but I can’t help that and it’s not my marriage to involve myself in. Meanwhile the rest of us (basically just not dad and aunt) were like “in other news, water is wet.” It had been the joke for years that everything had to be about her. It did feel vindicating to get an official diagnosis though. 
    Well, it's hard to break a lifetime of guilt especially if you actually care for the person who is treating you like crap. 
    levioosaVarunaTT
  • Hopefully the care facility has palliative care they can get MIL into since she isn't interested in prolonging her life 
  • The LW needs to encourage the wife to get counseling.  I understand and agree that it would be better for the wife to visit and call less, but that needs to be her decision.

    I didn't realize until I read some of your all's posts that there can be a lot of psychological help for residents of nursing homes.  It sounds like the staff could be really helpful in making suggestions also.

    My grandmother has always been a sweet, but emotionally fragile person.  She doesn't harp on it, like the LW's MIL.  But she's mentioned a number of times to my mother that she wishes the Lord would take her.  She's been saying that for 15+ years.  It upsets my mom and I really wish my grandmother would stop mentioning it to her.

    But I also understand why my grandma feels that way.  She's 98.  She's tired of living.  Her husband and many of her loved ones are gone.  When she passes away, I will be sad for myself and my mom.  But I will also be happy, because it is what she wants.
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    VarunaTTILoveBeachMusic
  • @short+sassy It's not true for every nursing home, but for the good ones, it's definitely part of it.  The staff for my "GG" was wonderful and truly helped give her a much better life than her living by herself in her apartment or living with us, could have done.  We know so much more now about elder care and can truly do great things to help make life comfortable.

    One of the stories I always share is that it was the retirement home GG was in, that was able to keep her safe while we had to transition her to full care and lockdown care because she developed Alzheimers (the residence had multi levels of care and she started off in basically the retirement community and moved through the varous levels).  The staff reported to her doctor that GG was having nights that she thought she was a young child, packing to go on a trip with her parents, BUT, the medication he put her on that was making her more lucid?  Was making her really scared because she knew she was losing her mind.  Between them all, they advised us to take her off the medication because "who cares if she thinks she's 9, going on a trip with her parents?  She's safe, she can't get out of the building, and she shouldn't have to be scared".  It was just so compassionate and also very pragmatic and we very much appreciated it.  After the experience with GG and my father, I have been very grateful for the doctors and staff that held us with compassion, but also didn't bullshit us.
    short+sassyILoveBeachMusic
  • @short+sassy I feel similarly about my grandma. It's hard on my mom who visits everyday and grandma has been talking about dying for as long as i can remember. But honestly, having dementia that's bad enough that you know that you have it, but you understand enough to know that you're confused but not being able to do anything about it sounds like a miserable existence and I feel so badly for her every single day. Honestly, I don't blame her for talking like that. 

    LW should let wife do whatever she needs to do and support her, but agree with keeping the child away from that kind of regular interaction. 
    VarunaTTshort+sassy
  • VarunaTT said:
    @short+sassy It's not true for every nursing home, but for the good ones, it's definitely part of it.  The staff for my "GG" was wonderful and truly helped give her a much better life than her living by herself in her apartment or living with us, could have done.  We know so much more now about elder care and can truly do great things to help make life comfortable.

    One of the stories I always share is that it was the retirement home GG was in, that was able to keep her safe while we had to transition her to full care and lockdown care because she developed Alzheimers (the residence had multi levels of care and she started off in basically the retirement community and moved through the varous levels).  The staff reported to her doctor that GG was having nights that she thought she was a young child, packing to go on a trip with her parents, BUT, the medication he put her on that was making her more lucid?  Was making her really scared because she knew she was losing her mind.  Between them all, they advised us to take her off the medication because "who cares if she thinks she's 9, going on a trip with her parents?  She's safe, she can't get out of the building, and she shouldn't have to be scared".  It was just so compassionate and also very pragmatic and we very much appreciated it.  After the experience with GG and my father, I have been very grateful for the doctors and staff that held us with compassion, but also didn't bullshit us.
    Also, those who weren't narcissists will still do things like lie to their kids that "The doctor said it's fine for me to keep wearing my kitten heels".  In a lot of these good facilities you have great therapists and people to interact with the children of the residents because they're the ones who are buying the clothing, checking in, and wanting to know the REAL story.  So you want them there to give the real deal and say, "Oh your mom is full of sh!t.  She needs orthotics and velcro sneakers and nothing with a heel ever." 
    VarunaTTflantastic
  • @banana468, since we were all talking about aging a bit yesterday.  Here's another sign of it.  I read your line about "orthotics and velcro sneakers and nothing with a heel ever", and I'm thinking, "Yessssss.  That sounds great."
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    VarunaTTbanana468Casadena
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