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How to handle FIL

(5 Posts)
Rainycity Fri 06-Oct-17 09:33:25

Hopefully posting in the right thread: technically my FIL isn’t very old (69) but has issues experienced my older people so I’m posting here in the hope someone might be able to share their views.

My FIL has various health issues which affect him neurologically, which led to him being medically retired a couple of decades ago. He can get by with day to day stuff by himself, just carefully, and uses a walker. He is on his own, and pretty much lives like a hermit. He lost all social contact and has no hobbies. We worry about his isolation and encourage him to try new activities, but he’s not interested. He doesn’t eat well (he calorie-counts and misses meals, and his cupboards are usually bare) but he tries to hide this by saying ‘oh I ate earlier’. It’s not a financial thing: he just chooses to live a frugal existence for whatever reason. We think he is depressed but don’t know and haven’t asked. He doesn’t wash properly either even though DH persuaded him to have a walk in shower installed. He just books a kettle to fill the basin to have a wash with a flannel.

We visit when we can, which admittedly could be more frequently but tbh DH gets quite stressed out after visiting so we only go maybe once every couple of months. He tries to downplay any difficulties and talks up what he’s been doing. I know it’s so that we don’t worry or try to stage any kind of intervention! He isn’t much of a talker; they communicate weekly by text and we showed him how to use Facebook Messenger so I contact him too, with updates of our DS who was born this year.

He has been very happy about becoming a grandad (always enthusing on Messenger about him and asking to see new photos after I started sending them) but hasn’t been over to visit - even though he lives on a direct train line (1.5 hour journey door to door) and we both live close to the station. He had talked of coming to ours for Christmas but on Messenger yesterday he said that wouldn’t be possible (without saying why) even though DH offered to drive him here and back.

DH has always worried about his dad; he fears for the future for when he’s responsible for his parents (and disabled brother).

I suppose writing this down I realise its a case of DH and my FIL having a frank conversation to address these issues, but both are very avoidant. I don’t think I should get too involved - but as DH says, my FIL talks to me more than him. Since he has learned to use Messenger he often initiates conversations with me, so I try and keep up the convo so that there’s so form of social interaction - but it has to be on his terms e.g he doesn’t like to talk on the group messages I make to both sides of the family with updates about DS, and he seemed to get upset after I raised the topic of Christmas.

Does anyone have any advice? Not sure there’s much I can do but wonder if anyone has been in a similar kind of situation?

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Fri 06-Oct-17 09:42:26

He can do day to day stuff with a walker and you want him to catch a train and come for Christmas? That sounds a bit unreasonable.

I wonder if you're looking at his situation from your perspective. What I mean is that you are thinking about how you would feel: isolated, few friends etc. Is he happy? Is he lonely? What does he actually want from you in terms of a relationship?

I think until you have answered those questions you will struggle to understand him. Once you have established the parameters of the relationship, even if they are not what you would feel are normal or right, and accepted them things will become easier.

If he is at risk of harm that's a different matter.

Rainycity Fri 06-Oct-17 12:07:19

Hi thanks for replying.

Yes I guess reading it back it does sound a bit unreasonable for him to get the train; I guess that expectation was set by my FIL as he said a few times he would do so, but put it off. I guess he doesn’t feel up to it but doesn’t want to say so directly.

You make a good point: I’m not sure tbh what kind of relationship he wants. Since becoming a grandad he talks often of wanting to spoil his grandson and contacts me quite frequently about him - I think I took that to mean he wanted a bit more contact. Maybe I’m wrong, I think he probably would like us to visit him more often. I think maybe I got a bit caught up with the fact that something seemed to buoy his spirits and I wanted to encourage that.

I don’t think he’s at risk of harm, but hard to say the true picture since he doesn’t like to share what he’s experiencing. He only talks openly about the past: happier times for him.

Mosaic123 Sun 15-Oct-17 15:47:12

How could he carry a suitcase and catch a train while pushing a walker? It wouldn't be easy.

Rainycity Sun 15-Oct-17 17:53:31

An update: FIL visited yesterday - he came by train with my MIL (they’re divorced but amicable) as both wanted to see their grandson. He came using his stick and carrying a backpack. They stayed for a couple of hours and a nice time was had by all. He came with gifts for DS. I could see that his balance is worse than it used to be so understand why he was reluctant to do the journey solo. The main issue is his reluctance/inability to discuss or communicate his health/limitations openly with his family. When DH said to him, next time we will come and get you and you can stay with us for a couple of days, he just didn’t acknowledge him like he hadn’t said anything! DH had also previously text him to directly ask what the reluctance was with staying if we brought him over and back; no response. I find it puzzling as my parents would just openly say to me: ‘sorry it’s difficult for me to come because of XYZ’. My side of the family is very direct, his are the opposite!

Since my first post I decided to take a step back and not get overly involved. I just know in future there will be issues in terms of his care needs and FIL’s reluctance to ask for/accept help or acknowledge his declining health, and I want to help my DH.

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