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Supporting spouse - PIL, dementia, controlling SIL

(188 Posts)
Slugslasher Wed 28-Nov-18 10:28:27

Quick background info: We have been NC with controlling sil (csil) for over 15 years for multiple reasons having lived away (the latter 4 years, at the other side of the world). 20 months ago when H retired we returned about 40 minutes drive from pil’s home. H also has a B and N(ice) sil (nsil) who along with csil live 5 minutes drive from pil.

csil has always been extremely (joined at the hip) close to pil and has over decades been a toxic influence on them and her brother and his wife until eventually bil and nsil saw the light and went no contact with her also. Despite csil’s best efforts both sons aided by their wives (me and nsil) managed to maintain a loving relationship with pil. Pil tried to steer their ship through all the ups and downs of their fractured family relationship - appeasing csil (as she screamed the loudest) allowing her full control of their lives.

Csil was widowed tragically in her early forties with two young children (she is now 58). We as a family were very supportive to her when this happened but sil decided ‘that part of her life was over’ and wore her widow’s weeds with aplomb. As the years passed sil and pil’s lives became more and more entwined with pil heavily involved with childcare so csil could carry on working. As pil became older csil then gradually turned the tables until neither could live without the other and she became the support to them. Eventually pil could not make any decisions for themselves, ran everything past her, domination of them was complete. Both of her now adult children still live with their mother. Both are ‘odd’ neither have managed to maintain adult relationships; their mother was highly controlling as they grew up; both were very unpleasant to us, we assumed this was due their mother’s toxicity - we did not add flames to any fires. NC was our way of managing csil and her little family.

csil in my opinion, has serious mental issues. She catastophises everything. She has cried wolf so many times that we now do not react until we see first-hand whatever crisis occurs (usually a storm in a teacup). Her anxiety levels are sky high and her anger and jealousy at my Dh - (her brother) even higher. Mostly I think the fact we moved away from the area and dared to have a happy life beyond the narrow confines of her life has angered her. She is now trying to use her ailing parents as a tool with which to control us and her other brother and wife.

Fast forward to the situation today : Both pil are now 90 (fil) and 87 (mil). Both with memory problems both 100% reliant on her, who is now self appointed carer. She is paid by pil to be their carer and because there are no assets (social housing - no savings) we volunteered to top up her earnings to make up her ‘wages’ so that she wasn’t out of pocket. Csil will not countenance outside help, until both brothers forced the issue and a cleaner was brought in to lighten the load. Nsil and I do not get involved in any decision making but support the brothers in a weekly rota to help. DH and I go every Tuesday. He does the grocery shopping, I prepare and serve the main meal (lunch), prepare afternoon tea for them to serve themselves and do some light housework. Bil and nsil do the same on Sundays. Csil manages everything else. Fil is blind, confused, has a severe tremor and diabetes. He has insulin injected every day (by csil because she is an ex nurse and fell out with the district nurses). Mil is on a zimmer, struggling to walk, completely confused and does not recognise she is in her own home now. Csil refuses point blank to consider care home for either of them and is in the process of autonomously taking them into her own home. Pil will do as they are told and are under complete control of csil.

Both brothers do not agree that she should do this but she is overruling them and steaming ahead with it.

Epic story. Thank you for reading if you have stayed with it.

I am using this as a way of keeping check on events as they unfold and will welcome constructive advice how to handle the fallout when csil crashes and burns. I am seriously worried about her (as much as I do not like her). Nobody could cope with what she is insisting on taking on.

I will add that DH has been emphatic that he has not worked for over 46 years to become a carer. I offered to take father into our home (fog) to lighten her load but DH will not budge.

Currently financial assessments are being made and occupational therapists are assessing csil’s home. We are aghast.

Slugslasher Fri 30-Nov-18 06:12:03

Just had word (via bil) that financial assessment has been done. OT have said they can’t install grab rails in her downstairs bathroom because the cladding on the walls won’t support them). Csil is asking for a meeting with her sibs as it appears she has been informed following the fa that their income falls considerably if she takes them in. It appears her plans will not be financially viable. Not sure whether she is going to throw in the towel and/or consider other options. The fact she is requesting a meeting is significant.

ajandjjmum Fri 30-Nov-18 11:28:58

She's going to want you to make up the difference financially. And probably help finance an extension to house them.

Can you see how cynical I am from having a rather grabbing SIL myself!

Maybe you, your DH, BIL and nice SIL need to meet beforehand to discuss the options you think you may be presented with, and how you'll respond, so that you will all be singing from the same hymn sheet?

GhostSauce Fri 30-Nov-18 11:44:30

She's going to ask you to pay the difference.

Slugslasher Fri 30-Nov-18 20:38:01

Both nsil and I have had a chinwag. We are on the same page. DH has reaffirmed with me today that he is not going to financially support his parents to live with her because he knows this will break his sister both mentally and physically. He is adamant he is not going to be coerced into her ‘care plan’ plans. Nsil has also told her DH not to ‘volunteer’ her services either. Bil runs his own business and works 6 days a week - his only day off is a Sunday and he goes round to his parents to do his bit then. We have a busy time over Christmas holidays managing our own family (new grandchild) two sons and wives visiting all over the holiday period. Csil has been (demanding) requesting holiday cover for herself. I have withheld my services apart from the day we do their grocery shopping. DH is going to go on his own other days to give csil some respite. Sparks will fly I fear at family meeting. I am not attending due to my decision to remain NC with csil. It remains to be seen what what happens next. Csil is hitting a stone wall with us now. Mil needs 24/7 care soon. Fil has no capacity to look after himself because domestically he is of the generation of men who did nothing at home. He doesn’t even know how to switch the cooker on. Dreadful situation because despite our stance - we do love them dearly. We both think they would be better off cared for in a home. Up to now Csil has been resolute she won’t consider it because she fears they will be neglected. She cannot let go of control to others.

Slugslasher Wed 19-Dec-18 17:43:31

Following my last post it has been confirmed by SS that mil will qualify for fully funded care in a care home and fil (because he can still do his own personal care) qualifies for carers to come into his home to do meds and meals.

Csil is not agreeing to any of this and after a meeting with ss, they have agreed to give her a further small weekly sum of money to enable her to bring in her own (trusted) help. She is planning to take them into her home after the Christmas holidays and become their full-time carer. We cannot fight her/their parents/social services who all seem to agree that this is the next step forward. A meeting will be held again with siblings after Christmas to discuss how and when the move will happen. Both I and my nsil are stepping back and not getting involved whilst siblings decide with the next step forward. H has specified he does not agree that csil should take them into her home because she will inevitably not cope as they deteriorate. Bil is at the end of his tether with the situation as his work commitments are all consuming, he cannot cope with his parents too. Pil especially mil are slipping away from reality they have no idea the strain they are putting on their family. Csil is adamant that only she can look after them and has made the decision.

Needmoresleep Thu 20-Dec-18 09:43:00

Sometimes you need to just step back, and reserve your emotional and physical energy for the (inevitable) crisis.

You have done what you can. The SiL is an adult as are your PiL.

I could not do anything for five years after my dad died. I knew my mother was not coping. I would tell DB, who told me I was "visiting too often" and that my mother "valued her independence". I remember explaining it all to DC and explaining that I was powerless to prevent whatever might happen next. As it was she fell when outside so was found, and lo and behold I was expected to pick up the pieces.

So, as far as you can, enjoy the lack of responsibility. It is out of your hands. At least for now.

Slugslasher Thu 20-Dec-18 19:39:43

This is what we will have to do. H has committed to paying his sister the top-up of wages as agreed when she gave up her job to look after them until she draws her own occupational pension next year. We will review that part of the equation then.

Everything is as it is now until after the Christmas holidays. Unless anything occurs before then and fil agrees (he hasn’t been consulted yet as he can’t remember from one day to the next) I think once all arrangements are made csil will get her way.

I am waiting for the storm of emotional blackmail to happen but currently we are resolute that this is her and their decision - not ours. Bil and nsil are of the same opinion as us.

Slugslasher Sun 23-Dec-18 08:03:43

Quick update: True to form on Christmas week csil has declared she is giving notice to HA that the house is being given up. Csil assumes we jump and how high regarding removal of furniture and clearing house. We are going today to pil (a care day for us in lieu of Christmas Day) and will assess their opinion (for what it’s worth because they bend with the wind these days). We have no other acceptable option to offer. Pil would be separated if mil goes into a home and fil left to carers. Csil wants to take them in - she sees it as in their best interests. She has effectively given up her life for them. I want to remain NC with her for my own reasons, nsil is equally unhappy in her relationship (csil physically attacked her several years ago) so neither of us will help with respite once they move into her home; bil is overwhelmed with work (self employed tradesman) and H is still emphatic that he doesn’t want to spend his own retirement as carer. Csil is heading for a breakdown with what she is taking on. I am worried for all of them.

poppoppop100 Sun 30-Dec-18 00:54:30

Why is our CSIL the bad guy? You go in once a week and yje other siblings go in another day a week, and beyond that it is all down to CSIL!
I don't know why you are not kissing the ground she walks on! o you have no idea how hard it must be caring for 2 people with such complex and profound needs!!
she has enabled your PILs to be together snd in their own home all this time.Do ou reall think the would prefer to be in a care home or split up than living with our SIL???

It is guilt at letting our SILdo everthing that is making you turn against her.
I have seen this so many tmes before
If I were your CSIL I would not piss on ou if you were on fire!!

Slugslasher Sun 30-Dec-18 16:14:57

That’s the perception that I would expect from an outsider who doesn’t know the family history @poppoppop 100. I haven’t been ‘no contact’ for 15 years without reason. The fact her parents are now ailing and she cannot cope is the only reason I personally have got involved. I acknowledge whole heartedly the sacrifice she is making in order to keep them together. There has been absolute ructions between her and her father over the Christmas break. Both brothers are calling a meeting (again) next week to try to avert the inevitable meltdown that is going to happen. Csil looks on the verge of a breakdown, she will break if she takes this on. I think she needs someone to step in and take the decision from her because she clearly can’t relinquish control. She has chosen this life for herself, they are complicit in that decision. We have not had any input in any of their choices and have no wish to be emotionally blackmailed into compliance now.

ReflectentMonatomism Mon 31-Dec-18 08:13:54

I have worked with a succession of women (always women) who had “chosen” (those scare quotes are as big and scary as you like) to remain single and care for their parents. They have without exception become bitter and controlling, with a huge air of martyrdom combined with a refusal to see reality. I can imagine that for their siblings it is impossible to deal with reasonably, especially once housing is pooled. A hard situation.

Slugslasher Mon 31-Dec-18 09:23:15

You’ve got it in one @ReflectentMonatomism. Csil although is living the ‘reality’ does not and will not accept that her siblings do not want to to go further down the road that she has chosen for herself. The going is tough for us all now but once pil need personal care (both are continent, mil barely able to make it to the toilet due mobility issues) it will get physically harder. Csil wants us all along with herself to be held prisoner to their needs. Mil now cannot be left alone because her memory is non-existent, she panics if there is nobody in her vicinity. Fil had his chocolate confiscated by csil; he (although he is blind) went out to the local shop to buy more leaving mil alone. Mil in panic managed to phone both csil and nsil (they all live 5 mins drive from their house) csil then raised merry hell with fil (once he was found). All hell broke loose. Bil told us that csil’s behaviour would be classed as ‘abuse’ if witnessed by anyone else. I see a woman at the end of her tether but she can’t let go.

ReflectentMonatomism Mon 31-Dec-18 09:50:15

I see a woman at the end of her tether but she can’t let go.

Because her whole identity is wrapped up in being the selfless carer, and that in turn means that her whole conception of her parents' best interests is enmeshed with hers. She has no life other than through her parents.

Slugslasher Mon 31-Dec-18 10:48:37

You are absolutely spot on @ReflectMonatomism. The added burden is she relies on the income from them to keep the wolves from her door. She draws her own occupational pension next year. We top up her earnings - a commitment we made whilst we were overseas (as our contribution because we weren’t there physically). We agreed that this will carry on no matter what happens (if either of them died eg) until she drew her own income. It is now a substantial part of our own monthly income but we will honour it because we acknowledge her sacrifice is worth far more. If and when they go into care (or with her), the finances affect her negatively. She is (for now) adamant she is going to be her mother’s carer until the end. Father has in the past said “she can go there but I’m going nowhere”. He can be reasoned with. When I quietly talk to him he has said he would go into a home but he isn’t strong enough to stand up to csil who has been their ‘dominator’ for decades and he forgets because his memory is deteriorating rapidly.

ReflectentMonatomism Mon 31-Dec-18 11:49:36

The added burden is she relies on the income from them to keep the wolves from her door


That is territory ripe for abuse.

Slugslasher Mon 31-Dec-18 15:48:20

Whilst money is an issue with csil, I do not believe that is her motivation for the decision she has made. The reason she gave up her paid employment was because she couldn’t cope with their increased demands and carry on working. She made herself too available for them until they depended on her for every mortal thing. The decision for them to pay her to be their carer was made jointly between themselves. We were just informed about it as decision made. Csil was originally just dropping round making sure all was well. Now their care is full time and more. She has made a huge rod for her own back. Old family history (her behaviour towards her siblings) deemed her isolated from us all. We have been dragged into this against our own will, have assisted until now we realise our lives are being impacted by her decisions. We are trying to make a stand. Csil is used to her family deferring to her wishes (I opted out 15 years ago). Nsil has been supporting her husband because he is stressed with work and has been suffering with depression (the sheer enormity of parents needs has got to him). They are well loved but we can’t (won’t) put our lives on hold in order to comply with csil’s ‘care-plan’ - both brothers have agreed this and both I and nsil have drawn our line in the sand and refuse to be handmaidens to csil.

Slugslasher Mon 31-Dec-18 16:10:33

New Years Day. We are ‘rostered’ to do day care. Our family visitors have now gone home. We will assess the situation then.

Stickywhitelovepiss Mon 31-Dec-18 19:11:58

I feel for you Slugslasher... We are 2 years out of a similar dementia / elderly care scenario, which was trauma enough - but thank God DH is an only child and the decisions made were our own...

SS will in our experience use any excuse not to intervene in these circumstances (we had a year-long, utterly soul-destroying battle on our hands to get my MIL with severe dementia the help she needed), and I fear for a time your CSIL will constitute just that.

Harsh but true to advise simultaneously kicking up an absolute stink with SS (use terms such as "failure in safeguarding" and "financial abuse", etc.) and withdrawing all support from this insane DIY "care plan", and let the inevitable (as in move to care home) happen sooner rather than later - hopefully with sanity on all parts still at least residually intact...

(Not meaning to insult any social care peeps reading - individuals were at times great; the system though in our case, not so much...).

Stand firm OP, and feel free to PM me.

Slugslasher Tue 01-Jan-19 23:49:38

Well today New Year’s Day H and I had an emotionally draining discussion with pil.

Mil admitted she can’t cope any more in their home whilst ‘in denial’ fil tried to placate her. I got H to one side and urged him to have ‘the conversation’ in order to find out what they really want to happen as opposed to what csil has said ‘is’ going to happen.

Mil wants to live with csil but doesn’t want to be separated from Fil (married and devoted to each other 65 years). Fil realises that mil needs 24/7 care and admitted that as ungrateful as it sounds wishes it was not their daughter who was going to give it. He actually said (with no prompting from us) that csil “needs professional help” as she is mentally ill. We gently explained that mil qualifies to go into a care home but he doesn’t. Mil cried and said she doesn’t want to be separated from Fil and he obviously reciprocates. Mil went round and round in circles forgetting the conversation minutes after having it. She hasn’t capaciity to realise the impact and strain her (their) wishes will have on their daughter. Fil gets it. He really gets it. He knows the situation perfectly - he has just been keeping his head down and hoping the status quo remains as it is. We left the situation ‘open’ until a sibling meeting arranged for later this week. We don’t have solutions to offer. I don‘t think fil is strong enough to a) stand up to csil and refuse to comply with moving in with her and b) separate from mil and accept her going into care.

Very distressing to witness.

Bil is adamant because of csil’s behaviour over Christmas (he has a very disturbing answerphone recording of pil crying saying “she’s gone mental” as evidence that csil should not take them in. He fears escalation. Csil is in their words ‘a heart attack waiting to happen’. My observation is she is on the verge of a breakdown.


Namenic Wed 02-Jan-19 00:42:26

You sound like you are doing all you can. I’m not sure if an IMCA would be suitable (independent mental capacity advocate).

Sometimes you just have to let the s* hit the fan before people realise how crazy their plan is. In terms of separating pils - I dunno if there is any alternative to staying with csil unless you fund fil care home place - but then what happens if funding runs out (eg due to change in financial circumstance)?

Slugslasher Wed 02-Jan-19 08:52:23

There are no contingency funds whatsoever. Csil loses her income if she relinquishes responsibility (not sure if this is her motivation but it is obviously a consideration). Self-funding for fil is not an option unless we stump up - we are already committed to topping up csil's income. Bil and nsil live from month to month on their income, no extra capacity there. We have some heart-wrenching decisions to make as a family and csil is used to deference. H is in turmoil because he loves his parents but is adamant he is not going to be a carer (I have still offered to take in fil despite my head telling me it would ruin our lives and much planned-for retirement plans). H is strong, he will let his head rule his heart. Fil could live another 10 years his constitution is robust, despite his advanced age. Csil plays ‘dirty’ (a reason for my NC) if she doesn’t get her way. I won’t get involved in decision-making or indeed go to meetings as I want to stay NC. I am now an observer and support for H who along with his brother might have to overrule the woman who has given up her life for their parents and make the decision to separate them or watch his sister crash and burn under the strain of responsibility. Horrendous situation.

ReflectentMonatomism Wed 02-Jan-19 09:19:33

Sometimes you just have to let the shit hit the fan before people realise how crazy their plan is

That assumes that they do realise that the plan was crazy, and not argue that it was a perfectly sound plan that would have worked had others delivered the help that was needed.

I am often accused of being hard and unfeeling because my habit is to look at the endgame before doing anything. For example, I won't take my elderly parents shopping, or get food for them: they need to do online food shopping, of which they are perfectly capable, and I am not willing to enable their entirely irrational objections for fear that it becomes a habit. Unfortunately, a lot of people have long passed that point before reality intrudes. I can see slippery slopes, and won't event stand at the top and look down.

Slugslasher Wed 02-Jan-19 11:51:38

I’ll come back after the meeting. Nsil said there was ‘no fight’ is csil’s voice when she was last in contact with them (since ‘Christmasgate’ ). There has been less ‘nastiness’ (by note on board in recent communication - more icy politeness. I am wondering if realisation and/or a change of heart/direction is in the air. We shall see.

Thanks for listening. Seeing it written down helps. Csil will manipulate events to show us in bad light no matter what. She is a master of toxicity at the best of times. She might use this as an excuse to blame us as her get-out clause. We want what’s best for pil. We can take what crap she flings at us. I am impervious to her as long as I stay NC.

Fortysix Wed 02-Jan-19 16:52:32

Following my last post it has been confirmed by SS that mil will qualify for fully funded care in a care home and fil (because he can still do his own personal care) qualifies for carers to come into his home to do meds and meals.
Hope the meeting has a positive outcome for your PIL. It would be good if SS recognise your Csil is on her knees and take into account what PIL are telling the rest of the family and push for the above.
My experience of SS for my parents in their local area was first class. With luck SS will play a blinder and look for solutions beyond what Csil proposes.

OhDearGodLookAtThisMess Wed 02-Jan-19 19:01:19

If they qualify for funding (PIL fully and MIL partially), then are you still happy to be paying your SIL's expenses for the forseeable future? And what happens to her once they are no longer here? Have you effectively signed-up for being financially responsible for her for good? Is she employable in future?

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