“My Mother-in-law is the Devil”

She was challenging even when you were newlyweds and with the grandkids, but since her husband died it has become unbearable. I wish I could tell this story with a lovely southern accent because that is how it was told to me. This is about a 96 year old woman who has the ability to alienate everyone around her. How do you provide care – when “caring” is almost impossible?

Not every family is the “front church pew perfect” they project on Sundays. When this really comes out is when caring for an aging loved one over a period of time. Imagine this woman and her stories over the last 16 years. Her Father-in-law passed away and her husband (the youngest son) has become her primary caregiver. Well, as every woman knows if the son is the caregiver – you were just automatically signed up to be a caregiver too. Women are typically the primary caregivers in all families. “The Devil” through her words and behaviors has successfully managed run off nearly everyone around her –  including family. From the way she tells it, the MIL has even made most of the staff at the care center hate her. As funny as this type of dynamic was in the movie “Monster in Law”, it isn’t healthy – even for the perpetrator!

One concern is with regards to her mental health. Has there been a good psychological evaluation recently? The behavior didn’t start recently, but are there undiagnosed mental issues that have just been allowed to progress and labeled as “just the way she is”? To continue the behavior to a point of even offending the one son who is trying to maintain a relationship – one has to question the motive. I also am concerned for her safety if she is this awful to the paid staff.  Could she become the victim of neglect or abuse due to how she is behaving towards the staff? Most staff at care facilities are amazingly patient, yet like all of us – even they have limits. Is it just that they walk a little slower to check on her when she rings her call light for assistance or are they a little more rough during assisting her with her shower?

To know that “the staff hate her” – is an alarm bell for me. There are a wonderful group of professionals called geropsychologists.  A Geropsychologist is “concerned with helping older persons and their families maintain well-being, overcome problems, and achieve maximum potential during later life.”   They can help you “unravel” difficult behavior and facilitate better communication.  Enlisting the help of a geropsychologist can assist in determining the best way to deal with “the devil” in your family.

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