Finding a balance caring for difficult mother-in-law

My husband and I have a 7 year-old son.  My work-from-home situation means he's with me whenever he's not in school.  He does activities 3x per week, but we make time for play, hanging out with friends, and even some volunteering.  Life isn't perfect, but we've found a balance.  We're happy.  

I feel sure, however, that life is about to change drastically.  (Beware!  Unleashing ugly frustrations....)  My mother-in-law has always been a lazy, opinionated, and demanding person.  (This seems to be everybody's opinion of her.  She has no friends and most of the family is no longer in contact with her.)  Her lifestyle choices have now caught up with her. My in-laws have a home 2 miles from us, but right now she's in a nursing home an hour away with insulin-dependent diabetes, hypertension, low-level dementia, and a host of other problems.  

We just learned that my warm and caring father-in-law will have to give up driving soon due to his eyesight, so he is trying to move her to a care facility near us.  I don't mind helping my FIL.  He is kind and thoughtful, so I have hopes that we can set up a reasonable driving schedule for doctor appointments, grocery shopping, hanging out, and such. My MIL, however, has a long history of wanting what she wants when she wants it, and he rarely tells her no.  She will "get a bee in her bonnet" about wanting something, and does not quit until she gets it.  

We make dutiful visits every weekend and try to make the best of them, but the setting is sad and her company is never nice.  Worse, she demands my FIL stay with her all day, and I see him slowly shutting down.  Although usually active and very "with it," he's close to 80 and needs more exercise/stimulation than just sitting next to her.  My son and FIL are best buddies but rarely get to see each other anymore.  Her care is also going to soak up most of his savings.  

1.  How can I get past our history and my resentment to help create a peaceful new balance for our whole family?  (Yes, this includes an attitude adjustment for me, but I'm not sure how to accomplish it.)  2.  How can I work with my FIL to help him understand he's got to find his own balance with her if he's not going to just throw away the rest of his life?  Are there any good books, websites, etc. that might help us?  I knew "the sandwich generation" would be hard, but when you don't respect or like the person who demands all the help?  Ugh.

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Hmm, some of the details here are a little unclear, but here's my perspective as a card-carrying member of the Sandwich Generation. (My husband just moved his long-difficult mother out of his childhood home into memory care; we have two little kids.) Your MIL is mentally ill (dementia, why don't you find out the exact dx), probably has been for a long time. Hopefully your husband and FIL can basically agree on that. Once you switch your framework, it may be easier to both find empathy for her situation, and draw boundaries around you and your child's involvement. Sorry, your husband and FIL are adults and can decide for themselves how much they will be around her. But you can and probably should say you're not going to visit her so often, even once she moves closer (and yes, all of you should help find a nursing home closer to FIL). Help set up your FIL with paratransit and meals on wheels. Get them an eldercare social worker (through the county). There are MANY services for seniors that your tax dollars are already paying for - tap into them. At the same time, maybe you and your child have an arrangement to spend every Wednesday afternoon (for example) with FIL, running an errand or two together and ending with ice cream. It will be nice for your child to maintain a bond with his normal grandparent. Count your blessings that your parents (who you didn't mention) aren't in the mix right now. Keep the lines of communication open with your husband, and don't just try not to express resentment; honestly, try not to feel it. How would you feel if your parent was mentally ill/incapacitated, and your spouse whined to you about it?

I'm not fully part of the sandwich generation yet but I'm starting to do more stuff for my parents (who sound similar to your in-laws) and I can see it coming. We also live near them, have a 7-year old, and I work from home.

Some things you could do to get your FIL more time away from your MIL:

* Suggest (or have his doctor suggest) that he go to an exercise class. There are some for older people and provide both physical and mental stimulation (talking to others). He might even get into a group that has coffee afterward. Or get him to sign up for a walking group.

* Are there any things that your MIL likes that you or your husband like? For example, my husband will take my mother to the opera or the symphony which they both like.

* Is there something that your FIL is good at that he could help your son do? Teach him carpentry or how to cook? Maybe have a regular playdate for the two of them so they can spend some time together.

* Can your FIL start meeting friends for breakfast or lunch?

* Can you find a book group or something similar for your MIL so she starts making some friends outside your FIL and has some mental stimulation of her own?

* If your MIL gets along okay with your son, one night a week could she have dinner and watch a movie with him, either at your house or your ILs' house? She gets out of the facility but isn't doing anything too stressful or strenuous.

For you, can you find any sympathy for her? Or be with her as a gift to your FIL?

It seems like a really really tough situation and you have my sympathy.