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How to protect ourselves from threats by mother-in-law?

My elderly mother in law came to stay with us approx. 15 months ago after freakish storms in our area caused her long time home to flood. She began staying with us while we handled getting the various issues of the clean up & repair necessary to get her home ready for her to live in once again. While staying with us we realized she was not in any shape to be caring for herself (even with her home being only 1 mile away from our home). She wanted to stay & seemed to like living with us so we fixed up a bedroom & said 'We love you & Welcome Home'. We go by & check her mail & see to her home regularly still, but she lives here with us. Her health has been declining. We FINALLY convinced her not to drive herself after multiple minor 'oops's' with her car. The last one being her hitting a parked car in a store parking lot - minor damage, all covered by her auto ins.. She fell in Jan. and broke her hip. We called 911, they transported her to the e.r., & she was admitted. She had a rod & screws put in to fix the hip fracture & rehab followed. After being released from rehab, we had home health physical & occupational therapists coming to the house 3x & 2x each week until they deemed it no longer necessary. She has become increasingly manipulative & overly demanding/abusive - especially to my husband (her son) to the point of abuse. She fell again when she decided to make her own bed. Refused to let us take her to the hospital & insisted on waiting until her next check up with the hip doctor (3 weeks later). We tried repeatedly to allow us to take her to have it checked out at the e.r. - she refused every time - all the while becoming more & more abusive as well as physically weaker. She takes 11-15 different medications (depending on the day of the week) & I have developed a system that allows us to keep that straight thus insuring that she gets the prescribed substances at the proper times & whatnot, after her having mistakenly taken 2 days of pills in one day (she thought it was the next day when actually it was because she had just gotten up from a nap the same day. yadda yadda yadda)... She weighs a mere 85-88 lbs & when she really wants to be manipulative she refuses to eat. When the hip dr. saw her & did xrays, they found that she had 'rebroken' her hip. Surgery was three days ago & she was admitted 1 day early for tests & whatnot. While we were there she chose to start hollering 'Son, you're killing me!' just after waiting for & watching his sister leave the hosp. room for coffee, when in fact, no one was touching her - I was standing right beside her bed when she started yelling that at him. She has threatened to call & report abuse stating that she would tell 'them' that he (her son/my husband) was the cause of them - she knows that's 100% false. We are actually afraid to let her come back here after her rehab this time for fear that she'll follow through on that the next time she decides that she wants to throw a fit because she's not getting her way. I realize that oftentimes elderly patients become overly mean - to the point of hateful to their caregivers when they are in pain - but elder abuse is a serious allegation, is there some way that we can protect ourselves against that & still care for her in our home once she recovers physically?
Status: Open    Jul 28, 2016 - 07:00 AM

Relationships, Elder Law

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3 answers


Aug 14, 2016 - 02:05 AM

There are a lot of negatives in this situation. The fact is that when she makes a complaint to the right authorities, investigtion is required, though far fetched complaints will usually be unfounded promptly. And if she makes enough of them, she wil be seen as annoying and someone who cries "wolf" and make it more likely that if she ever is actually abused it would not be taken seriously when it needed to be. You may have real problems at home if she does get bruised frim a fall in the bath and then states it was someone beating her. You would have to have a very careful system of documenting care with more than one person there pretty much at all times. There have also been cases of people charged with neglect when the person has in fact been refusing care. Even if you get a guardianship you may not always be able to insist on her getting care but it would at least be legal to try. You can speak with APS in advance. You could tape record threats. You could hope that she never comes up with anything credible enough it can't be immediately unfounded. She apparently has such poor judgement that she does not realize that if her caregivers are cited for abuse or neglect, she will no longer be able to stay with them, and probably no longer cares that there wold be a forced choice between her leaving or your husband leaving if she managed to get a case founded against him - she might assume you or his sister would care for her.

What I am trying to say is, there are realistic dangers in this situation, no one should fault you for not risking it, and giving thought to an alternative placement could make sense. If you must bring her home, make sure all parties to the caregiving situtioon are on board and understand about the fabrications, and actually document and witness care the way a facility would. Sorry this is happending to you all!
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By anneamore on Aug 16, 2016 - 04:54 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

Terribly sad situation….If she must come home..there should be an Aide taking over the responsibilities of her care…an expensive solution I know. Or she may be forced into a nursing home..not a good alternative…Daughter-in-law,,you need a break…do something that makes you feel good.. very best wishes to you and your family,,including this frightened Mother-in-law….A.

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Aug 14, 2016 - 08:56 AM

She's obviously unhappy with her health & dependent situation...but I would possibly guess there's some dementia issues going on. Has she been checked by a doctor for this? My other question has to do with is whether your husband (her son) has Power of Attorney over her situation and can make the health & financial decisions for his mother. If not, and she will not agree, you may have to seek out legal guardianship for her care, as she is obviously not making good health decisions. It's important for her outbursts be documented by yourself and healthcare professionals that are involved with her care!

The hardest thing for adult kids to do is take away their parents rights as an adult, and most wait way too long...usually until something tragic like multiple hip fractures (and parent refusing care/ER/hospital! But that time comes when she is no longer making logical decisions to the detriment of her health, and at the expense of others (literally, sometimes). Not always, but eventually with lots of patience in repeating what you are trying to do for her (keeping her safe from pain & falls), most elderly relatives are relieved to have the endless confusing choices taken out of her hands, so they can be more relaxed! But change is hard & scary for someone in pain and who are more & more confused, and they don't understand why anymore. Often this frustration comes out as anger, and they try and manipulate the situation so they can feel still in control...which they are obviously not!

But please protect yourself from being accused of elder abuse if that is obviously not the situation! Caregiving is hard enough already! Best of luck.

Aug 14, 2016 - 08:23 PM

Has this manipulative behavior been typical of your MIL throughout her life or just manifested recently? What has the mother/son relationship been previous to this? Depending on the answers I would suggest psychiatric and or cognitive impairment assessments done in order to know what you are dealing with. If this is typical behavior for her, maybe a family counseling session could help with possibly some individual therapy for her. If no help from these approaches you may have to place her in an asssisted living situation.
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