Author Topic: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel  (Read 6400 times)

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heartmug

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2013, 11:26:57 AM »
Second, it sounds like when you and DH visit your ILs, your husband and FIL "disappear," leaving you to deal with MIL.

The family-family (as I jokingly call it), ie, sons, husbands, etc often don't want to face it. FIL probably needs a break, because he's there all the time dealing with it and your DH can't quite face it yet, so they take off.  It took 3 years for DH to admit we had a problem,although I think that may be longer than usual  :D DH avoided his mother pre-AD as she was a bit toxic. I had to dive in and get her help and aides etc while he continued to mumble 'She's always been difficult, this is the way she's always been' while inside my head I'm screaming "Not!".

Give him a bit more time, and then have a heart-to-heart?

POD.  That would be my guess that your FIL needs the break.  Talk to your DH and offer to split the time with MIL 50/50.   You will sit with her one hour and he needs to sit next to her the next hour and hold her hand.
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WillyNilly

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2013, 11:28:04 AM »
I think you've gotten so great advice so far. To further it though, you might want to take proactive stance in looking for long term care for your MIL. It sounds like your DH and FIl are in a bit of denial, and might not start accepting, and looking for help, until its long past due. The earlier you can get your MIL settled somewhere, the easier it will be for everyone (even if "settled" is care in her own home). Also, if you can, try to socialize with her earlier in the day then later - meet for breakfast or lunch, not dinner, for example. Often as people get tired their symptoms become more exaggerated.

crella

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2013, 07:14:12 PM »
Can you imagine a daughter treating her own parents the same way? (you can, but it's a lot harder, right?)  But I don't think that coddling DH is the right answer. He's a big boy and can handle facing his mother's decline. There are lots of mental health options (individual therapy, support groups, etc) if he is having difficulty with it. But I don't agree that the wife's job is to quietly clean up the mess and do the heavy lifting so the husband can maintain the fiction that nothing's wrong. At least, that's not the kind of relationship or role that I would ever want to have, personally.

This is not what I am advocating at all. The first reaction in every case I have ever seen is solid denial. You can't force someone to face something...the psychological processes that take place are at different speeds for different people. I was able to adjust faster as she wasn't my own  mother. We had just buried DH's father, who passed from Alzheimer's, and  DH just couldn't face the fact that his other remaining parent also had it (her diagnosis was recently changed to Lewy Body dementia, she was originally diagnosed with AD).  For me, it was a continuation of the previous 5 years, with a different person...as far as giving DH the 'luxury' of looking the other way, does he quit his high-paying job and look after her, or do I go to part-time translating and do it? It really would be a luxury for him to quit his frantically busy business  :D, an option we couldn't afford and keep our home. In many cases, economically, it makes sense for the higher-salaried spouse to keep working full time while others pick up the care giving slack, regardless of the relationship to the person with AD. He has no siblings, nor any other close relatives, MIL is the only surviving child in her family, we're it.

It's not hard at all unfortunately to imagine a daughter treating her mother badly. My mother didn't have dementia, but kidney and liver disease. My sister lived with her and was horrible to her. I'll probably never be able to forgive her. Women aren't exempt from treating people coldly. I still can't believe half of what went on in the weeks immediately before and after my mother's death, but that's neither here nor there. I didn't think that the males in the OP were necessarily treating the mother in some unacceptable way, I just think they aren't facing up to what's going on.

Roses

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2013, 12:22:49 AM »
Many won't agree with me, but everyone is not equipped to be able to take on this role.  If this makes the OP uncomfortable, I like the previous suggestions of support groups, additional care for MIL and having a frank conversation with DH.  The OP isn't doing herself OR her MIL any favors if she doesn't have the skill or desire to handle this (very very) difficult situation.

crella

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #19 on: June 21, 2013, 01:13:32 AM »
Quote
everyone is not equipped to be able to take on this role.

You're right. It's hard! In this case, I think the OP is looking for solutions for when she goes visiting.

Gyburc

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #20 on: June 21, 2013, 06:33:09 AM »
I was going to suggest the same thing as Arrynne - OP, would you be comfortable with sitting and holding her hand or hands while you talk? It's still physical contact, which seems to comfort her, but you would be much more in control and could stop her touching you in less appropriate ways.

And I agree with the other PPs - do talk to your DH about this and get him to sit with your MIL for some of the time as well. Apart from anything else, I'm sure she will appreciate it!
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mime

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2013, 05:29:08 PM »
OP here. I knew you guys would help! Thank you so much for your insights.

Avid Reader & magician5 both mentioned the regressing or child-like behavior. I hadn't thought of it that way. I can see some behaviors in a new light now.

*inviteseller: your examples of changing-personalities were really helpful. Since MIL was diagnosed a few years ago, I was mentally bracing myself for her to become a more exaggerated version of her then-existing personality (similar to what I've been seeing with my grandmother although she doesn't have ALZ). I was expecting her to become even more harsh and prickly in personality, and I was completely blindsided to see the exact opposite!

Arynne- yes, there really is a baby on the way (now five days overdue... grrrr.) I'm sure it is compounding my own stress, and I do worry about how MIL will handle it. My main concern so far has been from a physical perspective: that she be sitting down when she holds baby rather than trying to stand or walk.

Crella, Pen^2, Gyburc, and others who have suggested redirecting the hugging, etc. Thank you for the suggestions. I think I can move to holding hands or linking arms (my grandmother did that a lot) or something that is a compromise for the two of us. I'll go with that plan!

Zizi-k- you hit on a family dynamic that has been frustrating for me with my ILs for many years. DH and his sisters grew up with very strong traditional gender roles. DH doesn't follow those roles now, but he always reverts back around FIL. I am expected to be the recipient of the hugging, crying, emotional attention because I am the other female in the room, and it does allow DH to remove himself a bit from accepting the extent of MIL's decline. I'll be working on this...

etiquitteE- thank you for your statement that not everyone is equipped to take on the lion's share of this responsibility. MIL and I have never been that close. I've never been a people-person (major understatement). Those aren't going to change. I often feel like I'm being self-centered or not trying hard enough if I say "this is overwhelming". I appreciate your comment.

Library Lady & WillyNilly & others who advised to discuss plans for more serious help: you're right. DH has 4 sisters (three live within a 2-hour drive) and they have talked about future plans. I have stayed out of the discussions since I don't think it is my place given our particular family dynamics, but I will share my thoughts with DH. Later this summer, FIL is going on a much-needed trip for a week with friends during which time DH and SILs will take turns caring for MIL. Their plan is to wait until the vacation is over then discuss and help FIL with a plan, when they have all had a chance to see how well she is or isn't functioning.

Thank you all for the help and encouragement!

Peregrine

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2013, 05:42:01 PM »
Mime, the plan for your FIL's respite vacation and a turn for each sibling to care for MIL sounds like a spectacular idea!  It is always hard when the care falls to one person and the other siblings only get to see the failing parent intermittently.

When my Grandma was still alive, my Mom was the primary caregiver and her siblings (my aunt and uncle) only saw her a few times a year.  They were not the ones who got the calls from the assisted living facility when Grandma was convinced that there was a stairway that lead from the balcony to the parking lot below, or that my Grandpa was waiting down the street to pick her up and she needed to leave (in her nightgown, and my Grandpa had been dead for 5 years at that point).  She always managed to rally when my aunt and uncle were in town.  It led to a lot of tension when my mom decided it was time to move her to a specialty dementia/Alzheimer's unit, because the other two hadn't really seen the decline in the day to day life and the toll that it took on my Mom.

crella

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #23 on: June 21, 2013, 09:57:20 PM »
That's hard. They tend to perk up around people they don't see often (and for doctor's visits!), and if it's a relatively short time, the conversations are pretty normal. Few visitors are around at the time of sundowning, or when the ADLO wakes up confused in the morning. We had relatives that thought we were just stuffing MIL in a facility for our own comfort, they had seen none of the obvious symptoms.

*inviteseller

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2013, 10:03:54 PM »
There are many options for respite care for care takers.  The Alzheimer's Association should be able to direct you to the best resources.  And so many times it does fall to one member to take care of the ill family member but if you are not able to do it, there is no shame in that.  I know my friend had to tell her dad, finally that it was too much and they had to find either in home care or a nursing home.  My sister and I know that it is going to fall to us to take care of my step mother, as her own kids (other than step brother) are wastes of life. 

CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #25 on: June 22, 2013, 12:16:03 PM »
Arrynne mentioned providing inanimate objects for MIL to attach to.  This has worked well with my mother.  She has a special soft blanket and a bunch of stuffed animals.  If she starts getting grabby or agitated, someone hands her a stuffed animal. 

She also likes to get gifts, and sadly, you can give her the same gifts over and over, and she doesn't remember, but still enjoys the attention and entertainment.  When thing are going badly, we stick some things in a gift bag and tell her she has presents.  This distracts her and calms her down.

My father, who's in a nursing home and doesn't see her often, is in complete denial about her mental state although she's been completely senile for about five years.  I believe this is his way of not having to take any personal responsibility for helping with the situation.
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BarensMom

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #26 on: June 22, 2013, 01:04:00 PM »
Arrynne mentioned providing inanimate objects for MIL to attach to.  This has worked well with my mother.  She has a special soft blanket and a bunch of stuffed animals.  If she starts getting grabby or agitated, someone hands her a stuffed animal. 

She also likes to get gifts, and sadly, you can give her the same gifts over and over, and she doesn't remember, but still enjoys the attention and entertainment.  When thing are going badly, we stick some things in a gift bag and tell her she has presents.  This distracts her and calms her down.

My father, who's in a nursing home and doesn't see her often, is in complete denial about her mental state although she's been completely senile for about five years.  I believe this is his way of not having to take any personal responsibility for helping with the situation.

I don't have the link, but there are special dolls and stuffed animals for Alzheimer's patients available.  Apparently studies have shown that these patients do better when they make a connection with these.

Edited to add the link:  http://www.dolls4alzheimers.com
« Last Edit: June 22, 2013, 01:05:42 PM by BarensMom »

Kimblee

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #27 on: June 22, 2013, 02:06:39 PM »
Arrynne mentioned providing inanimate objects for MIL to attach to.  This has worked well with my mother.  She has a special soft blanket and a bunch of stuffed animals.  If she starts getting grabby or agitated, someone hands her a stuffed animal. 

She also likes to get gifts, and sadly, you can give her the same gifts over and over, and she doesn't remember, but still enjoys the attention and entertainment.  When thing are going badly, we stick some things in a gift bag and tell her she has presents.  This distracts her and calms her down.

My father, who's in a nursing home and doesn't see her often, is in complete denial about her mental state although she's been completely senile for about five years.  I believe this is his way of not having to take any personal responsibility for helping with the situation.

My greatgrandmother is like this. At one of her birthdays we kept putting her gifts back in their bags and putting them to the back of the "line" so she had an "endless" array of gifts. She had a ball, we were all in tears of laughter, because she'd say the exact same thing over each one, and yet she had no idea she'd been handed that gift five minutes ago. (Strangely, the crochet slippers I made for she DID remember! The second time she said "Oh I *do* like these. But i just opened them, didn't I?"

We also tell her the same four jokes everytime we see her. They always get a laugh.

This may sound really mean to do (we don't do it out of desperation, we just like to see her laugh. And we only did the gift repeat one year, I promise.) but she, back when Nanny was Nanny, always loved a good laugh and once told me "Any laugh where EVERYONE can laugh and no one feels hurt is the best laugh."

So everyone gets to laugh, no one gets hurt. Even if its from giving a 97 year old woman the same Coke Mug six times.

As for advice: If you find a response to her questions that she really likes (For my Nanny, telling her someone, anyone graduated something thrills her. She gets told about graduations all year long, and about graduations that happened years ago. She also likes to be told that it looks like rain. Sunny, bright, hot days often look like rain it turns out. rain is unpredictable.) REMEMBER them. They may be valuble ways to keep her happy and you can use them to get out of unwanted situations. (Ex: MIL: *worry, prayer, baby* You: Oh doesn't it look like rain? MIL: Oh yes it does. You know once when DH was a baby it rained so hard that I thought the roof might come off, but I loved that noise on the roof...etc)  Rain is probably not your MIL's "trigger" but when you find one with a good story that you don't mind hearing often, keep it in your back pocket.

Same goes for an excuse not to touch. "My nails are wet." (works for a client of mine. She was once a beautician and can 'see" the wet polish and give me advice to dry it.) "Oh I'm so sore right now. Did you get this way pregnant with DH?" (May lead to a sweet story about your hubby) "How do you do [insert something she used to be good at]?" Even if she doesn't remember, it'll make her happy to "teach" And she might actually remember. I learned to make banana bread from an ALZ patient. Its a great recipe, other than being measured at one point in "One ration stamp of canned milk."
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citadelle

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #28 on: June 22, 2013, 02:09:59 PM »
Arrynne mentioned providing inanimate objects for MIL to attach to.  This has worked well with my mother.  She has a special soft blanket and a bunch of stuffed animals.  If she starts getting grabby or agitated, someone hands her a stuffed animal. 

She also likes to get gifts, and sadly, you can give her the same gifts over and over, and she doesn't remember, but still enjoys the attention and entertainment.  When thing are going badly, we stick some things in a gift bag and tell her she has presents.  This distracts her and calms her down.

My father, who's in a nursing home and doesn't see her often, is in complete denial about her mental state although she's been completely senile for about five years.  I believe this is his way of not having to take any personal responsibility for helping with the situation.

My greatgrandmother is like this. At one of her birthdays we kept putting her gifts back in their bags and putting them to the back of the "line" so she had an "endless" array of gifts. She had a ball, we were all in tears of laughter, because she'd say the exact same thing over each one, and yet she had no idea she'd been handed that gift five minutes ago. (Strangely, the crochet slippers I made for she DID remember! The second time she said "Oh I *do* like these. But i just opened them, didn't I?"

We also tell her the same four jokes everytime we see her. They always get a laugh.

This may sound really mean to do (we don't do it out of desperation, we just like to see her laugh. And we only did the gift repeat one year, I promise.) but she, back when Nanny was Nanny, always loved a good laugh and once told me "Any laugh where EVERYONE can laugh and no one feels hurt is the best laugh."

So everyone gets to laugh, no one gets hurt. Even if its from giving a 97 year old woman the same Coke Mug six times.

As for advice: If you find a response to her questions that she really likes (For my Nanny, telling her someone, anyone graduated something thrills her. She gets told about graduations all year long, and about graduations that happened years ago. She also likes to be told that it looks like rain. Sunny, bright, hot days often look like rain it turns out. rain is unpredictable.) REMEMBER them. They may be valuble ways to keep her happy and you can use them to get out of unwanted situations. (Ex: MIL: *worry, prayer, baby* You: Oh doesn't it look like rain? MIL: Oh yes it does. You know once when DH was a baby it rained so hard that I thought the roof might come off, but I loved that noise on the roof...etc)  Rain is probably not your MIL's "trigger" but when you find one with a good story that you don't mind hearing often, keep it in your back pocket.

Same goes for an excuse not to touch. "My nails are wet." (works for a client of mine. She was once a beautician and can 'see" the wet polish and give me advice to dry it.) "Oh I'm so sore right now. Did you get this way pregnant with DH?" (May lead to a sweet story about your hubby) "How do you do [insert something she used to be good at]?" Even if she doesn't remember, it'll make her happy to "teach" And she might actually remember. I learned to make banana bread from an ALZ patient. Its a great recipe, other than being measured at one point in "One ration stamp of canned milk."

Kimblee, I think you sound very kind and like you have found really good ways to adapt to a challenging situation. In my opinion, your nanny is lucky to have you.

cb140

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Re: maintaining physical boundaries without sounding cruel
« Reply #29 on: June 23, 2013, 09:49:33 AM »
Aw, some of these stories are so sweet! My father had dementia before he died although he had Lewy Body, which is a bit different to Alzheimer's and can unfortunately sometimes lead to very difficult personality changes (not always, but did in his case). He didn't have the short term memory loss, but had hallucinations, and disinhibition and aggression. But one thing he used to like was singing - he loved us to sing to him, and I think it took him back to a happier time. I also think the advice of trying a teddy or soft toy is excellent. With the baby coming, it won't even seem a strange thing to be producing teddies. Why not give her one and say "I'd love you to give the baby this, when s/he is old enough" and see if MIL might get attached to it.