How do I convince the kids it's time for a nursing home?

Pamalakay asked...

I have kept my mother in law at home with me and my family for 17 yrs. She is basically bed bound now and requires 24/7 assistance with all daily needs. For the last 3 yrs I have literally stayed in the house with her. I am tired, worn out, and just frustrated because no one will give me any relief. My husband works long hours and does what he can when he is home. I wouldn't have made it this long if it hadn't been for him. His sister or brother visit every few weeks for an hour and then go home to their lives. They always have excuses as to why they can't come or stay longer. My mother in laws health is quickly declining. I feel its time to put her in a nursing home where she can get the best medical care for her situation. I'm not physically or mentally able anymore. Since her children have always told her they would never put her in a home, I am faced with them fighting me on this discision. How do I help them understand its for her well being as well as mine? How do I approach my mom in law and help her not feel like I am trying to throw her out to die? I'm at the end of the rope, hanging afraid there will be nothing to catch me when I fall. I'm in desperate need of professional advise and don't know where else to turn.

Expert Answer

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

Thank you for writing to ask this very important question. How can you find relief for yourself, proper care for your mother-in law, and not end up fighting with the family?

First, I want to share with you what a very elderly woman taught me many years ago. "Pride goeth before a fall." I am afraid that all of your kindness and good intentions have, with the passage of time, turned into a form of pride. It is too heroic to think that you can give 24 hour care to a woman who is mostly bedridden.

You must find a way to convince yourself that you won't be throwing your dear husband's mother out to die. You need to get a respite caregiver in each afternoon. You need to spend part of the time seaching for a proper nursing home. You also need to spend the respite time caring for yourself in a way that works for you. Can you go to the gym, go for a walk, get a massage? Can you spend time in contemplation, yoga, meditation or prayer? Perhaps a support group or counsellor could help. It is going to take time to unwind after what you have been through for the past three years.

As soon as you find the nursing home that suits you, talk with your husband. Then both of you should talk with his mother. Explain that you are tired and need help nursing her. Assure her that you won't just be leaving her there, but will still be with her as much as possible. Ask the nursing home administrator to help you explain to your family what their mother needs. You might also hire a geriatric care manager or social worker to help with the communication with the whole family.

Be patient. You have been carrying a burden for so long, that the family dynamic is out of balance. They may feel threatened at the idea of change.

Show them the nursing home. Show your mother-in-law. Get her in a wheel chair, if you can, and take her around.

Good nursing homes bring relief to the patient who needs bedside care. A good nursing home may even be able to get a patient out of bed and walkiing. The nursing home staff can become extra eyes and arms and legs for the rest of the family. Also, sometimes people who go to nursing home heal and come back home for awhile. Or sometimes the elder's time on earth slips away.

Communicate to your family as clearly and genuinely as you have reached out to ask for help. Don't hold back out of false pride. After a time you will have helped your whole family work together instead of fight.

Also, I would like to invite others in the community to share their experiences to help you walk this difficult and delicate path of communication!