I think my mother in law doesn't want my father in law to get better, should I tell his doctor?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 06, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Hello, My father-in-law is 72 and has been on dialysis for over a year, a result of diabetes. He also has a tracheotomy, which he has had for almost 10 years. My mother-in-law is obsessed with caring for him. She keeps volumes of notes - she documents every appt, pill, etc and is happy to show you, and will talk of little else. She retired at 62 because she didn't want to leave him at home alone after his tracheotomy. Their relationship has become mother/child, with him lapsing into babytalk. She gives him whatever food he wants. One night we saw him eating cheetos and peppermint patties for supper. I could give lots of details, but we have come to believe that she does not want him to be well. She glories in playing nurse, and rejects any positive statements about his health. We are afraid to confront her, because she will quit speaking to us. Is it appropriate to contact one of their doctors?

Expert Answers

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

It is always appropriate to contact a physician with concerns about one of his patients. Contacting the nurse in his office is often the best way to begin. The nurse acts as a mediator to protect the doctor from time consuming calls that can be be handled by a member of the staff. Often the best way to reach the nurse is by fax.

Rather than making accusations, I suggest that you compile a list of detailed incidents and the date and time they occurred. You might say that you have observed what appear to be irregularities in the care being provided for your father, followed by a list: On Friday, June 21 we noted dad was having cheerios and mint patties for dinner. On Sunday, June 22 we noted that.....

In summary, we are concerned that my father may not be getting proper nourishment and appropriate mental stimulation which may be leading to his condition declining faster than it might otherwise.

Then ask her opinion about whether this should be mentioned to the physician. Other possibilities are to request that a home health agency be sent to the home to monitor medications. This requires a doctor's order to initiate but is covered by Medicare. You can contact this agency in the same way, and ask that while in the house, they listen to conversation between your father and his wife, and look to see what food is in the kitchen.