Is there anything I should know about helping to care for my mother-in-law?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Larry n asked...

I guess at this point there isn't a lot of info I can give. My mother in law just moved into my wife and I's home. I think I saw something on this web site about mother in law care, but can't find my way back to it so any info would be helpful. She is 85 and still pretty sharp as far as thinking,talking, and memory. She's on oxygen 24-7. She has not yet created any problems for my wife and I with the exception of having to have some remolding done--ramp outside, and remodel of upstairs bathroom. We know other changes are coming. My wife is a lot more knowledgeable of this kind of thing than I am. We both work full time, wife is a United Way Director, and I work in the Alcohol and Drug field with Child Welfare. Anything specific to what a son in law should know and keep in mind would be helpful.

Expert Answers

Mary Koffend is the president of Accountable Aging Care Management (AACM), an eldercare consulting and care management firm that works with elder clients and their families to find the best care providers and services to meet their needs.

Congratulations on asking the questions before you need more help in caregiving for your mother-in-law. As you probably already know, the big issues with seniors and their well-being are medical and financial concerns. Understanding your mother-in-law’s medical needs, keeping an accurate list of medications, and setting up a system for making sure she takes her medications timely and accurately is a good beginning in this area. In the area of finances, have her share information with you about her income and assets. Another area that is very significant to the planning is legal. Review with your mother-in-law her legal documents. While she is living, the most significant legal documents are her financial and medical powers of attorney. It is important to make sure that they are up to date and each state has different rules so if she moved from another state, they may need to be modified. Using an elderlaw attorney for this review is wise as attorneys with this specialty are knowledgeable about the legal issues of elders. To locate an attorney in your area with this specialty, use the website:

Areas that are less obvious in planning, but of equal importance are social and spiritual. Social is the need to be with people of all ages and to share experiences. Look for opportunities for your mother-in-law to participate in church activities for seniors if there is a relationship there. Look for senior centers or even adult day centers where she could spend time with peers. If her social needs are not met outside of your home then you and your wife will become her primary outlet and this can become a burden for all of you. Spiritual is defined as purpose for living. It is important to have your mother-in-law have a reason for living and some activities that keep her focused on life, not her health issues, and not you and your wife. Look at her interests of the past and help her find some activity that has her have a reason for getting up in the morning.

This can be a rewarding journey for all of you.