Help! My Mother-in-law has started behaving irrationally…
…she’s always been a somewhat “challenging” individual, she’s struggled with the concepts of personal space, conversational appropriateness and with anger management for as long as my partner can remember. Emotional intelligence has never been her forte.
However, back in 2011 she lost her husband of forty nine years, who’d barely survived a massive stroke some six years previously. She also cares for my partner’s sister, who’s very profoundly disabled. Over the last three years, Mrs PJM and I have noticed that her mother seems to be struggling to cope, and ever since her husband passed away she’s been getting progressively worse. It started with extreme neediness, MiL would phone my partner several times a day or would ask for help reading mail, or simple meals would take several hours to prepare. Both my partner and I work very long hours, so it’s proved very difficult for us to take over the cooking duties outside of weekends.
In addition, MiL has never understood our need for privacy and would walk into our bedroom at all times of the day and night without knocking first on the flimsiest of excuses. Aside from the episodic outbursts of crying, which we’d expect, she’s having difficulty managing her emotions and latterly cannot cope with calling a plumber or workman out without resorting to being abusive if she feels she’s getting short shift. Matters came to a head a few weeks ago, when she became very abusive to me in front of family members. She’s decided that my partner and I need to be split up and thus told me to leave the home.
Since then, she’s changed the locks on the house because she apparently believes that the key I’ve returned is fake and that I’ll attempt to break back into her home. She also believes that I’m conspiring against her in any one of a number of ways. TBH, I’m pretty much at my wits end with her and have gone to great lengths to ensure that she and I don’t have any contact, but it’s evident that something is very wrong with MiL’s cognitive functions and her behavior is becoming ever more bizarre and irrational.
I really don’t know what to do. At the moment Mrs PJM is utterly appalled with her mother’s behavior, as am I. They’ve never had a particularly great relationship but it’s evident that her mother feels like this has become a tug-of-war situation and is hell bent on causing trouble.
I really don’t know what to do for the best…I suspect we’re dealing with either the symptoms of delayed grief, or worse some form of diminished reasoning ability. My partner’s disabled sister is being cared for by MiL at home, five days out of seven and I suspect it’s becoming too much for MiL to deal with. I don’t want to become embroiled in any family disputes, but apparently I’m the focal point for MiL’s rage and paranoia at the moment and it doesn’t seem to have abated since we moved out in January.
Mrs PJM and I are off to see the GP on Wednesday to discuss this. I’d really appreciate some advice on how to begin to handle this unholy mess.Posted 4 years agowwaswasSubscriber
You dopn’t say how old she is but I’d suspect Alzheimers (given she was married 49 years and is probably in at least her late 60’s).
Perhaps it is time to decide what’s best for your sister in law – I assume she has social services involvement of some sort – who knows what she’s experiencing day-to-day?
 from Wikipedia;
symptoms can include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss
I hope your GP can put you in touch with some useful people and that you (or they) can convince your MIL to accept help.Posted 4 years agomogrimMember
How old is she? Some of the paranoia could certainly be the onset of senile dementia – from personal experience (FiL died of Alzheimer’s, and my wife’s grandmother had dementia) I’d say dementia rather than Alzheimer’s, but of course either way a GP visit is definitely necessary.
Good luck is all I can say, it’s a really shitty thing to have to deal with.Posted 4 years ago
@binners – no offence taken. I’m absolutely not her biggest fan and have been anticipating Bombers related posts with a smirk at the ready.
Does that make me a bad person?
And MiL I most definitely aren’t on speaking terms right now so it’s just the missus and I who are going along to the GP.Posted 4 years ago
Sounds like dementia, when my mil started with it she was accusing everyone of wanting to steal her money and couldn’t control her emotions,Posted 4 years ago
Ask your mrs to see her GP and explain the behaviour, he’ll hopefully ask her to come in for a chat and perform a mini mental test, if she is coming down with it there’s drugs that can help if its diagnosed early enough,
But it is a degenerative condition and it doesn’t get better..
I hope it isn’t though for everyone’s sake, its a really nasty shitty disease..
if she’s a full time carer she might be under massive pressure, see if she can get social services to provide some support to ease the stress,
It might be a cry for help, people act strangely when they’re going to pop..JunkyardMember
It needs to be your wife to take the lead as she is supicious of you and the GP will be the first port of callPosted 4 years ago
I am confused about the living arrangements you mention – it appears you live with her??? not sure how best to cope but GP will be able to signpost to appropriate support for you all
My MIL was blatantly racist towards me for years (over a decade). I sucked it up stayed charming/let it wash over me for the sake of my partner.
I suggest you only offer support. I imagine losing her Dad, a disabled close relative and now her Mother losing it- she needs your unflinching support and no bitching. Suck in your chest and be understanding.Posted 4 years agoprojectMember
Delusional, paranoid, and dementia, all seem to be active in your mil,s mind.
GP, first then best of luck with the outcome,sadly its going to takea long time and there is no easy answer, tablets may help.
Oh and ive worked for and looked after people suffering from the above.Posted 4 years ago2unfit2rideSubscriber
I would guess that you & the misses are the one who earns the most money out of the family, Yes or no?
If you are then as you are now part of the family then an older person may well expect you to sort this kind of stuff out. Couple this with the current generation not willing to take on the responsibilities which may of been taken for granted in her day then I would say the bad feeling comes from you lack of responsibility for this sh1t, I know it sounds harsh but just my POV.Posted 4 years ago
My mother has early onset Alzheimer’s. I certainly hope your mother in law does not have dementia of any sort, but the statistics are worrying – seems like a lot of us are destined to go down that route, which sucks.
Irrational behaviour like that is unfortunately common with dementia. My mum, now in a home unable to communicate, was never aggressive, but she did some stuff that was proper left field. It is very difficult to live with people who are no longer themselves and I should imagine made much harder when she seems so distrusting of the OP.
Best advice here is try and get professional help as soon as possible. I would love to say there is better advice I can give, but mental health can be very tricky and my Dad, brother and rest of the family have all struggled to handle the weird situation we are in. I am included in that list.
I am sure you are being a very supportive other half, certainly sounds like you have been patient, but your wife will need lots of support. People undertaking a carer’s role, which sound like both the mil and your good lady, have massive stress placed on them.
Make sure you make your wife a cup of tea and give her a hug.Posted 4 years ago
Thanks for the replies all, I really appreciate the sensitivity expressed by everyone (yes, even Binners!).
To clear up some confusion, my missus and I have lived at MiL’s place for four years and we moved out in January. MiL has always been “difficult” in the five years I’ve known her, her social skills have always been challenging. But the abusiveness, paranoia and constant verbal commentary have become ratcheted up considerably in the last three years.
It’s very hard to understand. She’s said and done some appalling things in the last year or so, she’s become unable to empathise or grasp the concept of my partner and I having a relationship. She’s always been needy of my partner, but lately it’s become downright manipulative and meddlesome.
No, I don’t like her very much right now.
But as I said before, it still doesn’t mean that I couldn’t give a toss about her state of mind.Posted 4 years agocinnamon_girlSubscriber
I am sorry to hear that. Elderly people can become extremely unpleasant and I’m not always sure whether it should be challenged.
Your remarks on empathising rings true with me. Does she have any outside stimulation, ie being in the real world, interacting with others, interests/hobbies?
Don’t feel guilty, it’s a waste of your energy, but you need to get her some help.
Do hope that there’s a decent conclusion for you all.Posted 4 years agosomoukSubscriber
Sounds very very familiar to a gent I used to live next door to. Doctor would come out on a regular basis after he’d done something that was a little too close to upsetting for someone else and short of asking them the date and who the PM is they never really diagnosed anything but old age.
The poor old chap was so confused that almost every day he would tell me his dog had died last night (despite his dog dying several years previous).
Professional help is the only way forward for now and as mentioned most mental issues get progressively worse with time so it can only get worse I’m afraid.Posted 4 years ago
No hobbies…aside from endless talking/ranting and caring for my partner’s disabled sister. I tried to encourage her to give the WI or local adult ed a go but she point blank refused. She loves social interaction, but she invariably ends up on send and people are quickly driven away from her. Lately she’s more withdrawn, but she does talk to/rant at a lot of her family on the phone.
MiL sees Mrs PJM as the main facilitator of her social life. She tries to share my partner’s friends and often butts in on conversations and just takes them over.Posted 4 years agoweeksySubscriber
molgrips – Member
Wow.. she’s having a breakdown and you are just annoyed with her?
That’s my take on it too… i mean seriously… you’re angry at the wrong person… she’s sick… poorly … unwell..
Sure, be angry at the situation, the circumstances… but FFS you can’t be angry at her.
Ask yourself this… Do you not think she would herself be appalled at the person she’s now turned into if she could look at herself clearly ?Posted 4 years agoDrPMember
It all sounds a bit “frontal” – I.e dementia/stroke type disease affecting the front part of the brain that affects behaviour.
I think discussion with her, then with GP is on the cards (I say this, as without her agreeing to investigations etc, you’re stuffed and can’t proceed further…..)
DrPPosted 4 years agocinnamon_girlSubscriber
Thing is though, it’s hard to work out whether it is actually just age or is it illness.
My own mother’s behaviour has become intolerable and for many years has been dependant on my bro’ and I. This sounds really crass but I’ve become quite ambivalent towards her and feel no guilt for this either.
It’s worth remembering that Adult Services/Occupational Health departments are under huge pressures with some long waiting lists. I’ve found these departments to be good although I’ve had to be very firm in my dealings.
To be caring for a disabled daughter is a huge undertaking for someone elderly and unwell and clearly this needs to be looked at.
The other thing to be aware of is that elderly people can change their minds about any sort of help. This is something that I’ve just experienced and have now actually walked away from it due to my mother’s time-wasting/attention-seeking.Posted 4 years agodeviantMember
Ask her GP to come for a home visit (stop laughing, they still come out sometimes)….if he sees this behaviour and has concerns he’ll refer onto the local CMHT (community mental health team).
I’m strongly in favour of introducing a system whereby you retire at 60 and go for euthanasia at 70 regardless of your health…. think how many problems it would solve!Posted 4 years agosurroundedbyhillsSubscriber
Someone I worked with some years ago told me of how her mother had become extremely racist and homophobic over period of 2-3 years depsite being good friends for 10-15 years with her 2 gay neighbours. She would also go through bouts of isolating herself from the family with no apparent reason.
Eventually they got her in for an MRI scan (IIRC) and like mentioned above it showed she had had a numerous mini strokes which they were told went a long way to explain the changes and fluctations in her behavoir pattern. Good luck.Posted 4 years agoTom BMember
Sounds quite similar to how my nan currently is with my mum and dad. Like your MiL she has always been needy and socially inept! It’s very hard now to tell whether or not she is suffering from alzheimers/dementia or if she is just a more annoying version of the person that she has always been. Like your partner, my mum and nan have never had a very good relationship either.You have my sympathy.
Actually, you’re not my dad are you? 😆Posted 4 years ago
That’s my take on it too… i mean seriously… you’re angry at the wrong person… she’s sick… poorly … unwell..
That’s partly my point. She’s always been a very difficult person and to be completely honest with you I’m not the flipping Pope and finding forgiveness and understanding for the more outrageous statements and accusations she’s made is going to demand an awful lot from my humanity.
And once again, I will say that just because I’m struggling to understand and put it into perspective does not mean that I am not concerned for her health.
Ask yourself this… Do you not think she would herself be appalled at the person she’s now turned into if she could look at herself clearly ?
I don’t know. I’ve only known her for five years and in that time she’s been challenging full stop. My partner says that her mother has always been a difficult person, but she’s never held back from expressing behavioral traits she’s appalled with in other people.Posted 4 years agoneninjaMember
My MIL has developed dementia/Alzheimers over the past couple of years (ever since she had a general anaesthetic for a knee replacement operation).
Her daughters including my wife just thought she was getting a bit forgetful despite the other brother in laws and myself urging them to get her checked properly.
Sadly by the time she was diagnosed 18 months later she started to decline very quickly. She’s gone from being a woman who you simply couldn’t shut up – she could talk for England – to being insular, paranoid and incapable of basic life functions (incontinent, can’t dress herself etc). The medication seems to have made very little difference.
I think early diagnosis can mean the progression can be slowed.Posted 4 years ago
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