Caregiver Fights

Dear Mary

My mother-in-law is 88 and has recently had cataract surgery. She requires someone to help put the drops in her eyes and to help her around her home – virtually 247 for the next month or so. My husband and his 5 siblings (and their spouses) are all constantly fighting about who is doing what, who does not help enough, etc. The fighting over the phones and in person is getting worse every day. Everyone is already tired of this post-surgery help and is not doing a good job of anything at this point. It is tearing the family apart. What should I do?


Hello Cath:

Family members really show their true colours when extra care of a parent is required. This is a new journey for all involved. When this month of 24/7 care is over, everyone will be judged for their actions and words (both good and bad). Here is what I suggest you consider.

*This is not your issue to solve. Your job is to support your husband. It is not your job to listen to each family member complain and point fingers. It is not your job to negotiate or try and keep the peace. If it were your mother, than that would be a different story. This is your husband’s issue – not yours

*Often people are desperate for praise. Some will offer care of your mother-in-law just so that others will thank them. This type of person will never receive enough praise nor ever let anyone forget all the “wonderful / heroic things” that they did as a caregiver. Stay away from this person; they will only drain your energy and try and get you to take sides.

*Tell your husband that none of the fighting should be done in front of his mother. Older people get very upset when they know that their families are fighting – especially about them.

*Force yourself to stay out of the fighting and care planning as much as possible.

*Pray that this whole caregiving process only takes about one month, as you expect it will. Use this as a learning exercise for when more caregiving issues come up. At 88 years of age, I expect that your mother-in-law’s care needs will only increase. Learn from this experience. Learn about your family and how they behaved.

Good luck, stay low and watch what happens as these adults (or perhaps I should say children) figure this out.

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  1. I am having the same problem and my mother-in-law has to have both eyes operated on for cateracts and it doubles the work and care. I suspect that this will happen to your mother-in-law too and that she will need more help for a longer period of time.
    I would be good if she was not the stuborn demanding type but she did not get to live to be 88 years old because she was a wimp.
    Keep a sense of humour and force yourself to to Yoga Laughter

  2. better not to focus on her stubbornness yet focus on her feeling because she too don’t want to be like that. I understand that it is hard but that’s the way it is and if we will understand as our God saves and understands us.