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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Your Dying Spouse 260 - Caregiving And In-Laws

We're linked with Messy Marriages From Messes To Messages - please visit Beth's site for some really valuable marriage resources!

If you're caregiving for a terminally ill husband or wife, you may one day run into a problem, and it's spelled I-N-L-A-W-S.

No caregiver is perfect, and if your spouse's family is a regular part of your lives, they're likely to notice where they think they could do better...and often, you will be told.

"You know, he never really did like his food fixed that way..."

"You should spend more time just being with her. She looks so lonely!"

"Didn't you notice how much worse he looks>"

"I saw you at church by yourself last Sunday. Isn't it your place to be home on Sunday morning if you both can't go?"

And perhaps the worst...

"I know you mean well, but..."

It can be awfully frustrating, and worse, it can undermine the confidence you've built up in the job you're doing.

Left to fester, this sort of attack...and it is an attack - can leave you, after the inevitable eath, feeling as though you've failed as a caregiver, and as a spouse.

Also, if the critical in-laws are given free rein, they can affect your mate's attitude, and you'll find yourself very much outnumbered.

What to do? You can't very well limit visits - they're family, after all. But there are some steps you can take:

  • Don't engage with critical family in front of the patient - conflict is the last thing your sick husband or wife needs to see. Move the conversation into another room, at least, or preferably make a date to talk about it off the premises if they won't let it go.
  • Keep a record of professional advice - ask the professional care team to give you written instructions pertaining to diet and care, and don't be shy to show them to a critic.
  • Don't complain to the patient - saying "Your family's driving me nuts!" may feel satisfying, but it puts the patient into an awkward position.
  • Be involved with a support group - believe me, you aren't facing this issue alone!
  • Seek counseling - it won't change the relatives, but counseling can make it easier for you to understand, and a good counselor can help you find strategies to cope - and, if necessary, to fight back.
  • Draw a line - YOU are the caregiving spouse, and the choices are your responsibility. This may cause hurt feelings, but sometimes this can't be avoided - and they started it.
What other strategies can you suggest? Do you have a caregiving experience to hare?

I have another blog, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Mick Jagger) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update... been moved to a sanctuary, and Bay County will revise their 'dangerous dog' codes.


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  1. Thank you for this perspective. Since I do not currently have in laws I am not thinking how they can add stress to an already stressful situation. I pray that your list of advice has been helpful in your situation.

  2. I never would have thought what dealing with the in-laws were like. None of Richard's family came around much while he was in the dying process. Guess maybe I was lucky! Hugs to you Andrew!

  3. "Draw a line" is something caregivers need to hear. Oftentimes their children, mate and extended family members sufferer neglect because there is no time for them. They get the leftovers...and then the caregiver carries guilt into their own future. I've seen this one first hand.

  4. Great advice, Andrew! I've been watching the Netflix series, "The Crown" and there's so much of what you described here in the royal family. So if the royal family can't escape these challenges, then who can? Ha!

    I agree that in laws are often only trying to help, but the pressure their observations hold only makes matters worse, sometimes serving to divide a couple when they should be offering to unite them. I'm now learning how to tread lightly as well, since I'm brand new to being an "in law!" It's a lot trickier than I ever imagined! So your sage advice is much-needed, my friend!