Question: I am caring for my mother-in-law who is 88 and has vascular dementia. She is not doing well. My problem is that I have two sisters-in law who live seven minutes away and who only help maybe once a month. I'm at my wits’ end with stress and neglecting my family. My husband isn't supportive at all with regards to his sisters. Help!
Dr. Amy: Sadly, many caregivers struggle with the same predicament you are facing with your sisters-in-law. The stress of juggling responsibilities and the resentment you may feel can impact your health and sense of well-being over the long term, so you need to take charge of the situation. You can’t control your sisters-in-law or your husband. You can, however, manage your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. This is not easy, especially when we are feeling completely overwhelmed.
However I encourage you try this: take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. In the first column, write down all the things you can control about your situation. You can control how you care for your mother-in-law, for example, and how you think about your situation. Perhaps you can control getting some homecare to help you with your load. In the next column, write down all the things you can influence. Perhaps you can educate your husband and his sisters about your mother-in-law’s condition, so they have a better understanding of all the help she needs. You can itemize all of the types of support you provide and ask what they would be willing to help you with. In this way, you might influence their behaviour. It’s important to ask for help, even if you feel you shouldn’t have to. What are some other things you can influence? In the last column, list the things you cannot control, no matter how much you wish you could. The goal of this exercise is to focus your thoughts and your time on things you can control and influence and to let go of things you cannot. Often, just writing these three lists can help you become more peaceful and help shift your energy.
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