Question: My mother in-law is 84 and lives alone, about 1500 miles away. I have called her two to four times a week to make sure she is okay. Last year, she has a bad back and was unable to walk normally. When I called about six weeks ago, she told me she wasn't feeling well and wanted to lie down. She told me she had been feeling dizzy and feeling that she was going to fall. I told her to lie down and said I would call in a few days to check on her. A few days later, I woke up with a nagging feeling that something terrible had happened. I called and called but there was no answer. I called her town's police department. They checked on her and called me back to report that she had fallen and couldn’t get up or call anyone for help. The officer called for an ambulance to get my mother in-law checked by a doctor. The doctor said she was dizzy due to not eating and not drinking. The officer told me too that he had to file a report with the elder services and the health board. The health board condemned the house because it had no heat, no water, and was unlivable conditions due to her hoarding. Elder Services put her in a hotel over the weekend while they tried to contact a relative. She only has a son and daughter but no one called my husband until three weeks later. He blames me for having her house condemned and calling the police. Calling the police was the right thing to do because she could have died on the floor and no one would have known. As far as her house, that was her fault. She should never have let it go so far. There are people out there that could have helped her. My husband needs to know this wasn't my fault. His mother tried to talk to him about what to do in case of an emergency but he would never listen. He won't listen to me now or do his duties as a husband. Help!
Dr. Amy: Your family is lucky that you have been so good about checking in with your mother-in-law, and you did the right thing when you called the police. As frustrating as I'm sure it is that your husband won’t acknowledge it, I encourage you to let this go for now. Avoid revisiting the past and focus on the future. Your first goal is to decide how you want to care for his mother. Where will your mother-in-law live? What are your options? Can she move in with you or with her daughter? Can you put her house to rights so she can live there safely? What is causing her dizziness? Was it the result of poor nutrition or is there something else going on? What community resources are available to help you? Once you have answers to these questions you will be able to come up with a plan. It sounds like your mother-in-law needs to have a through check up with her doctor.
You might like to hire a geriatric care manager to help you come up with a plan. I’m a big fan of geriatric care managers because I've seen the good they can do. You can read more about geriatric care managers here. So too can people with a CAPS designation.
I know it’s hard that your husband is angry. If he can’t get past this, I encourage you to talk with someone together, to help you refocus. Your doctor can refer you to a counsellor. And if you are a member of a faith community, your pastor may be able to help as well. You don’t want this issue to become a sticking point in your relationship. Good luck to you and your family.
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