Being a caregiver presents stressful situations, but caring for your in-laws introduces complex challenges. If your husband is the eldest child, closest in proximity, or the power of attorney, assisting with your in-laws as they age may be inevitable. Even though they are not your parents, you may be asked to take on daily activities and health care tasks. Even though being a caregiver is rewarding, taking care of parents can be challenging. When it’s your in-laws, it can be even trickier. Weather you currently caring for your in-laws or will be in the near future, having a plan is key.
Start the Conversation
Determine who will be part of the team. Even family who lives out of town should be part of the team. As a team, determine your in-laws’ aging and health care goals. This may be assisting them to remain in their own home, moving them into a family member’s home, or community living. Once your team and goals have been set, discuss expectations and responsibilities.
How will the team communicate: telephone calls, email, a family website?
Out of town members: They can pay bills online, research community resources, assist in hiring care when a break is needed, or invite the parents to visit.
If you take on the responsibility of health care - attending appointments, tracking medication, and managing physical and mental health and needs - who will take care of them or hire an alternate home care support system when you’re not available?
Your mother-in-law probably doesn’t want her son to help her bathe or dress, but are you comfortable in assisting her? If you feel uncomfortable performing hygiene tasks with your in-laws, can you hire home care help to assist with personal care and hygiene?
Will you be cleaning and cooking for them, taking them to the supermarket and doctor, and caring for them? Who is going to help de-clutter or downsize?
Delegation is key. Could you hire home care to do the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and suggest your husband attends doctor appointments?
Express Your Limits
Make it known that you are more than willing to help, but it has to be within reason. Set the limit with the team that if there comes a time that you can’t care for them yourself - your in-law is unappreciative, too medically complicated, or causing a rift with your spouse - that the next step is finding a caregiver or an arrangement other than you. You want to be kind and compassionate, but your health, family, and marriage is a priority.
Don’t expect it to be easy. Caregiving requires understanding and time. When it’s your in-laws, your role can be even more demanding. That’s why it’s important to understand how everyone feels and know what you can do to make circumstances easier for all, including yourself.
Make sure to appreciate and thank everyone who is part of the team. Not realizing the efforts someone is putting forth can strain a marital relationship, especially when in-laws aren’t thanked or helped by a spouse or their siblings, or have the responsibility but are not part of the decision-making.
When additional support is needed contact Home Care Partners of Nebraska - your local resource that can answer your questions and provide services.