You hear a lot of horror stories when it comes to in-laws. It’s usually an issue among daughters- and mothers-in-law. Some psychologists believe that it has something to do with how mothers often think of themselves as their son’s primary caregiver (just as how fathers stereotypically think of themselves as their daughter’s protector). So, when it comes time to let go of their sons to marriage, many mothers hold their daughters-in-law to a stringent standard that might cause a rift in their relationship.
Regardless of what you might feel about your in-laws, it could come to pass that you might eventually have to care for them in their twilight years. This is not an easy task for anyone, made even more complicated by the fact that you are expected to care for folks that have not raised you. Here we’ve put together a list of things you can do to make this new dynamic easier for everyone involved.
Understand That the Dynamics of Your Relationship Will Change
You should go into this new caretaker role with compassion and understanding. The roles are not reversed, after all. This is particularly important if they’re moving in with your family. So, before anything else, you and your spouse have to agree on certain things. Both of you have to be on the same page, so when it comes time to talk to your in-laws, neither one of you will go off-script.
When you do talk to your in-laws, be prepared for some pushback with duties and boundaries you are proposing. For example, you might be ok with preparing their meals or doing their laundry but you’re uncomfortable helping them in and out of the shower. Even the seemingly little things have to be discussed before you fully take on the caregiver role.
Discuss the Option of Living at Home but Hiring Outside Help
Are your in-laws capable of doing certain tasks by themselves? Or are they fully dependent on your care? In either case, it might be a good idea to hire outside help. Some elderly home facilities offer personal care services for seniors who are still able to physically care for themselves while others offer live-in care services if your in-laws need more assistance. For one thing, knowing that there are experts taking care of your family members gives you peace of mind. For another, it gives you and your spouse some breathing room if you’re also working full-time and a chance to live a normal life with your own immediate family.
Re-evaluate the Situation from Time to Time
As with everything in life, the level of care that your in-laws would need will change. They’re health could easily deteriorate, or they could bounce back from any physical ailments. Some forms of routines might no longer be working and would need to be scrapped or updated. And while you and your spouse have initially taken on the role of primary caregivers, revisiting the situation would be a good chance to bring in other members of your spouse’s family. If they have siblings, for instance, you could talk about sharing financial burdens or figuring out what to do when your in-laws have passed.
How you’ll handle taking care of your in-laws would also greatly depend on how you would want your spouse to treat your own aging parents. Just as you wouldn’t like it if they neglect your parents, so should you be patient and understanding with their own.