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Caring for Your In-laws

It may be that you and your husband live closest to his parents. Maybe he’s an only child. Whatever the reason, he may want to—or have to—take care of his parents as their health begins to fail. But if his schedule prevents him from attending to his parents’ day-to-day needs, you may end up doing most (or all) of the work.

Caring for your in-laws can be both easier and more challenging than caring for your own parents.

You may find your in-laws are less likely to push your buttons and you’re less likely to get emotional. At the same time, you may feel resentful, especially if your in-laws’ needs increase or you never really got along with them, or if your spouse or his family second-guess your decisions.

Honest and frequent communication is critical to avoid conflict. Whether you’re just beginning to discuss your role as a caregiver or if you’re in danger of hitting the wall, keep these points in mind as you negotiate with each relative:

Your Spouse

If his siblings or parents feel strongly about one plan of action while you advocate for another, your husband may feel torn.

  • Make sure he is involved and is aware of the problems you face.
  • Allow him to help you to understand any potential resistance due to family dynamics or history.

When the two of you agree on the best solution to his parents’ care, you can present a united front to his family.

His Siblings

Your goal here is to help his siblings to understand changes in their parents’ condition that may soon require a different level of care or attention.

  • Periodic family meetings, either in person or via Skype or FaceTime, will keep everyone up-to-date.
  • As your in-laws’ needs change, be very clear about caregiving tasks you will and will not do, and either solicit volunteers or assign those duties.
  • When you and your husband speak with his siblings, maintain a team mentality.

Remember, too, that as your responsibility increases, your authority should as well.

His Parents

Caregiving is an inherently intimate act, and as you provide more and more care for your in-laws, you will see more of them (literally and figuratively) and become increasingly involved in their lives. You may need to learn about their financial or legal affairs or about their medical histories, and they may rely on you in ways you don’t anticipate. As the dynamic of your relationship changes, remember to respect confidences and confidential information.