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Hax: Eldercare creates tension for daughter-in-law trying to take action |
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Hax: Eldercare creates tension for daughter-in-law trying to take action

Carolyn Hax
| Friday, May 6, 2016 8:12 p.m

Adapted from a recent online discussion:


My elderly mother-in-law is in the hospital, and it is apparent that she will be unable to return to her home. She is slated to be released from the hospital in about 14 days. None of her children, including my husband, has made any attempt to find permanent housing for her. She cannot come stay with us or her other children, so this leaves assisted living.

I have taken on the job of looking for places and arranging visits for us to see them. I am being criticized by one child in particular for taking control of the situation. I am feeling unappreciated and attacked for trying to help my MIL.

I, at this point, want to step back and do nothing. I know if that happens, no one else will step up, and my MIL will be released from the hospital with no place to go. What should I do?

— Family

Well, at least you know it’s a family trait and not a reflection on you.

Your husband joined right in on the effort to do nothing about her housing, yes — but will he do anything to shield you from his siblings? That seems like a fair deal to me: You continue making arrangements, and he communicates with and absorbs flak from his family.

If he won’t help you … what would happen if you said to the critical sib, “If you’d like to take over for me, then I’d be grateful. I can give you all the information I’ve gathered so far”? Especially if you know for sure there’s at least one acceptable place on your list with a vacancy, you’re in an ideal position to call this sibling’s bluff.

Re: Family:

I did call her bluff, and she fell down on the job. My husband said if she wanted to be more involved, then she could make arrangements for the tour of the mother-in-law’s first choice (albeit way out of her budget). After a few days, no appointment had been made. My husband asked why the appointment hadn’t been made, and her response was that we had two weeks. We have two weeks until my MIL is out on the streets. I called this morning and made the appointment.

For what it’s worth, my husband is trying in his way to take the flak from his sibling.

— Family Again

That’s good; you’ve got everything you need to keep forging ahead with what your mother-in-law needs you to do: You have make a bona fide effort to let the sibs take over, and you have your husband at your back.

I realize that’s not what you actually want, but what you want —decisive, proactive and grateful teammates — is not happening, and the alternative — washing your hands of it all and letting them handle it in their seat-of-the-pants way — is apparently something you’re not ready to do.

It won’t be easy or fun to feel others’ wrath, but ultimately, it’s about finding their mom a safe and appealing new home.

Email Carolyn at, and follow her on Facebook at

Carolyn Hax is a Tribune-Review freelancer. You can contact Carolyn at

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