DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law is 80 and in the early stages of Alzheimer's. She lives alone an hour and a half from us. She also has a professional who takes care of her once a week. My husband, "Fred," goes to help and entertain her every weekend, and I sometimes accompany him. She has enough money to stay in an assisted-living facility, but Fred wants to build a mother-in-law apartment for her on our property.
Abby, I don't like her. She was a bully when she was younger, and she's still manipulative. She has made some comments about me hitting her, which never happened. Of course, Fred believed me. If she lives with us, I will be her main caregiver because I have a home-based business and a flexible schedule.
I have already said no to Fred's idea, but I don't want to be the bad guy. His two brothers live states away and don't want to be involved because of the way their mother treated them during their teens. Fred is the only son willing to overlook past issues and has made peace with her.
Could you help me sort this out?
- Three's a Crowd in Maryland
DEAR THREE'S A CROWD: I'll try. Caring for someone who has Alzheimer's disease is a full-time job because the disease is progressive. While Fred's mother can live alone with the help of a professional once a week now, that will soon not be the case. She will become increasingly helpless and so confused that should an emergency arise in her apartment she will be unable to think sequentially enough to know what to do. She may no longer recognize who you are and become agitated and combative.
For these reasons your mother-in-law should be in an assisted-living facility staffed with caregivers who have been trained to take care of people with Alzheimer's. Because you have a business to run, it can't be you. Since Fred has made peace with his mother, he should visit her often to ensure she is well-treated. But he should not expect the responsibility of caring for her to be yours, because it is unrealistic.