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When your MIL moves in… (long, but I ask for your help.


Senior Member
I love my MIL, but because of some undeniable differences in opinion, I’ve always been relieved when a visit was over and we were on our way home. FIL passed away a couple of years ago, and she went to live with her daughter in another state. Things got tense with her daughter’s husband, as he was not always treated with respect. Not outright disrespect with words, but blatantly ignoring simple household rules. So she came to visit us for a few months, and now has decided to stay. DH and I discussed it, and I did agree, thinking I need to do my part. Now, the same thing is happening here. Basic guidelines are blatantly ignored in a passive aggressive manner. I know she’s 91, and has lost all control over her own life. She’s not senile, in fact, she’s sharp as a tack.I’m having a hard time knowing how to deal with the fact that my opinion doesn’t seem to matter to her. She probably feels the same way about me. We’ve tried giving her responsibilities so she feels like she’s in control of some things, but that hasn’t helped. One big example is the fact that both of us have asked her not to give the dog table scraps. I have to put a lot of garlic, onion, and other spices in her food because she can’t have salt. Besides the fact that onion and garlic are toxic to dogs, the dog has allergies as well. I’ve also caught her giving him grapes, but he didn’t eat them. She’s constantly trying to sneak him food under the table. That infuriates me, and I’m trying to find ways to deal. Anyone have experience in this area? I want the end of her life to be good, but I don’t think I should have to give up my rights for that to happen.
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Senior Member
I think she needs to rotate

I would flip over feeding the dog scraps, as she could kill your dog. That I would be very firm about.

I think it would be fair to share the responsibility with your sister in law. Maybe 4 months at a time with you and 4 months with her daughter. I know you want her to have a peaceful ending to her life, but she needs to help. She’s being rude, and needs to stop. Maybe being a tad less comfortable by moving back and forth will help with her “company manners.”

Meanwhile, I’d keep my dog away from her.


Senior Member
I would confront over feeding the dog toxic stuff. I'd google information about why these things are so dangerous for dogs and what can happen and then I'd simply ask her "Are you going to feel good about yourself if you kill our dog? Seriously, stop doing this." She may not even fully understand why this is so bad. I was raised around dogs and we never fed them table scraps or anything else other than dog food but I didn't know until a few years ago that things like chocolate and grapes can actually kill a dog.


Senior Member
We have the same table food issue with my mom. She’ll hide the food in her hand, look at us in the eye, and deny feeding the dog AS she drops it on the floor.

We’ve told her that the dogs will get diarrhea and sh!t in her bed. She’ll say, “Can I sh!t in my bed too?”

The dogs are now leashed to our chair when we eat. We keep them next to us so she can’t see them. When she eats breakfast they are in a different room with my dh.

I always hear, “Why do you have to be so mean? The poor dog is hungry.” I continue to explain that people food will make the dog sick.

Fresh air, a small walk, a ride to town, and frequent ice cream helps her disposition.

I also get a lot of “that’s stupid.” I respond with, “I believe you meant to say thank you,” or whatever would have been the appropriate response.

We did have my mom put on an antidepressant which has been helpful. Aging is very difficult, they are dealing with the loss of independence, aches and pains, the loss of purpose, and so on.

It takes time to figure out if they need more stimulation or time alone. Is there a senior center she can go to during the day? A friend of mine had a lot of luck with that for her mother.

Are you still working or retired? If you are home with her all the time bring in help so you can have break and get out of the house. If she doesn’t need help they can play cards or do a puzzle with her. Sometimes having a different person around can help. They usually have better manners when a non-family member is present.


Senior Member
Tough situation

I would tell her if she does not stop feeding the dog you will stop adding so many spices and things since she cannot be sharing toxic foods with the dog. She will have to eat bland food.

I do not blame you for being upset.


Senior Member
Is your husband backing you up? Has he laid down the law? She's his mother. I know she's 91, but old age really doesn't give you a pass on being rude. I had a difficult grandmother (and another sweet one). She also moved in with my parents after I was almost grown and away at college. It was tough on everyone but especially on my younger sister who was still in high school. She no longer felt comfortable in her home or bringing her friends there.

I think Munchkins is right and you'd all be happier if she moved every 4 months. Unfortunately her daughter may not want her back now. Is that still a possibility?


Senior Member
I would see if you could take turns having her stay with you with your sister-in-law. Having someone in your house is difficult enough and one that is elderly and needs supervision hard.

We are switching off with my in-laws having my mother-in-law stay with us for a few weeks/month at a time. I do feel for her and probably the revolving houses isn’t the best for her but they are all trying to keep her out of a home and she doesn’t have the income for assisted living. Bless you. I know how hard it can be.


Senior Member
Sending good thoughts

It’s hard so sending good vibes to you first.
Dog-My mom loves to feed our dog when visiting. To stop her giving scraps to the dog, we made a special container for her to give treats. It helped.

Many years ago my MIL lived with us. She was moving to another house and it was not ready. She lived with us for about a year. Before she did, DH had a long talk with her. They discussed common household rules such as we make a mess, we clean up our mess. If you make a mess, you clean it up. Our son was young and we told her we didn’t expect a live in babysitter. I believe we did not have any issues because DH discussed with his mother ground rules. We were all working and we were not her caregivers.

Of course, your situation is different.
Has you DH discussed any basic ground rules with her? Will you be the primary caregiver? Will there be any outside help available?

I think pp are correct. Are you all available to share the care? Could she live with one family for 4 months at a time?


Senior Member
my ramblings…

I think that putting the dog out or putting it in another room during meals is a great idea! It prevents the sneaking food issue which is your goal right?
She might be sharp but it sounds like she is doing things impulsively without thinking about the consequences. She really doesn't want to hurt your dog but she doesn't consider the harm. Elderly people often become similar to small children in this way. Think of ways to solve problems with little ones and you could have a solution for MIL. Good luck!


Senior Member
Thank you for your input.

I was feeling so guilty for getting angry, but at the same time, I was wondering why I had to be the one making all the changes. I love her, but it’s hard being with her 24/7. I like the idea of trading back and forth, but, unfortunately, her congestive heart failure causes problems when she flies or takes long car trips. That’s how she ended up staying with us. She came for a 3 month visit, and got sick and couldn’t leave. We nursed her back to health and decided to keep her here.
Wildflowers, this is exactly what she does!
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Senior Member

Kudos for agreeing to have her stay with you. You are a saint . I know feeding the dog is your example of a big issue. I like the posters suggestion to let her know the true danger. But also just keeping the dog way during meals could work.

I also hope that you get some time by yourself so you are not feeling burdened with the care all the time. Hoping your family can take turns too.


Senior Member
A pet of her own? Ideas

Change how her food is prepared

Salt substitute like Mrs. Dash?

Feed dog elsewhere, dog not present during meals.

Give her food prep tasks she can do while seated. At 99 my Dad shucked corn.

Day program? She needs a social life/ things to occupy her mind

I assisted my Dad the last 3 years of his life. It wasn't easy by any stretch, but we learned to enjoy life with mutual trust and respectful cooperation. Putting him in a home wasn't something I would do... I think he lived out his natural lifespan because he lived in his own home. He knew he was lucky.

I hope things calm at home for you. Don't forget self care.


Senior Member

You are a saint .
I agree.

I didn't read all the replies so forgive me if this has already been mentioned, but where is your DH in all this? Is he doing his share, because I doubt you agreed to be the sole caregiver. Your DH needs to stand up to his mother and let her know certain things are not okay. For you to be available 24/7 is unsustainable. Either your DH steps up and helps or you should get outside help that can come in for a few hours a day to relieve you while you take care of you.

Regarding the dog, the easy solution is to keep him away from her during meal times. After a meal, check MIL to see if she has hidden some scraps in her hands or pockets. She may see it as an invasion of privacy, but you need to do what you need to do. It may be more difficult if she has unsupervised access to the kitchen.

You are a saint.


Senior Member

If it was my pet I would have brought her up short.

"This animal is my responsibility and I am the one who feeds. Do not thwart my authority or take advantage of my good nature!" Use your teacher voice. Follow with very decent treatment of her. For example maybe suggest an outing, a car ride? Out for a cone? You can discipline with firm kindness. Just a thought


Senior Member
Oh, sorry it’s not possible to take turns “hosting” her …for lack of a better word. You are in a difficult position. I would be really angry she undermines you with your dog. Is she doing it to annoy you or does she want the dog to like her? I think as you get older you can get mean? If she wants the dog to like her give your mil a set amount of treats to give. Your husband should speak up also.

I had a friend who is one of nine. When her mom was sick they did fmla leaves and used vacation days to help care for her. I wish you the best.

My grandma used to spend Nov to April with us…in a northern state. 4 bedrooms and 5 kids, 1 car my dad used for work, and a small house. I remember finding my mom a couple times crying upstairs because my grandma could be very critical and judgmental. She never ever said anything bad to or about her mil. I often think how hard that was for her.


Senior Member
She may be part senile and you can’t tell. See if she can be evaluated. My mom has dementia and is in stage one or two with a sudden decline the last two months. She can fake out her five minute doctor visit. So I’m right there with you.


Senior Member
It's amazing what they can fake for the doctor. My dad used to wait until the nurse turned their back and then look at his watch to draw the clock face for the memory test. <!--giggle-->


Senior Member
I have no idea what her financial status is, but if it's affordable, she might actually be happier in a senior apartment or assisted living. That was my mother's choice for the last 6 years of her life and it worked out well. She had the independence and privacy of her own space (so did we!), as well as activities and peers. She was only 2 miles away, so we visited often and she joined us for a family dinner just about every weekend.


Senior Member
Thank you again.

In answer to your questions
  1. We tried giving her a bag of approved treats. She insists that he shouldn’t have to have dog treats. He should get the same food we get. She said”How would you feel if you could only have the same food every day.?” I said, “He never knew there was anything else until you started giving him things. He’s a dog. He gets good, balanced DOG food. “
  2. DH is also doing is share in caring for her, when he’s not at work. I’m retired, so I’m there 24/7, except for activities I’m involved with. She can take care of herself if we’re gone, but we have to be there to give meds properly and prepare meals. She doesn’t like eating out (too frivolous), so I’m cooking a lot.
  3. I’m retired.
  4. We take her to church, where she plays the piano while I play the keyboard. She enjoys that, but is struggling with newer music.
  5. I’ve tried taking her for walks up and down our culdesac, but she gets out of breath easily, and refuses to go.
She also likes to go to the grocery store, the thrift store, and the library.

DH agrees that she shouldn’t be giving the dog people food, but it’s not a hill he wants to die on with his mom. It’s hard for him to be assertive with her. I get it.


Senior Member

Is there people food she could give him? Some dogs like carrots. I found this graphic of safe and unsafe food for dogs. Maybe seeing it print will have an impact.
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