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Family break-up

We came across a really sad situation the other day. A woman we know has been caring for her mother in law for several years. Her husband doesn’t have much family nearby, except for a sister who never showed much interest in caring for her mother. Now the couple are splitting up and it looks as though they will have to sell their home. But her husband seems to think it won’t make any difference to the arrangement for caring for his mum and that she will carry on as before.

What would you do in this difficult situation? Why not share your thoughts and experience with others on the Forum.

Best wishes

SimplyHealth Care for Life team

6 Replies

The woman who has been caring for her mother in law for several years should tell the other family members exactly what she is or is not willing to do for her mother in law. If she wants to continue taking care of her mother in law, the mother in law should be asked whether that is what she wants.

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If I was in that position, it would all depend on how I got on with my mother in law, if she was like a mum to me, I would want to do what I could for her. Her ex husband should not assume that she will carry on looking after his mum, maybe as it is he's mum he should look after her. Yvonne

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That's a hard one, as said its up to the wife and what she wants to do, if she is really close to her M.I.L and wants to carry on caring that's lovely, but she should make it clear from the start that the others should help out, especially the husband, they should have a family meeting and sort out exactly what each one is able to do to help , write a rota if necessary and stick to it, But if she feels she's done her bit over the years and doesn't want to carry on with the caring she should nt be afraid to say, it's a difficult situation but can be worked out if they all pull together, maybe the sister didn't offer to do anything as she didn't have to, but now things have changed and she must do her bit too.


Well if I was the lady concerned I would refuse. The elderly person has a son and daughter, it is their responsibility. Take the divorce, sell the house, and find yourself a little place to live, even if it is a rental, and look forward to fulfilling the rest of your life.

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This is a difficult situation for all concerned and so many elements to think about

It is important she considers her own well-being and the impact the situation will have on her emotionally whether she is to continue providing care for mum in law or not

However, as others have said, it depends on the relationship and also whether her mother in law wants her to continue. Family loyalty can take strange turns in these circumstances.

I would suggest talking as a family if it's possible, including the sister to establish what is best for mother in law as well as herself. She needs to confirm and be clear on what she is willing to be involved with, if anything.

Given the circumstances she shouldn't feel pressured into anything. This won't help anyone

The level of care being provided needs to be established. This may require the daughter in law writing things down so people know in advance if she chooses not to carry on.

A plan then needs to be put in place to to establish who is going to replace the care she is providing if not carrying on. This may involve talking to the local authority to request a care assessment. If neeeded, they will help source care or give you advice on what to do

Unfortunately I don't know if mother in law has capacity to make a decision on who she wants to provide her care. This is where a social worker or an independent person would be able to help. A lot of assumptions can be made under these circumstances so it's helpful to get an independent view

I have experienced this type of situation where the daughter in law continued to provide care and ultimately the mother in law moved in with her. However, I would stress the divorce was quite amicable and relationship and communication was good. The son had power of attorney and just paid for things he needed to. When she needed help with more care, he agreed and we sourced and implemented a care package to support her

I really feel this is a very individual thing but one which must take into account the impact on the mother in law if she decides not to continue, and why I stress getting a clear understanding of the level of care / support being provided and who will do it if she doesn't. I don't mean it is her responsibility alone, but one she must handover properly to ensure the older person is safe.

I don't think anyone will blame her for not wanting to do it. She also needs to take into account future relationships, either herself and her ex husband. This is when it may get difficult looking into the future.

Not any easy one for sure, remember she needs to be open and honest about what she wants to do. I hope she is able to resolve amicably for everyone's sake.

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It is very complex. Especially as the ex husband has made assumptions of his ex wife.

From a personal experience. If the wife should continue to care for her MIL she needs to make it clear what she is willing to do and how frequent that caring will be.

She also needs to think of her own needs and will she be living locally following the sale of the house.

I cared for a very dear friend after his wife died. He had no immediate family. He had several brothers & a sister. But all elderly. He did have a nephew who visited sporadically. His visits became much less. My family and his neighbour supported him during advanced cancer treatment and surgery. During some of his operations he lived with us. He was like a father and grans father to our children.

When he died in hospital neither his brothers nor nephew came.

However his house was suddenly full of relatives. My dear friend actually left me a letter. Thanking me and my family for such continuous support over the years.

His nephew cleared the house and took what he and his family wanted.

However they missed the greatest gift of all " the love and friendship of such an awesome man"

Think long and hard if this is what this lady want. There is no greater gift than love & friendship.

Relatives however can be cruel x x


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