The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a homemaker in my late 40s. My mother-in-law, who lives with me, suffers from dementia and I have to care for her. It’s very hard for me.
I live with my husband, mother-in-law, a son with serious disabilities and another son who goes to high school. Caring for my own son is not tough for me at all, but caring for my in-law is really hard.
Although it’s always tough, I think I’ve managed to do it properly. Despite all my efforts, my husband’s elder sister sometimes hurls accusations at me in abusive language.
This sister withdrew my mother-in-law’s savings right before my husband and I started to live with her. She still has the money. I’m even angrier with her because of this action.
I also hate myself for living this life. I know it will help if I look at this matter differently. Please advise me how to approach it.
H, Gifu Prefecture
Dear Ms. H:
This is not the kind of problem that depends on your outlook. You need practical solutions to change the current situation, where you alone bear the burden of caring for her.
You should abandon the idea that you should care for your in-law totally on your own. You should ask for the cooperation of your husband, his sister and other family members. You also should use nursing care services. In a word, you need to seek help from your family and from outside parties.
I imagine you have your hands full caring for your son with serious disabilities and running your household. You also need to consider your high-school son, who is at a difficult age.
You say it’s painful for you to care for your in-law. This is not because you are mean but because your body is screaming for help as it can’t bear the heavy burden.
Your sister-in-law is your mother-in-law’s real daughter, so I suggest you ask for her help through your husband, such as providing financial assistance and helping to care for her mother. In the past, women were supposed to care for their elderly parents-in-law all by themselves. But this social norm is outdated today.
First and foremost, consult with a comprehensive regional support center for the elderly or a department in charge of welfare for people with disabilities at a local government office. I also suggest you participate in local groups set up by families of dementia sufferers, such as cafe-style programs supporting such people, so that you can be more involved with society while caring for your in-law.
Keiko Higuchi, critic