Q: I have had an arranged marriage and we live in a joint family. My father-in-law is retired from the armed forces and things have been fine. Being elderly, they keep falling ill but recently he suffered a stroke and is bedridden. My mother-in-law is also virtually bedridden and cannot help look after her husband. We are a double income family and I am extremely stressed out trying to cater to everyone's needs - including my children (we have two). I cannot stop working because it’s my money that pays for their nurses and hospitalisation. My husband knows that the stress has caused me to get diabetes but there is nothing he can do.
Recently a friend suggested to me that I should speak to him about moving them to a care-taking facility like an old age home, but I cannot broach the subject with him. We also belong to a community where it is expected that we will look after the parents. My husband is a dutiful child but cannot see that even our children are suffering because they end up looking after the grandparents after coming back from school. It is hindering their study time etc. The situation is taking its toll and I know that we cannot live like this for too long. What should I do?
I understand how tough your situation is, given the people involved. Guilt, resentment, anger, and anxiety, might be the dominant emotions guiding one’s fear and hence choice. From where I look at it, it seems that you all urgently need some emotional care, and skills to deal with the situation that you have described; before we talk about changing the situation itself. Humans have dealt with and have capacity to deal with bigger threats than those that our modern lives inflict.
It is okay to suggest that your parents-in-law be moved to a care facility; however do you think that would also serve as a negative trigger for your relationship with your husband? So let’s see what options we have to deal with the issue. We can use one or combination of the following:
- Hire a help or a nurse to come and take care of them during the time that none of you are able to.
- Try counselling for the emotional support you obviously need, and to gain skills to deal with the particulars of your condition.
- Find regular hours (at least four hours a week) to do what you enjoy and find relaxing and recreational. I cannot emphasize the importance of spending time with yourself. Incorporate yoga and meditation into your routine.
- Look for a day care centre for your parents-in-law and see how that arrangement works out.
To take steps in any of the above or other direction, remember a relatively balanced state of mind is essential. Developing physical illness as a response to an unpleasant stimulus is a problem independent of the triggers you face; whether it is taking care of in-laws or looking after the household and professional challenges. Hence, this needs to be attended separately and address in a way that addresses the core of the issue and not just the nature of the trigger.