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OT, Sort Of - In Laws in Need

caninelover's picture

SO's brother (let's call him Will though obiviously not his real name) lives about 5 hours north of us and is in a wheelchair.  He is pediatrician and has been in a wheelchair since young adulthood due to an accident (he finished his last year of med school from his hospital bed).  Will lives with his longtime partner (let's call him Jim) who is a licensed RN.  Will has a private practice in a small town and Jim manages the practice.

Will is very independent and normally manages his life just fine, and Jim obviously helps with any medical issues when needed.  A few months ago, Will had what was thought to be a minor medical issue that required hospitalization for a few days.  Unfortunately the condition snowballed a bit and Will ended up needing another surgery a week or so ago.  He is now home and recovering for another 4-5 weeks but must remain on his side to avoid pressuring the surgical area, and can only be moved to his back to each and drink for 10 min a few times a day.

Normally Jim manages quite well but unfortunately he also requires gall bladder surgery soon.  He is trying to hold off until Will is better but not sure if he'll be able to.  Currently Jim easily tires and has difficulty bending, so caring for Will wipes him out and he's not able to get to many household chores.  Both have said on family calls that they are managing with a home health aide a couple of days a week and some friends, and don't require any additional help.

Last week Jim reached out to Bratty (who lives an hour away) and asked if she minded stopping by to help out with some cleaning and cooking (yes, you read that right LOL).  Jim also said he really didn't want the rest of the family to worry and hoped to keep it private.  Bratty said sure and ended up staying the weekend.  She texted SO that she was worried that Jim needed much more help than he was admitting to and could SO talk to them?  Bratty (to her credit I think, trying to help) asked her boss if she could have extra time off but was denied.

SO and I both work from home currently so it wouldn't be an issue for one or both of us to go up there to help out for a week or longer.  SO texted his brother yesterday and asked if we could come up for a week to help, and Will texted back no thank you we're fine (more or less, paraphrasing).  So it seems they don't want anyone in the family to know they need help but could definitely use some over the next few weeks.

SO was very concerned and is now thinking of showing up on their doorstep and insisting.  I said I'm not sure that's a good idea since at the end of the day both Will and Jim are adults and should make the choice for themselves, but I said it was his brother and I would support him in whatever he decided.  We discussed some more and decided SO was going to call Jim today to see if he could talk him into accepting our help for a week or so.

Otherwise I told SO a second option would be an AirBNB for a week, and then just stop by to offer help.  That way it would take any burden off of Jim feeling like he had to host us.

Anyway not sure how it will turn out but I'm just getting some thoughts written down.  We'll see how SO's call with Jim goes.  I do hope he's open to our help.



lieutenant_dad's picture

If Will doesn't want physical help from family and SO has the financial means to do it, maybe consider hiring a housekeeper or ordering some oven-ready or easy prep meals (Home Chef has a line of products that takes minimal prep and ready in 30 minutes) or hiring a landscaper to mow the grass, etc. That will help them while giving them the privacy they want/need.

caninelover's picture

Except there is a pride thing with Will.  First, he's very independent and doesn't want to ask for help from anyone.  Second, he's a doctor and doesn't want to admit to needing any financial help.  And third, he's competitive with his other brother (not SO) who was a big corporate executive - they both have some tension and feel the need to keep up with each other, i.e. who has the bigger house, cars, etc.

So that's why we were thinking of AirBNB and then just knocking on their door to offer help for a couple/few hours each day.  And maybe at the end of the week we'll either see they are ok or maybe they'll be more comfortable asking us for help then.

Jim also has a lot of pride in his role of caretaker to Will and doesn't want the family to see he's struggling to manage this but honestly its alot for any one person.  We don't need to tell anyone and are happy to keep our visit/help under the radar.

bananaseedo's picture

I second the idea of hiring him help.  That is really the best help, and they dont' feel embarrassed because of house condition with family....or have to deal with the emotional work of having people over, kwim?  Sometimes privacy is key during difficult times, it's just how it is for a lot of people.

Definately go with the housekeeper, the easy prep meals or even take out delivered- and lawncare if they have a yard.  

caninelover's picture

Yes I pointed out to SO that having anyone stay with you is some level of effort, even if we did the cooking/cleaning etc.

So we thought with the AirBNB route they would still have privacy but also help nearby.

They are very unlikely to accept monetary aid, for the pride and ego reasons I mentioned in answering Lt. Dad...

Stepdrama2020's picture

I hope your BIL has a speedy recovery.

I wonder, pessimistic me, do you think Bratty is making this bigger than it is, and thats why your BIL says they do not need extra help?  Apologies if I am way off the mark here. My ex SD was like Bratty in many ways and she embelleshed sickness. 

Regardless I hope all turns out ok. 

caninelover's picture

And SO even mentioned that Bratty tends to overdramatize things like this so it is definitely possible.

But in this case, SO showed me Bratty's texts and she included an email from Jim to her where he specifically asked her to come and help with cleaning and cooking since he was tired and having a hard time bending, and also stated he didn't want the family to worry or know he needed help. 

After I read that, I think Bratty felt a little stuck in not wanting to break confidence but also worried after she saw that Jim did in fact need help - so I think she did the right thing by reaching out to SO.  Frankly Jim shouldn't have asked Bratty to keep it a secret and should just be upfront about needing help - we would help, his other family would also be happy and available to help.  Its just Jim and Will's ego and stubborn-ness.  Hopefully SO can get through to the them today.

Stepdrama2020's picture

I was off the mark.

Good luck with it all. Hope they accept your help.

caninelover's picture

Us too.  I know SO is now very worried about his brother Sad

Merry's picture

I think the AirBNB is a great idea. Are there other touristy things in the area? "DH and I are going to go to xyz, but can we stop by with a meal since we'll be so close?" No doubt conversation will lead to the things they need help with. Then you can offer.

I also think it's ok to remind Jim that caretakers need a break now and then. He might feel that, as a nurse, he should be able to handle all the medical care, but it's still exhausting. And if he gets exhausted, Will's care takes a hit.

You just need a way to get past the ego and pride so they feel good about accepting the help they need.

caninelover's picture

That's exactly Jim's mentality - he's an RN and has always cared for Will - its part of his role and identity within the extended family.  So he is having a hard time admitting he needs help, but of course everyone needs help fro time to time.  Especially given his own health challenges right now!

That's what we think too - we can come by if needed or not.  We think the proximity will get them to cave and eventually let us help a bit :)  Yes, it is a nice area and there are some touristy things we can do but we both have some work projects that will require us to work a good portion of each day, unfortunately.  But since we can work remotely we can do so from the AirBNB...

caninelover's picture

I think she did the right thing by telling SO.  I'm sure she didn't want to break Jim's confidence but it was clearly alot to ask of her and I think it goes to Jim's state of mind right now - really overwhelmed.  This all started just after the holidays so he's been dealing with it for months now - in and out of hospital, PT, etc etc etc.

advice.only2's picture

I guess it's true what they say, doctors and nurses make the worst patients. Your SO should go and ignore their protests. I'm sure if they had patients going through this same situation they would be lecturing them to get help.

caninelover's picture

Will's state of mind seems good on the family calls - he's upbeat and hopeful but of course it may be different once he and Jim are alone.

SO was thinking about just barging up there, and we went back and forth last night.  Ultimately we decided we don't have standing to insist but we can definitely nudge/push them to re-consider accepting our help.

simifan's picture

Send a housekeeper as a "get well soon" present. A little something to help out. Its often a lot easier to accept a strangers help & to ask for what you really need done. Who wants to look SIL in the face after she's folded your boxers. :-) 

 And hey gift - harder to turn down. 

caninelover's picture

Good point about the boxers :). They are still considering our offer.  If they say don't come then maybe we'll insist on gifting them Merry Maids or something like that for the next month...