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by Abigail Van Buren

Mother-in-Law's Alzheimer's Keeps Couple Tied to Home

DEAR ABBY: I have been married 35 years. During the last six years, my mom died, my dad moved in and then he passed away at 91. Dad traveled, including to see my three siblings, and had a girlfriend. Three years ago, my mother-in-law, who is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, moved in. My husband is an only child and has no other family nearby. A couple of years ago, our sons, both of whom are in their 30s and had been in the Air Force, moved in. They have steady jobs and contribute to the household. One just bought a house.

My problem is with my husband. Because his mother can't be left alone, we rarely go anywhere anymore. And even when we are out, he's glued to his phone. They don't have a strong relationship and rarely speak to each other. When I try to talk to him about it, his answer is, "I promised I'd never put her in a nursing home," and, "Honor thy mother and father."

We have been to counseling. It didn't help. We are in our mid-60s and in good shape. I would like to travel before we won't be able to anymore. His mother is almost 90 and has no other health problems, so she could live five or six more years. I feel he should put her in assisted living so we can get on with our lives again. I'm tired of taking care of others, and I want to "retire," too. Am I selfish for feeling this way? How do others deal with this? -- HOW MUCH LONGER?

DEAR HOW: I have mixed feelings about your letter. Considering that your father moved in with you and your husband until his death, yes, I think your attitude is selfish. That said, Alzheimer's patients need constant supervision, and it is possible that in the right kind of assisted living situation, your mother-in-law could be doing better than she is. Social stimulation is important, and the activities that are provided could be good for her. The Alzheimer's Association is a trusted source of information, and you and your husband should be getting help from it. Find it online at The toll-free phone number is 800-272-3900.

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