Stepping Up for Our Loved Ones: Navigating In-Law Caregiving (8 Factors To Consider)

Sick in-laws should not be overlooked. You should help your spouse care for them. Even if you don’t have cordial relationships, discuss ways to care for in-laws with your spouse. Consider sharing responsibilities, moving closer to in-laws, taking decisions together, supporting spouse emotionally, and giving independence to in-laws. Depending on the severity of the sickness, consider receiving outside help and keep revisiting how to provide an effective treatment. Taking care of in-laws can be taxing, so spend quality time with your partner, so your marriage isn’t affected.

After marriage, we become so busy in our daily routine that we tend to forget our parents and in-laws are starting to age.

Then suddenly, one day, you realize they have plenty of minor health issues, and the roles of parent and child have reversed.

Aging in-laws are no different from your own parents. How you want to take care of your parent’s health issues, your partner wishes to do the same for their parents.

The declining health of in-laws

With time, your in-laws will start having health issues such as a bad knee, sudden muscle pain, or something worse.

You must set aside your inhibitions and help your partner through this tough physical and emotional time.

Understandably, not every family has the best relationships. You might find your in-laws annoying for various reasons, such as constant unsolicited advice, but at the end of the day, they’re your spouse’s parents. 

You can handle these challenging situations with your partner’s help differently.

1. Sharing responsibilities

As a married couple, you often do things together and care for each other during difficult times. When one partner cannot fulfill a responsibility, another helps, and vice-versa.

A young married man is helping care for his sick mother-in-law

Such should be your determination in handling your in-law’s health issues.

Just because you’re a daughter-in-law doesn’t mean your spouse can leave their parent’s responsibility on you. Usually, in a male-female marriage, a woman bears the burden of caring for her in-laws.

You shouldn’t decline to help your spouse care for their parents when they need your help.

As a team, you should share your aging in-law’s responsibility. Communicate with your partner about how to better care for things and what each spouse should be responsible for.

2. Moving closer to in-laws

The best thing you can do to take care of your aging in-laws is to move closer to them or help them move closer to you.

Of course, living together is a better option as you can take care of them 24/7, but if you’re uncomfortable sharing your personal space, consider living closer.

Another case is where living under the same roof might be required when their health issues need immediate attention daily.

3. Time won’t come back

Your in-laws are humans; each human has a certain lifespan that no one can control. What we can do during this time is do the best for our health.

But as we start aging, we can’t seem to able to do that all by ourselves. We need our children to take us to hospital appointments, get our medication, and take emotional care of us.

A young woman is caring for her mother-in-law while they're out

This time might seem troublesome, but it won’t return. This is all you have, and you can’t redo it or try better next time.

You can still live your life, but you can only take care of them once. And who knows, you might resolve your issues and have a healthy relationship with your in-laws or improve it. 

4. Making decisions together

With health issues come various decisions to be made. You make several small decisions when caring for your in-laws to ensure you do your best.

You might need to make difficult or big decisions in certain situations. Making such decisions together is better not only for your in-laws but also for your marriage.

You wouldn’t want your spouse to make a big decision without consulting with you, as it involves money, energy, and time.

It’s better to discuss things and know the pros and cons of each decision before finalizing what to do.

This way, your married life doesn’t suffer, and you’re better prepared to handle things on the physical and emotional front.

5. Don’t babysit your in-laws

Irrespective of which age your in-laws start needing help due to their health problems, they don’t want to feel like a burden.

They have lived their whole lives as someone who made decisions and cared for themselves.

But no one likes to age, and neither do they like being dependent on their children to the point where they start feeling embarrassed.

Consider your in-laws feeling when you’re taking care of them. Just because the roles have reversed now doesn’t mean they want to be treated like kids, which you might do accidentally.

There are plenty of ways to help them without them knowing about it. So think about making them feel more like an independent adult.

Only provide help when they ask for it instead of doing everything for them.

6. Think about yourself

With responsibilities at every step ahead, we sometimes forget ourselves and, in turn, our spouse. It’s good that you’re taking care of your in-laws, but take a breather in between for yourself.

A happy married couple is enjoying a meal together

If your situation allows you to move your in-laws to your spouse’s sibling’s home for some time, then you can share responsibility this way and have some much-needed time for yourself.

You could also consider assigning a live-in nurse for a few days and taking a vacation to come back rejuvenated.

If the situation doesn’t allow you to remain far even for a day, find time for each other in everyday life.

For yourself, you can plan outings alone or, if you wish, with your friends.

When focusing on your marriage, allow yourself to go out on dinner dates or order in and get all dressed up by making it a home date.

7. Support your spouse emotionally

No child wishes to see their parents suffering. However much we want to accept that our parents are aging, we can’t see them suffer and sometimes feel very heartbroken about the laws of life.

Apart from physical support, you must provide emotional comfort to your spouse. On days when they feel blue, find ways to comfort them through words, hugs, or talking about the situation.

Even if you don’t have the best in-law relationship, find different ways to support your partner through such challenging times. 

8. Re-examine your situation

Every once in a while, it would help if you reflected on how various health treatments are going.

Discussing the pros and cons of different treatments and how they could be beneficial or not by judging your in-law’s health improvement help determine your next course.

If your spouse has siblings who live far away, they must sit together and discuss such details. When you do that, you learn how to take better care.

This checking in with each other also helps relieve built-up stress and brings out hidden problems you might be overlooking.

How to take care of severely sick in-laws?

When your in-laws are severely sick, there’re different things you should consider. Things become entirely different if you’re working as you can’t take care of them all the time.

A doctor is discussing health diagnosis with her male patient and his family

Since they need a caregiver who should be with them or ready to help them at any point in time, it’s better to consider taking professional help.

It’s not rude of you to consider this an option because it’s better to provide constant help to your in-laws rather than going back and forth between your work, taking care of in-laws, and trying to live your life.

It can become overwhelming if you try to do everything by yourself as a couple when your in-laws are really sick.

You could start to blame each other, and your marriage will suffer. At some point in time, you might also begin to resent your in-laws even if you don’t want to.

Understandably, it can be challenging to perform intimate tasks for your in-laws. You can’t expect your spouse to do that every time for their parents while juggling a job.

If you don’t feel comfortable with assisted living facilities and nursing homes, you could hire visiting nurses and home health aides to help you out. They can fill in the gaps of taking care.


What to look for in a nursing home for my in-law?

  • Check out the living situation, including the general layout, total capacity, room size, and available recreational facilities.
  • Plenty of open spaces like gardens or fields near the facility for fresh air.
  • Check the overall cleanliness of the facility.
  • Ensure the facility isn’t surrounded by many buildings, so there’s less noise pollution.
  • Check out the emergency services available, including all emergency escapes, fire alarms, etc.
  • Check out how close the facility is to the nearest hospital.
  • Check if the facility is near essential areas such as stores, libraries, etc.
  • Check out if the facility is pet friendly because some people feel better by having a pet with them.
  • Understand all costs included and what they charge extra for different services.
  • Understand the billing arrangement and determine your options for better financial choices.

Should the daughter-in-law primarily take care of her in-laws?

No rule or law dictates so, but these are norms of society. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and think how weird and hurtful it would feel if you refused to do that.

Think about how your spouse could deny helping your sick parents in the future.

Your in-laws are, after all, your spouse’s parents.

Even if you don’t have a cordial relationship with them, they’re aging, and getting sick requires love, care, and attention.

There’re different ways you can help.

It’s not necessary to entirely devote your life to caring for them to make your spouse happy but discuss how much you are comfortable doing and find different ways to help take care of your sick in-laws.


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Hi! I’m Saumya, writer and editor at Marriage & Bliss. “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow—this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” —Elizabeth Gilbert. Every marriage faces pitfalls, be they internal or external, and with my words, I hope to help couples find possible solutions and mend their broken relationships. After all, a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
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