• JAR's Avatar


    Asked by JAR on Tuesday, August 13, 2013


    My Father in law has stage 4 prostate cancer (for the past 2.5 years) and in the last month has taken a turn for the worse. He really wasn't the nicest guy before but now he is just being cruel to my mother in law. I want to sympathize with him because I know he is dying but my mother in law is starting to fall apart. She is an amazing woman who is taking care of him and he just curses at her and calls her names. I know he has a right to be angry and that it is the cancer talking but that doesn't make it any easier on her. This is a terrible situation for everyone and we are all suffering. I am encouraging her to get help but once when she tried he yelled at her and said why do you need support when I'm dying. Her own children are struggling and don't help her much. I am trying to be there for her and listen to her. What else can I do? I am worried about her health too!

    11 Answers from the Community

    11 answers
    • flamingogirl's Avatar

      I totally sympathize. I have a grandmother that is not very nice to my mother and my mom is her only caretaker since my grandpa died 14 yrs ago. It sounds like she does need help, but unfortunately he won't let her get help. Maybe if the doctor talks to him/them about getting help that would help him realize how much stress this is putting on her. Maybe get hospice involved in some way. Try to be as supportive as you can. Sorry your family has to go through something this awful. Hang in there!

      about 7 years ago
    • geekling's Avatar

      People in pain are the worst.

      People who care for them need inordinate amounts of patience.

      There is the old adage about sticks and stones but people forget.

      My Mom went downhill hard. Two things happened which come to mind for you.

      One time she was dissatified with something and she struck out and hit me, scratching my face. I reacted but, thank heavens, caught myself before I struck back. I took a breath and sat down beside her. I explained that if it was Okay for her to hit me, it was Okay for me to hit her back and it was possible that she would not survive a blow from me when struck in anger. She nodded her head and, as bad as things got, she did not ever strike out at me again.

      The second thing had to do with a salad. I put a big one I'd made on the table thinking to serve each of us from the salad serving bowl. Mom was already sitting at the table. She reached into the bowl and took out a fistful of the contents and threw it all right onto the floor. "Too much green." she said. I was stunned. There were lots of ways I could have reacted and, trust me, almost all of them came into my mind. But she was so ill, so frail, so unable to think clearly and communicate well, I just sat down and laughed. She was, after all, the very same woman who had made me miserable as a kid with the "You eat that! There are children starving in China." and calling it sass when I asked her to send the food to them.

      Your Mom in Law is in every position to demand respect and even, perhaps, a little gratitude. She is not required by any law in any book to even bring him a glass of water if he can't play nice. She isn't required to be obedient to him either, despite what may have been her initial vows with him If she needs help, let her get help. The pat answer to "why do you need support when I'm dying" is that he is killing her too. She is not required to die or suffer because of him. If she sickens or dies first there will be no one to care for him. She might remind him of that or would that be cruel?

      A very close friend, cracked her shoulder bone some years back. She is gone on to the Undiscovered Country and I miss her a lot. She was very kind as a person, full of diplomacy and usually quite kind and considerate. She needed more help than I could give so the second week fell to her youngest daughter. One day the phone rang and it was her but she hadn't meant to call. You know how cell phones can sometimes dial a number without you, yes? I could hear an exchange between my friend and her daughter who was trying to help her to dress. Although there was no cursing, I heard my friend really verbally misuse her daughter. My sweet friend was sarcastic and mean and just about poisonous to her daughter who was just there trying to help.

      We dined together either later that day. I KNOW my friend was a very sweet person. The conversation came to care-taking and cruelty and the like. My friend really did not like being dependent on anyone but she had no idea she had been so mean. When she remarked that she would not ever do anything like that and her daughter snorted and they got into a discussion "I don't do that" "You did" I explained how I'd been privy to the dressing moments for almost 20 minutes before I hung up (I was really shocked but , well, she was my friend so I was amazed). My friend was as surprised as anyone that she had behaved in such a manner. She immediately apologized to her daughter and her daughter was grateful and immediately forgave her because there was real love in that family my friend had created.

      Point being that pain makes people crazy.

      about 7 years ago
    • lilymadeline's Avatar

      I am so sorry that you are going through this! I've been a caregiver to someone dying of cancer and I know this dementia part at the end is horrifying. your poor mother in law! your poor family! but sympathy probably doesn't help much, OK someone has to talk to his doctor and tell him or her about this personality change. It happened with my own mother right before she died of cancer, and she was a sweet and kind human being to start with! but she had a complete personality change, it was some weird form of dementia or perhaps the cancer hit her brain right at the end? Please get someone in the family ( I guess someone who has legal authority ) to call his oncologist behind your father in laws back and tell the doctor about this personality change. It is possible that some kind of medication will help, but your mother in law will probably have to give it to him as a chemo pill or something because this man probably is not aware of what he is doing completely at this point. The oncologist might not be able to do anything, but he ( or she ) should be made aware of this anyway. It was awful for me to have to go behind my moms back when she was no longer able to think clearly or take care of herself, but it was only the last month of her life that this happened...I guess I really feel that the cancer had hit her brain somehow because she wasn't herself anymore. your mother in law has my deep sympathy and I hope that she doesn't fall apart as much as I did during this time. Take care and god bless! xoxooxoxoxoxo

      about 7 years ago
    • lilymadeline's Avatar

      p.s. and maybe it is time for hospice?

      about 7 years ago
    • sue57's Avatar

      JAR, it is hard, I' m the caregiver for both my mother and my uncle with Alzheimer's. Even though they are together in a facility for that it can be a daily effort to get them what they need and now I have cancer! They have good days and bad days and my mom can be a bear to my poor uncle. He doesn't understand and loves her so much it is hard for him. The best thing I have found is to ignore the one that is nasty and make the other one feel like they are a million bucks! Take your Mom out to lunch every week if you can, buy her some flowers, tell her you love her and get her mind off the rest of the week. Try to set up a day just for you and your Mom every week if you can, and recruit the other family members to do the same. Although your Dad is very sick and struggling, it is your mom that needs your attention now too, and even a little bit will help her get through this. Your dad may even see a difference in her attitude and come around a bit too! My mom can never be nasty long when we are all smiling and laughing! Thinking good thoughts and prayers for you and your folks.

      almost 7 years ago
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar

      Hi JAR,

      I'm Aliza, a Breast Cancer patient and the site's unofficial Medical Librarian. I'm so sorry to hear about everything your family is going through currently. Med Librarians usually help by offering referrals and the ones I'm going to offer are the following:

      CancerCare-for both your father-in-law (if he can get there or speak to them) and most definitely your Mother-in-Law. She is not required to tell him every move she makes!! These are not the days of Archie and Edith Bunker! At least I hope not! The Social Workers at CancerCare are trained to deal with the highly specialized needs of Cancer patients and their caregivers. They may also be able to refer you to agencies which might offer your mom-in-law respite from your father-in-law.

      Another thing you or your family or mother-in-law should do is phone your father-in-law's insurance co. and see what entitlements he has re home health care aides. You (and your husband) can state firmly that this is needed for your mother-in-law's health so that she can get a break and you can tell him he's being obnoxious. You may even want to talk with his oncologist or Primary Care physician, tell them he's being verbally and emotionally abusive to your mother-in-law (not unusual in these circumstances) and ask for a prescription for some anti-anxiety medication for him (that should help). You may also want to look into whether hospice or palliative care is a good idea at this point. That does not mean he's going to die immediately. It means he'll be monitored so that he'll be kept comfortable and there'll be a more peaceful atmosphere at home.

      The other referral I have is if your mother-in-law and father-in-law belong to a religious community, now is an excellent time to contact their clergyperson for a visit. In some congregations, there's even a "sunshine committee" that visits members who are at home, but this would perhaps be a better idea after your father-in-law is medicated for anxiety.

      My last suggestion is for you to look on the right hand side of this page and click on the purple box that says "View a list of personalized resources..." Some of the items contained within may come in handy.

      I hope these ideas which are practical give you all some sense of relief as there are things that can actually be done aside from recounting everyone else's horror stories (we all have them). It may help to hear that we've all gone through this (or at least some of us [my Dad had Chronic Leukemia and was a sweetheart until the end]), but that doesn't help you! Practical advice does! Keep me posted and let me know if there's anything else I can do for you.

      Wishing you well,

      almost 7 years ago
    • Gabba's Avatar

      It does not sound like your FIL has had a sudden change in personality but rather just an intensifying of his personality...I think someone who was not, as you said, "the nicest guy before" can become a sharper version in illness...hospice may be a godsend in this situation for both him and your MIL...I like Sue 57's suggestion to give your MIL some extra attention these days...speak to a social worker at his cancer center for other suggestions...I am sending best wishes, prayerful thoughts and hope for better days ahead...

      almost 7 years ago
    • fusilier's Avatar

      I don't have anything to add to the excellent posts others have made - but we are all in this together.

      James 2:24

      almost 7 years ago
    • ladyhawk's Avatar

      keep praying for him and her patience,,, bless her heart for being his caretaker,, that is love! most folks may want to walk away from it all,,, but we need to relax him, you know the cruel words are not really meant, anger can really take over a mans pride,, he's not upset at anyone,, just "WHY HIM" syndrome. I was there once and i'm a mom,, but figured it out! and cancer saved my life and soul believe it or not! lets start by nice calming teas, and classical music and give him space. and in the mean time, you ask yourself, how would you feel if that was you in his place? :(

      almost 7 years ago
    • MichaelV's Avatar

      try slipping your father-in-law 10mg of Lexapro in his food or drink everyday. It may improve the situation. Also, she can go to support groups and he need not know about it, this can be of great benefit to her.

      almost 7 years ago
    • tspoon's Avatar

      I agree with Gibba, but I wonder if there are brain mets involved? Doesn't matter really, as a caregiver/spouse I can relate to your MIL, but I do look at mine and tell him you are asking for a good beating or something to that effect and the horse a** stops and shuts up for the rest of the day. I do wonder, because I look crazy enough or he knows he deserves it.

      At the same time I also tell him that when this is over does he want me grateful he is gone, or does he want me to remember him fondly?

      almost 7 years ago

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