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Caring after Father in Law whilst Mother In Law is in Hospital

Mark Y Gwr

Registered User
Jul 30, 2015
I would very much appreciate any advice anyone could give on how to handle my Father in Law whilst his wife is in hospital.

I would say that he is suffering moderate symptoms, and certainly cannot be left alone, which is why my wife, his daughter, and I will stay with him whilst his wife is away.

I know that we will be faced with anxiety/anger issues as we faced this a few years back, and then he was accusing her of not telling him that she was going in.

However, this time, I fully expect him to be waking up, panicking, and wanting to go and look for her. What also complicates the matter is the fact that he does have access to a car, so I expect him to want to jump in that to search for her as well.

I have had a few thoughts, namely.

1. Rather than hide the keys and risk him turning the house upside down, just disable the car.

2. Would it help to print off a number of sheets just saying that she is in hospital for a short stay, that we will be visiting her in the afternoon, and that we are in the house as well if he needs us, placing these in prominent positions.

3. Keep him busy as much as possible. I know that he loves visiting the countryside, and that this seems to chill him out completely.

4. Do we lock the doors, and hide the keys?

Any views, and other ideas would be very much appreciated.

I have been looking at the huge amount of info on the web, and I don't suppose it will surprise anyone that my Mother in Law confidently breaks every "don't do" rule in the book. We simply don't seem to be able to get it through to her that she is making it worse for him as a person.

Unfortunately, he is met with a daily tirade of "I just told you that", "stop asking", and " I don't want a cup of tea, I just told you".

I know that it must be difficult living with someone who has this hideous condition day in and out, but it upsets my wife to see this happen to him, and it annoys me to see my wife, and my father in law subjected to the unnecessary mental anguish.

She has, however managed to take it to another level as well.

A while back, we arrived on a visit to find them both searching the whole house frantically. Obviously concerned, we asked what was wrong. Her response was " We went out this morning, so I told your father to hide his wallet".

We obviously asked if she had watched him do it, to which she replied "No I just told him to hide it, and now he can't remember where he put it".

I would never wish to make fun of anyone with such a terrible affliction, but you have to smile when an able minded person tells an Alzheimer's sufferer to hide something, without watching what they do!

We have tried several times to get the message across to her, but it just seems to fall on deaf ears. Is this a form of denial, or is it just ignorance of the facts?

Thank you for looking at this thread, and I look forward to any ideas that anyone may have.

Kind regards



Registered User
Jun 12, 2015
Hi Mark
Don't know if this helps but this is what happened in our case.

My Dad becomes very anxious when he can't see my Mum even when she is just upstairs.
When my Mum went into hospital I slept downstairs at their house and ,every day , in the early hours my Dad would appear downstairs looking for my Mum. I just kept telling him where she was and answering his questions about why she was not at the local hospital, did she go in an ambulance, why did he not know. We had made sure he came with us when we took her in for her operation. I found after reassuring him for about an hour he would then go back to bed, but we did start all over again in when he got up in the morning. We went to visit everyday, just to reassure him that she was alright.With my Dad I found if I kept repeating what time we were setting off to visit my Mum this seemed to work and after 3 or 4 times he stopped asking, until it came near to the time we had to set off.
I think your father in law will just need lots of reassurance.Will you be able to hear him if he gets up so he doesn't get to the car? I found distracting my Dad by going out didn't work ,we just spent the day waiting to go to visit her.
My Mum sounds similar to your Mother in Law in accepting his condition. I spend a lot of time explaining to her that he can't help it and she says I know, I know. I think she does know but is in denial. It must be very hard to accept that your husband ( of many years) can no longer do the things he used to do. My Mum did the housework and the cooking but Dad did everything else.
I hope this help and Good Luck, you will certainly need it. It was an eye opener for me.

Mark Y Gwr

Registered User
Jul 30, 2015
Thanks for the response, it is very much appreciated. Will certainly try it out.

We should hear him getting up, as his bedroom will be next to ours, and they have very creaky floorboards!

Your situation sounds very very familiar, you have my deepest sympathy.

All the best.



Registered User
May 18, 2014
Hard to accept when there is nothing physically to see with this illness, except very odd and repetitive behaviour. There are battery cut off things you can buy and once fitted not easy to remove, just in case your father in law pops the bonnet to check things out and he could start asking whats wrong with the car, when will it be repaired etc. Wise to plan at least one outing a day and not when too tired, cafes, library, short walks and of course hospital visits, even picnics if weather improves. My mum just loves going to cafes for coffee and cake and so we stay for as long as we can. If you think he will wander at night looking for his wife then keep your bedroom door open and his closed [hopefully you will hear him open his] or get a baby monitor. He may just be looking for the bathroom, when my mum wanders at night I always take her to toilet before putting her back in bed. If you can, take your laptop with you, we are all hear to answer any queries as they come up. Also spare complete set of clothes in car, just in case!!!

Amy in the US

Registered User
Feb 28, 2015
Hi, Mark, and welcome to TP. I'm so sorry to hear about the situation with your father-in-law.

I think you are definitely on the right track to anticipate that with his wife in hospital, his routine will be upset, and your FIL likely will be also. I am sorry that your MIL treats him the way she does, although that is probably not something you can change right this minute, if ever. It's fabulous that you are so supportive for your wife and her parents. You clearly know this will not be an easy time, for any of you, so hang in there.


1) yes, if your father in law has access to a car, and should not be driving, absolutely just disable it. Then you can say, I know you're worried about your wife and want to go see her, however, your car's not working right now. Please let us take you to visit.

2) I don't know if printing off the lists will help or not, but you won't know unless you try. If they help, great. If they do not help, you tried. If they upset him, just remove them. It seems worth a try.

3) Absolutely keep him busy and distracted. If he enjoys going for trips in the car, and is physically capable of this, I'd go for it. Again, if he is anxious about his wife, you might say, I know you want to go see (MIL), we are going for a drive first, visiting hours aren't until (x time), and then we will go see her, or, we are going right after lunch, or whatever seems to work.

4) I don't know. Are you worried he will get up in the night and try to go somewhere, or do you have other concerns?

I am also wondering what will happen when your mother-in-law returns from hospital. I am not meaning to pry, but if she will require any sort of assistance or continued care, that could be challenging.

Is it possible that now is an opportune moment for a carers' assessment, or bringing in help of some sort? Looking for day care or respite or other possibilities?

Wishing you all the best and hope things go as well as possible. It's not easy!

Mark Y Gwr

Registered User
Jul 30, 2015
Tin, Amy,
Thanks for the replies.

My main concern is him getting up at night, finding her gone, and going to look for her.

At the moment, he trusts me implicitly, so if I say something to him, he accepts it.

He has started to get annoyed at the fact that she has to go in, and that she has not told him before now. My view is don't mention it in front of him, but that falls on deaf ears.

I diffuse this by just telling him that "she did not want to worry him". So far, this does seem to calm him.

Luckily, they have an old car, so all I have to do is take the rotor arm off, so it won't go anywhere. I think it will be easier to deal with a broken car, rather than missing keys.

My wife will probably stay with them once MIL comes home.

Will certainly let you know how it goes.

Kind regards



Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
South coast
Would it be worth moving the car so that he doesnt see it? Out of sight and all that? Its in the garage if he asks.


Registered User
Mar 4, 2013
Auckland...... New Zealand
As far as your MIL saying things like " I have told you that" or " you have alreday said that" etc my Dad is exactly the same with my Mum who has Alzheimers.
He expects things of her, which when having dementia there is no way Mum will comprehend.
He says she just has to learn, or she just has to write it down, or she just has to try.

It is coming up two years since Mums diagnosis, and in the beginning this was all very hurtful to me to hear Dad like this with Mum.
I thought he was doing a lot of it on purpose. People were saying he was in denial.

It wasn't until mid last year when his own GP referred him to our Memory Team and he had tests and a scan that it showed he he had significant frontal lobe atrophy, and other changes maybe attributed to his years of smoking and early years of being an amateur boxer. He doesn't have dementia but has cognitive impairment.
Explains a lot!
Now when he says certain things I just have to try my hardest to change the subject or distract the pair of them.
There is no amount of talking, written info, visits with Mums Alzheimers Key Worker which is going to change anything.

Mark Y Gwr

Registered User
Jul 30, 2015
I had thought of doing that, but recently it had to go for an MOT Test, and he went ballistic, claiming that it had been gone for weeks, rather than hours!



Mark Y Gwr

Registered User
Jul 30, 2015
You have my deepest sympathies, a horrible double whammy there.

My wife is very good, and always changes the subject wherever she can.

I know it must be very difficult for them, but it is horrible to watch.

Kind regards


Mark Y Gwr

Registered User
Jul 30, 2015
Update on What Happened

Unfortunately, the whole situation has become a problem due to the fact that MiL is still in hospital over 2 weeks after the Op, with no firm view on when she will be out!

The first week met with my FiL getting up several times a night in a panic, looking for his wife, and coming into our room to see who it was. We had left notes all over the house, but in his panic, he didn't see these!

We eventually dealt with this, by leaving notes written in large red writing in the bathroom, as we realised that he went there first. This did work, and the nocturnal visits were significantly reduced.

However, they did not stop, as the questions then turned into enquiries on whether we had been to visit the MiL.

We used red writing, as this was suggested by the Hospital Ward Manager. I got to speak to her about our situation, and she told me that red as a colour was very important as Alzheimer's sufferers seem to hold this colour more than others. She even suggested that we got red toilet seats.

The very interesting element, was the fact that after the first week, my FiL actually knew that his wife was in hospital. He didn't know where, when or why, so his questions centred on these, and whether we had been to see her, or were going to see her.

It has been very difficult for my wife, his Daughter, as he has now taken to confiding in her in terms of how he felt. He knows that his memory is failing, and is worried about what will happen if it gets worse.

He very much reacts to the mood that his wife is in when he visits, and this certainly affects his demeanor immediately after the visits.

In retrospect, it has not been nearly as bad as I feared it would be. As long as we keep a calm approach, and answer his questions, he settles down. The questions do come thick and fast, but you just have to be calm.

I know that it is easy to say that, and do understand when you are faced with it day in and day out for a sustained period, it can take you to breaking point.

We have managed to get a weekend respite, and will shortly return to help him again.

I have to deal with the driving issue next week, and will probably disable it. This is going to cause problems.

In addition, when the MiL does come home, she will get home care, and he has already responded very negatively to this, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

All the best.