Marleen will never take in a family member again: ‘Her death was a relief’

“The bitter thing is that my aunt and I used to have a very good relationship. Rita was my mother’s sister. She used to raise me for the most part, because my own mother had too little time for that because of my parents’ company. Rita considered me as her daughter.

I got married at a young age, it was a bad marriage in which I was mentally and physically abused. In the end I fled with my son from my ex, I was allowed to go into hiding with Rita for six months. Even though that was thirty years ago, I will always be grateful to my aunt for that. Regardless of what happened between us later.”

“Until June last year, Rita still lived independently in a sheltered housing. She was already 99 years old, but very spry. She could do everything herself, and even had her own teeth. But my husband and I heard from her neighbor that he sometimes worries made for her. She spent a lot of time in bed and sometimes barely ate anything for days. Occasionally she came to stay with us for a weekend.

Moving van full

“Last year Rita came to stay for a week in the summer, and that went fine again. I knew she was lonely and then suggested that she could come and live with us. She really wanted that, because she thought my husband and me were so sweet Rita canceled her rent, we moved her stuff – the whole moving van was full, she had that much – she got her own room with us with her furniture and a TV.

Somehow I had expected that it would sometimes be difficult, after all my aunt had lived alone for a long time and was no longer used to having people around her and taking others into account. But I naively thought that this would work out.”

“When Rita moved in with us, we made clear agreements, for example that she would be at the table on time for dinner: breakfast before nine o’clock, lunch at one o’clock and dinner at seven o’clock. If you don’t come to the table, then eat you didn’t come along either, very simple. My aunt was fine with that. And it went well, too, until the day she was officially registered with us. From that moment on she threw her ass against the crib. Often she wasn’t up until eleven o’clock ” in the morning, and then she loudly demanded her breakfast. That’s where the fuss started, and it bothered me.”

Unkind and underhanded

“Although my aunt had her own television in her room, she thought it was more pleasant to watch in our living room. My husband likes to watch Hart van Nederland or Shownieuws, it’s nice to have the mind at zero. No problem at all, everything was good, said Rita. But then when my husband went to the kitchen to grab a drink, she commented behind his back: “Who watches something so retarded?” I thought that was rude and underhanded.

From then on things went from bad to worse. Every evening I almost had to beg her to come to the table for dinner. “It’s my house, so I can make that decision myself,” she said. And no, she was definitely not demented. Very clear, if she had a friend on the phone she could tell in detail about her days and about current events. Rita was aware of everything. So she wasn’t confused in the least, she just didn’t feel like ‘rules’.”

“Rita was incontinent but refused to wear diaper pants. She used pads and threw her underpants with pads in the laundry basket. Could I get those dirty pads out. No matter how many times I asked her to do it herself, she refused. Rita thought that was my job At one point we arranged home care to help her get dressed and wash, because that was getting more and more difficult. It went well for a while, but then Rita criticized the carer again and was sent away by her. I found that very frustrating .”

Washcloth for her bottom

“The mood in the house was getting worse and worse. I felt like getting into our motorhome with my husband and not coming back. At Christmas I invited my cousin to come and stay. On Christmas Eve we all sat with each other. We gave each other presents and agreed to enjoy a nice Christmas breakfast together at ten o’clock the next morning. That morning we called Rita to the table. “I’m coming!” she said. Then, contrary to all agreements, she first went into the bathroom for an hour while we were waiting. The atmosphere was immediately spoiled.

Once when Rita had an accident with her stool, I saw her in the sink cleaning her underpants with my husband’s toothbrush. When I expressed my disgust, she said, “Whatever, I’ll just rinse that brush clean.” Disgusting. If I’d used a washcloth and hung it up in the bathroom to dry for the next day, Rita would happily use it on her bottom. I ended up hanging my washcloths in my bedroom.”

“Still, I tried to be understanding and kind. For Rita’s 100th birthday last summer, I organized a party for the whole family on a boat with food and drinks. It was quite a lot of work. But I never got a thank you for it. In fact: my aunt had thought it was a worthless day, nothing was good about it.

All those tensions in the house had an effect on me. I hovered between disappointment and anger. Every day I was crying, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had more and more arguments with my husband, because Rita knew how to play us off against each other perfectly. The whole situation made me very sad. I almost died and so did my husband.”

Uncomfortable in my own home

“In the end, after Rita’s birthday, things went downhill fast for her. She couldn’t get out of bed and suffered from hallucinations. She died in her sleep two months ago. It sounds incredibly silly, but her death was a relief to me. The way she treated my husband and me was just unacceptable. She made me feel uncomfortable in my own home. Respect has to go both ways, and Rita was really ungrateful.”

“I don’t regret taking my aunt in because I did it with the best of intentions and I took good care of her until the very end. But with the wisdom of today I never would have done it. If I had everything If I had known in advance, I really wouldn’t have started it.

There is no understanding for this when I say this honestly to people. That’s a taboo, you have to act like it’s no problem at all to take care of an elderly relative. On commercials you only see perfect pictures of family, but that is not the reality and I am open about that.”

A place in a home

“I should have just found a nursing home near me for my aunt, where I could often visit her. Because the last year and a half together went so badly, a lot has broken down. My beautiful memories of her are overshadowed by the nasty incidents and that is a pity.

I’m not taking anyone in again, never again. It simply takes too much of you, you are on it twenty-four hours a day. Know what you are getting into, I would say to others. If you love each other, it’s better not to do it. I also told my son that he really doesn’t have to take me in later. “Find me a place in a home for me,” I said. That’s better for everyone.”

The names of Marleen and Rita are fictitious names. Their real names are known to the editors.

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