Alcoholic uncle with possible dementia - at my wit's end. Any suggestions?

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I feel like I'm in a bit of a different situation than many I have read on this forum. A little background: I live with my husband and his uncle, in the uncle's house. The uncle has been a severe alcoholic for years. The rest of my husband's family gave up on the uncle ages ago. My husband and I found ourselves in dire straits and needed somewhere to stay, so we moved in with the uncle to rent a couple rooms in his large house. We've lived here for about 9 years. When we first moved in, the uncle was frustrating because of his alcoholism, but in the past couple years especially he has taken a turn for the worst and we strongly suspect dementia. The uncle and I have never gotten along, but for the most part we leave each other alone and that works for us. But lately he has become extremely forgetful and demanding of my husband. We moved in with the verbal agreement (our mistake, we should have put something in writing) that we would pay a certain amount in rent and nothing else. But the uncle started to forget to pay the utility bills and every month we'd find the water was off, or suddenly we'd have our power cut off; so my husband, who had a very well paying job at the time, took over the bills just because it was more convenient. Sadly, my husband was laid off about a year ago. The uncle has deteriorated significantly since then. Now not a day goes by that he doesn't call my husband to b*** to him about how we're behind on rent - this is true. But we're behind on rent because we've been paying ALL the utilities. Uncle insists that the agreement was that we'd pay rent and all utilities. Won't hear otherwise. He berates my husband nastily about how he needs to cut his hair and shave his beard because 'nobody will hire you when you look like sh**. This riles me up something fierce; my husband looks FINE. Husband just nods, says okay, agrees, until uncle gives up and goes back into his room. Husband does this because uncle won't remember any of it in an hour or two. He can let it go. I can't. Uncle has left the kitchen in complete horrible mess, and I refuse to clean it. At first, he didn't understand why I wasn't cleaning his house, because 'when I was coming up, that's what women did'. Sorry, I'm not cleaning your entire house when we only rent two rooms of it. I will clean up after me and my husband but not the huge messes you leave in the kitchen. His refrigerator (we have our own because he forgets what food is his and will eat ours) is a damn health hazard. He leaves the stove or toaster on and sets off the smoke alarm and then insists that he never turned them on even though we know he was in the kitchen ten minutes before. he doesn't remember, but he gets nasty when we tell him it was him. He wakes my husband up at 4 am to complain that there are boxes in the basement that aren't broken down. In his mind, unless boxes are broken down, 'the fire marshall will come in here and condemn the place'. Husband goes along with it. Uncle got it into his head that our bathroom doorknob needed to be replaced with one that uses a key. 'I need a key to every door in this house'. (I put my foot down on this one. There is no reason for a bathroom to need a key lock, and I certainly don't want him with a key to the room I shower in.) His justification to me when I refused this: 'what if you died in there and we can't get you?' me: 'then you break the door down.' him: 'I don't want dead people in my house!' He wouldn't let it go until my husband distracted him with some other topic and then he later forgot all about it. He's paranoid. I don't know if this is from the alcoholism or possible dementia or both. insists that all curtains be drawn at all times because 'kids come up and look in' or 'the neighbors will tell me they can see into the house'. Uncle insisted (at 5 am) that my husband take the curtains down to wash them because 'the neighbors will see that the curtains are dirty' (they aren't). Next day blows up at my husband; 'leave my f**king curtains alone!!'. There is no way we can get him to a doctor to see about dementia. We can't force him to do anything. Husband's family is divorced from the uncle's care and needs completely and leaves all this to my husband to handle, for which I am very resentful. Husband is stressed out all the time. We have to be silent when we hear the uncle come out of his room because if he hears us talking, he will call my husband out and talk in circles about curtains, boxes, yard work (all of which he says 'we' need to do, but what happens is my husband does it and uncle 'supervises' while criticizing him the whole time) for HOURS, LITERAL HOURS. I am really struggling, mostly from guilt. I don't love the uncle, but of course my husband does. But my husband needs help his family won't provide. Does this sound like dementia? I know I am wrong for feeling so angry and resentful, but I can't help it. I feel powerless. Any advice is appreciated. Sorry for the long post.


The wall, I am sorry for the situation you are in.
Can I ask why have you stayed 9 years, and you and hubby did not save up to move into your own place years ago?
If you have stayed 9 years and uncle was an alcoholic from the get go, why did you choose to stay?

smeshque, i agree with you. if i had my way, we would not be living here anymore.

part of the problem is my husband. when he was working, we could have moved, but he felt obligated to stay and take care of his uncle because nobody else in the family will put up with him anymore. this has caused a lot of arguments between me and my husband. i hate it, but i have some resentment towards my husband because of it. he's stubborn, and i feel like he puts my feelings aside because it's easier in the short term for him to just placate his uncle until he forgets again. it's very frustrating.
The wall-I understand that. Good for you for being a loving wife, and patient. Do you work outside the home?

i don't. i am currently filing for disability. i do little paid surveys here and there for pocket money but am unable to work full or part time. we actually moved in here because i had to stop working because of my illness and we could no longer pay rent at the place we were living because i was the only one working. after we moved in here, we were without income for a short time until my husband found the aforementioned well-paying job. he has been searching and searching for work in his field since he was laid off, but is able to make a bit of extra money on the side from various ventures, which is why we're able to pay the utilities; but it's not enough for utilities and rent. it IS enough for just rent, though- and here's where i disagree with my husband- he insists on paying utilities because if we dont the uncle won't remember to; even if we pay him rent (which will cover them). he argues with the uncle that we never agreed to pay utilities but because we HAVE been and that's all the uncle remembers, he insists that my husband is lying and trying to be sneaky with him. uncle constantly complains that he shouldn't have to pay any bills because he worked for years and now it's my husband's turn (uncle is entitled to retirement payments but can't figure them out so he thinks he has no money when really he could - husband is working on setting up his retirement payments to go directly into his bank). but uncle doesn't remember he's entitled to retirement - he thinks all of his income is supposed to come from us paying rent and utilities.
Well, you are in a rough situation. What if you tried this for a little while a see if uncle reacts differently.
Even if you don't want to because of resentment, just keep the house clean and kitchen just as you would your own home. Then uncle will see your contributions to the house, besides money that he seems to forget you have contributed.
Just be pleasant to him, and yes sir him. In the meantime hopefully husband will find work, you will get your disability started and then you all save and move as quickly as possible. It is not good to have resentment in a relationship, I understand why you have it. But it is definately not healthy. Do you have low income housing where you live that you could check into. I know that in some cases they even pay you to live there. Based on your income.
I would pray a lot and just put into place a plan to move asap. Uncle probably appreciates the fact that you all are there, or he would have kicked you out.
It is never easy living with others. If he has dementia, it will not get better. So if you must stay, just keep the house up, as if it were your own. Do more than your share, because uncle doesn't seem to be able. And if you all moved in to help him, then do just that. Not so much the money part, but creating as healthy environment as possible in those circumstances.
Does husband have a fear of moving away from his family?
i have really considered that, just doing it anyway (with cleaning and whatnot) but to be honest, i really react strongly to the idea. Uncle has been promising to clean his mess in the kitchen for months now, but there's always a caveat. he didn't like how my husband kept his office (we used it mostly for storage because we moved a lot of things into just two rooms when we moved in) 'i rented you that room to use as an office, not as storage' LIKE IT MATTERS. ok, husband rearranged things in the office til uncle was satisfied. did he clean the kitchen like he said? of course not; now it's 'get all the boxes out of the basement' (which are left over from his last roommate and aren't even our responsibility) 'and i'll clean the kitchen'. did that. now it's 'clean up the yard and i'll clean the kitchen'. it never ends. the kitchen wasn't like that when we moved in, but one day he decided to gather all the dishes he had in his bedroom up and put them in the sink to clean them and there they stayed, for ages. he's just using me and my husband to clean up after him and i resent that and refuse to be a party to it. i have my pride.

husband has a strained relationship with all of his family, they are very disfunctional. this is foreign to me because i grew up with a very loving, caring family. he grew up used to passive aggressiveness whereas i grew up with love and acceptance and honesty. his relationships with his family are all rather toxic. but deep down my husband is a loving, caring person, and he feels obligated to take care of his uncle.

i feel like i'm being a spoiled brat here. maybe i am. but his uncle is a danger to himself. he needs to be in an assisted living facility at this point. but i see no way of making that happen.
Do you have family that you all could stay with? If uncle went to Assisted Living what would you all do for a place to live?
Uncle probably feels that since you all live there, rent free in his mind, that he should be able to make chore lists for you all to do as your share, since it is his house.
So why don't you all write up a rental contract with him, and that way, everyone understands what is expected. ANd then if there are any disagreements on the issues, you can just point it out on the paper that everyone signed and agreed to, thereby stopping all arguments.
But really, you are living in the uncles house. If you are living in his house, unfortunately you have to comply with his wants and wishes, or there will be lots of resentment, lots of arguments, lots of misunderstandings, and lots of bad emotions. This is truly an unhealthy situation. How old is uncle? And what age range do you all fall in?

Where would you be if you weren't living with Uncle? What difficulty does husband have holding a job?
You're not paying rent, only utilities right now, correct?
Is your plan moving forward to find your own place to live?

Have you thought about calling the local Area Agency on Aging and asking for a
 " needs assessment" for Uncle?
If you've put up with this for 9 years, it is going to take some major work to overcome. How do you use a kitchen with a permanent big mess? How do you tolerate being at Uncle's beck and call, at all hours the day and night?

You are in a very dysfunctional situation. You don't deserve that. Why are you putting up with it? Why is your husband allowing this? He loves his uncle. Doesn't he love you?

I agree with BB about having a needs assessment done. But it really doesn't matter whether his behavior is due to alcohol or dementia or the bubonic plague. It is totally unacceptable for you to have to live with it.

Move out. With or without your husband. If you qualify for subsidized housing with your disability, take advantage of that. Don't abandon Uncle, leaving him high and dry. Get him hooked up with an agency or notify the APS that he is a vulnerable adult living alone. But move out.

This may not be the answer you were expecting and it may seem very harsh. But the problem is not just the uncle. It is the state of your marriage and the lack of respect shown for your feelings.

Move out.

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