Don't know how best to care for elderly bedridden alcoholic mother.

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Sorry, this is a long post/question...

My mother is a year shy of 80-years-old. She has a history of depression and anxiety disorder, but though I have encouraged and cajoled for her to get help for almost 3 decades, she has always refused, preferring "tea and sympathy" from me. Twice over the years, I've managed to convince her to go to a doctor for the depression, but she has never gone back after the first visit. She tried Citalopram briefly, but I didn't see any difference.

Except for a handful of blissfully free years when she had a lot of money, and I was able to live on my own, she has shared a house with me my adult entire life, and I have supported her financially most of that time. Any time I went anywhere overnight, she'd call with an emergency. For years, she threatened almost every day to commit suicide. Once I became older and marriage was pretty much off the table for me, the suicide threats calmed down, but she still tells me she would commit suicide if I moved away.

My mother has two problems that complicate her depression and anxiety. One, she prefers to self-medicate with alcohol. She also has the uncanny ability to create serious physical symptoms in herself that are so convincing she regularly fools specialists. Once they start, they can last for months, or until she finds a doctor who tells her there's nothing wrong with her. She then believes the doctor and the symptoms clear up immediately.

A month ago she got drunk and fell. She didn't appear to have any broken bones (no one in our family has ever broken a bone). She'd simply pulled a couple of muscles. I helped her into bed. For the next week, her symptoms varied, pains here, there, in her neck, in her side, in her back.

Her original pulled muscles healed within three days, but instead of becoming well enough to get out of bed, the muscles in her lower back spasmed and have remained that way since. She can only walk a few steps, and is crying when she does. She won't go to see a doctor. So, now I appear to be an around-the-clock caretaker. I bring her everything she needs. She tells me that wine is the only thing that makes her spasms better, so I bring her a couple of glasses a day mixed with juice along with her meals.

This afternoon, however, I had to run errands. When I came home, she was completely wasted. Evidently she could walk well enough to make it all the way to the kitchen, where she downed half a bottle of Vodka. Sometimes during the past few years she drinks more than I can get her to eat.

I really don't know what to do. I have no one I can go to for assistance. I spent too many years attempting to get help from government and non-profit agencies for another (unrelated) problem, so I have zero faith in going that route. They hand you a pamphlet and that's it. No concrete help.

We don't have any friends. Her other children, my siblings, abandoned her years ago. At her age, my conscience won't let me do the same, however. If only I knew 20 years ago, what I know now, I would have used some tough love and left, telling her she had to take responsibility for herself.

The bedridden part of this worries me. I'm concerned this could turn into a serious decline, and am not certain how best to care for her since she refuses to seek medical care. Frankly, even if she did go to a doctor, they rarely know how to treat her. She can be exceptionally charming with strangers, and is never honest with doctors about her symptoms unless she feels she has no choice.

Four weeks ago my mother could move around easily, and for once appeared very happy, working industriously on a book project. When not drunk, she acts like someone much younger. People are surprised when they learn her age. When drunk, on the other hand, she acts like someone with dementia.

Any suggestions for how I could handle this on my own would be greatly appreciated. This last month has taken a toll on my ability care for her AND to earn a living for us. We don't have insurance that will cover therapy, even if I could drag her to a therapist.

Thank you.


Wow, just read some of the other stories here. The issues I'm dealing with are small potatoes by comparison. Sounds like I simply need to do my best and accept that the situation is what it is.
Yes, Caregiver15, you need to do your best and accept that that is what you can do. Set aside any goals of perfection.

But, my goodness, are you willing to stay trapped by this situation for another 10 years? 15? You can't leave overnight? She manipulates you with threats of suicide? She requires so much care now that it is impacting your ability to earn a living -- and you have to earn it for both of you?

Certainly you are not going to pack up and move out and let her figure out what to do next. But I think you need to do some figuring out about how to have a life of your own. Keep reading posts on these forums. You will learn all sort of creative ways people have dealt with very stressful issues.

You are not responsible for your mother's happiness. You are not even responsible for her finances. The answer to how to best care for an elderly bedridden alcoholic mother is, I think, "not alone."

I know you have zero faith in government agencies, but I urge you to contact Aging Services in your state, or Social Services for your county, and have them evaluate the situation. They can advise you of what services are available for your mother. Perhaps she should apply for Medicaid. You will see many posts of people who have helped their parents with this.

My mother and also a disabled brother both have Medicaid and get various services to assist them to live independently. Yeah, it is not perfect and they are lucky to also have family to be supportive. But social services did not just give them a bunch of pamphlets. It is real, concrete help that makes a measurable difference in their lives.

Please don't give up on the possibility of real improvement in your life. You deserve it. It can happen.
Caregiver15: Your mom is an alcoholic and, besides other health issues, the alcohol is the one that lessens her ability to function. I agree with Jeannegibbs. Get serious about talking to your local Area on Aging. The resources are there and they are real. You might also want to get involved in Alynon (sp). It's never to late to learn how to distance yourself from the manipulation of an alcoholic. Someday your mom will be gone and you might very well find your self attracted to another person with the same problems. It's time for you to understand your role as a loving enabler. Do it now and gain some wisdom. Then put an end to this need to enable. My most heartfelt wishes go out to you. Take some action. Cattails.
Thank you, JeanneGibbs and Cattails. The advice is very much appreciated. I'll check out what aging services are available in my area.

I already got my mother on Medicaid, but our city has very few places that accept it. The local hospital ER is the place where most Medicaid patients end up, because they can't get an appointment elsewhere. Not ideal, and definitely not the way the system is meant to work.

I will check out al anon. Have thought of it before, but didn't believe I qualified. Yes, my father and grandfather were raging alcoholics, but my father abandoned us when I was born, so I never really knew him. Even though I put alcoholic in the title of this question, I'm not 100% certain my mother is an alcoholic. She doesn't drink every day, and she usually just drinks wine. For several weeks she'll go through most of a 1.5 litre bottle per day, and then say she's swearing it off and not drink any for a couple of days. Normally there isn't any of the hard stuff in the house. When there is, it's gone in a day or two at the most, but since it's not normally there, I don't know if she "needs" it or not.

A couple of years ago, when I was still working outside home, I would call her during the day to check on her, and her mental state terrified me, because I thought she might be getting Alzheimer's. It wasn't until she drove the couple of miles one day to pick me up after work, and I suddenly realized she had just driven drunk, that I knew the problem wasn't dementia. I took over all driving after that; it was time, anyway.
I feel so sorry for you. What an awful situation to have to deal with, especially alone. I work in a hospital and this is what I would do. The next time she gets wasted, call an ambulance and take her to the ER. Tell them of her suicide threats. I don't know about your hospital, but here they would call in mental health to assess her. If she qualifies, and she sure sounds like she would, they would have her admitted somewhere she can get help. She doesn't have a choice once they make their decision. If that doesn't work, there must be home health agencies in your area. Talk to her physician. Does he even know what you are going through? Even though she is 80 years old, she needs to take responsibility for her life. You are not responsible for her decisions. Whatever you decide to do, please get help for yourself. God bless you. I will keep you and your mother in my prayers.
There are two endings for Alcoholics... sobriety or death.
I am so sorry you are watching this.
Go to AlAnon and you will learn how powerless you are over the alcohol and you will learn that you are POWERFUL over your own life and your own life choices. You are not alone. We are here and the fellowship of Al-Anon contains hundreds of thousands of men and women who have faced the very same things you are facing. Day by Day you will learn to see the world differently and you will become unstuck.
Totally agree with LindaGS: only two possible outcomes for your mother. On the other hand you have to make some choices for yourself: are you going to let her drag you down with her? Trust me, give her the chance and she will (I've been there).
I read and reread your post. Everything you said indicates that your mother is an alcoholic. I've been to Alanon and Narconan because my husband is an alcoholic (he has been sober since 1987) and my adult daughter is a drug addict. I know how people with substance abuse can take over your life. Right now, I am busy taking care of my own 95 year old father, and I don't go to meetings. Make sure you find a group that you like. If you go there and don't have anything in common except for an alcoholic in your life, you won't like it. The group also has some ideas with which I do not agree. However, you will learn how manipulative alcoholics are, and you'll also have a place where you can freely discuss things. You'll also learn about how we sometimes enable them, as well as strategies to deal with them. Getting a hug or two isn't bad, either. Good luck! Write to me anytime!
BTW: I meant NarAnon not narconon
Meanwhile - can we get the alcohol out of the house?

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