Started by

It is now the start of my seventh year caring for my mother. She has had fifteen major surgeries, a massive stroke with brain injury, and several smaller issues. I'm turning 50, a single male, and have two graduate degrees. I have been unable to work and my bank account is negative $2.00 while all of my credit cards are charged to the Max. I started with an 820 credit score and its now dipped below 400. All attributed to groceries, medicine, and general items for the house and car. My older brother, by five years, is taking my mothers retirement checks to put his two daughters thru private school. One is 15 and the other is 11 years old. I have been arrested twice in the last month and held for observation because of thoughts of committing suicide. I have not had a vacation in 4 years. I am broke, my mother is broke and we are on the brink of losing everything including a family farm which we have had to borrow from to support my mother. She refuses to go into a home. She yells, screams and throws things when I mention a home. I get to deal with my I'll mother, my brother sucking us dry of money, and trying to save the farm. My brother has visited once in four years only to drop his children off for the summer. I am having constant headaches, my blood pressure has skyrocketed, I don't sleep, the local people think I am insane, I've gained weight, and i only shower every three or four days now. My brother doesnt care as long as he gets his monthly checks. My mother doesn't care as long as she stays out of the home


The following is only my opinion, but its my strongly held beliefs that came out my own physical/mental/spiritual/emotional breakdown recently.

You are living in an unsustainable system. Decisive action is necessary. Start small.

Stabilize your own health by putting an emphasis on nutrition (juicing works for me), meditative exercise, and regular sleep schedule. Learn to do breathing exercises to calm on-the-spot stress. Get enough rest every night to deal with the massive requirements of your life right now. Pets and music are great emotional health boosters. Look for anything and everything that will give you a mental boost, no matter how small. Slow down. The mess is there and will still be there when you are stronger. Who cares that you only shower 1x a week now... its discouraging but the problem isn't the showering or lack thereof... the problem is anxiety + depression as a result of not knowing how to FIX anything anymore... and you've been trying really hard, haven't you? So stop trying so hard to fix things... this is the problem, not the solution. You've put too much stress on yourself and now you "can't see the forest for the trees."

It isn't necessary that your mom stay out of a home. We are human beings, we adapt, and we grow. And in fact, its challenges that make us adapt and grow. Your mom will likely meet others her age, and in her similar situation, if she goes in a home. Women enjoy companionship, thats a biological fact. So please let go of any guilt associated with trying to bear the burden of mom not going in home.

Let the farm go if it means you keep yourself, and your own sanity. A farm equals WORK, and if you'd rather go work in an area you're actually interested in (I'm guessing you got those grad degrees for a reason, once upon a time), then its time to let the farm go.

Your self-centered sibling is likely not understanding how directly his actions affect you and mom. Most people, while jerks, are not COMPLETE jerks. When you're healthier and clearer, take the time to write him an unemotional letter that outlines how his personal benefitting from mom's checks has contributed to your personal meltdown.

Also, there's a different thread on here - the "YOU" thread - that's a good place to vent in a healthy way. And the long-suffering, isolated caregiver needs a safe place to vent.

I hope some of these ideas resonate with you. Clarity is key. And highly stressful situations make us act from our limbic (emotional) brain and not our prefrontal cortex (logical) brain... or at least that's my take on it from researching into our stress response. And our self-care is the first thing to go when we are stressed, even though thats when we need it most.
Thank you for the advice. A voice of reason and clarity makes everything smaller and more manageable.
I'd say you need to get some "muscle" on your side to really change this situation. First consider letting your brother know that your mother's retirement checks should be going toward your mother's retirement as opposed to you making up the difference. If he doesn't cease taking it immediately and reimburse you for what you personally have paid, that you will call Adult Protective Services and report him. It will mean his daughters have to attend ordinary school, but that issue is his responsibility not your mothers or yours. I know calling APS is a strong action and will have difficult ramifications - but aren't things already awful as they are? Another thing APS could help you with is figuring out the necessary steps for your mother to go to a nursing home and for you to extricate yourself from this situation. I've read a wide range of responses on this site about how helpful APS can be, so it's not a guarantee but it seems you need some official people on your side in this to help you.
I was in contact with our local caregiving support agency (they offer free respite services related to caregiving), and when I mentioned that we were at the 4 1/2 year mark, she was stunned we'd waited so long, since statistics show this length of time as "extreme burnout."

The advice the others gave is great and I can only add to it. There ARE resources to help give you a break, if you can't immediately get her into some kind of facility. Check Medicaid. Check with your state's agency on aging. Your city or county. Many municipalities have day-care programs. Many churches have outreach programs. If you're not very computer savvy, start in the yellow pages. Otherwise, this site targets many of the resources that might be available to you.

And, do .. take care of yourself. And give your brother a kick in the rear for me. To be frank, I can't fathom a child taking a parent's income away from her. What makes him think he has the right to it, anyway?
I didn't realize there were options available. You have no idea the weight that has been lifted just from reading the responses and realizing the help that is available. Thank you.
Your post leaves me with questions. How is your brother allowed to take your mom's retirement money? Does he have her POA? Get that changed, if that's the case! You need to be in charge of her money, not your greedy brother. I have an older brother, but I'm in charge of my mom's care and money. My brother isn't involved and shouldn't be, since I'm doing all of the work for my mom.

I agree with the suggestions above that your mom needs to get into some professional care, whether it's some kind of day care (to give you a mental break) or into Assisted Living, if you can find a way to afford that.

If she's got a brain injury, understanding what's best for her is probably beyond her. I have learned that my mom's wishes aren't to be met in all cases. I keep doing things she says I'm not to do and then she thanks me afterwards. At this point, she's not a good judge of what's in her best interest. I doubt your mom is either. You're the competent adult, you need to make the competent adult decisions.

Finally, you need to take care of your OWN mental and physical well-being. Start exercising or doing something you love to do. Even if it's for 20 minutes a day, do something that lets you have some pleasure. Reach out to others in your geographic area. I'm a great proponent of as a way of getting out of your house. If you don't have MeetUps going on around you, check your hospital for support groups. Call your Area Agency on Aging to find what support services they have. If you have Township Offices, see if they have senior services for you mom. There are a bunch of groups/agencies out there who can offer some kind of support if you reach out to them. You've taken the first step here, now keep going! Good luck and keep us posted!! You are NOT alone in this - we're all in the same boat one way or another.
During my mothers year and a half recovery from the stroke I discovered she had set up a secondary account with my brothers name on it and half her monthly check was being deposited to that account. It has been going on for the last fifteen years, ever since the birth of his first child. When i felt she was doing better I returned financial control to her over her own he won't stop taking it and she is unable to stop him or won't. She even stopped taking her COPD medication and caught pneumonia because she was trying to cut back on spending to enable my brother to continue using the full amount. I've tried to stop it but both times end up sitting in a padded cell waiting for the psych eval. I have scheduled an appointment with the state mental health psychiatric department for a mental health evaluation for her.
Wow, your mom has put herself (and you by default) in a real pickle. I would say research your options to get things set right (with her money going to her) and if that can't be changed, you need to save yourself. Your mother and brother have agreed to play out this thing in a way that suits your brother. While that's unfair to both you and your mom, if your mom won't/can't change it, don't let it take you down too! Your obligation to help your mom doesn't extend so far as to ruin your own life. Do what you can and then step away. I know that's easy to say, but I don't see that you have much choice at this point. You see how it's affected you so far (arrests, near suicidal behavior). Something has got to change...and that has to be your efforts to save yourself.
Prayers for you Usednfried, you shouldn't have to live this way, you deserve better - fight for it. I too am trying to find my own fighting spirit, sometimes the circumstances we find ourselves in through no fault of our own can drain our courage and our will and sometimes we need somebody else to say it, you are worth saving.
My brother also makes a six figure salary. He is using my mother to support his lifestyle. He is using me to take care of his mother so that we do not have to pay for healthcare, freeing up more income for his lifestyle. Everybody gets what is going on except my mother. After getting feedback yesterday its time for tough love. If my mother cannot make the correct financial decisions to protect herself then she will no longer be making the. My brother is endangering my mothers care and independence and needs to be stopped. I am so burned out I cannot make clear decisions anymore. I will rest and take care of myself, build strength, and then set things in motion to right the sinking ship.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support