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I care for my 65 year old sister who lives on her own with a lot of care (meals, shopping, chores, finances, etc.). She has a malady of debilitating symptoms that do not have an identified physical cause...she has severe anxiety/depression. She takes anti-anxiety meds but won't take anti-depressants because she claims they cause diarrhea (she has diarrhea all the time anyway). She complains about being alone and lonely all the time but refuses phone calls, visitors, etc. unless it's me. I am 55 with a family and a job.
Last week she tried to commit suicide and nearly succeeded. Wrote a note and the whole bit (pills). Ended up in the ICU with a breathing tube and today she is going to the psych unit for 3-5 days. I have set a lot of boundaries with her and insist on help from others for a lot of her care. I arrange all of her care, pay her bills, visit once a week, take her to most of her doctor appts and call her usually daily. Even though I get help with her shopping, cleaning & errands, I am feeling angry & resentful. She is impossible.

11 Comments

Mental illness is impossible. Or at least very difficult. And it is difficult not only for the person who has it but for all those who love the one with the illness.

Seeing a loved one with self-destructive behaviors can cause feelings of anger and resentment and also helplessness and worry and guilt and fear.

Let us hope that the psych unit evaluation leads to an effective treatment plan, and that Sis will cooperate with it.

She has an illness and needs treatment. You also deserve support because this illness impacts you, too. Have you tried some counselling?

I am glad you've set boundaries and that you have arranged for other people to help with Sis's care. It is critical that while you help her you do not give up your own life. Your family and your job are important and you have a right and a duty to protect your other relationships.

Best wishes for your sister's improvement, and for your own peace and comfort.
It might benefit you if you are able to get therapy yourself in how to deal with this kind of person. You have to take care of yourself first, otherwise you won't be able to help anybody.
Poor you but i dont think you are qualified to help her. she needs special treatment by a qualified psychiatrist. all you can do is be there for her but not her fulltime carer i hope she gets the help she needs and gets better. Looking after someone with physical health issues is very hard but mental illness is the hardest as we all know on here. It sounds like "manic depression" which is best left to the professionals!
Please do not let her go home. Tell the doctors that she lives alone. Do not pick her up. One thing that you cannot prevent is someone killing themselves.

You could be caring for her for another 20 years, if you continue like you are.

When they tell you to pick her up, say "I couldn't possibly do that."

(My niece has been in jail since Dec. 5, for attempting to take her own life. So, I understand.)
You alone cannot care for someone with mental illness. Let's hope for a good outcome from the assessment, but when it comes time for discharge, make it clear that you are not the full time caregiver. Placement needs to be found for her.
You have come to the right place for support. I hit bottom when I found this site and everyone here provides so much support. It is amazing how we all have the same challanges in different situations or living arrangements, and even to realize you are not the only one feeling a certain way or thinking a certain thought is very comforting. Best of luck to you, remember you need to care for yourself too and sometimes we just can not give the help that our loved ones need.
Love cats, sister should not be living alone. My guess is that through the evaluation the docs will find she is no longer a danger to herself and send her home. It sounds like she needs a significant amount of care that requires placement in a facility. If she goes home she may try again, which is something you cannot control. Do you talk to her through the week? Antidepressants are in order and they take awhile to kick in. How is her cognition?
If the psychiatrists find she is able to go home, I won't have much choice unless I were to go to court for guardianship or something like that. The last thing I want is to be legally responsible for her too...so that's not going to happen. I have daily contact with her by phone (she lives 20 miles from me) and I visit once a week at least. She has meals brought to her, shopping, cleaning someone present when she bathes, some nursing care (I'd like to increase this) and she wears a life-line button. I'd describe her living situation as an "almost" assisted living in her home. There just isn't a nurse available 24/7. It sounds like the psychiatrist has put her on an antidepressant (she was previously taking one but went off 6 months ago as she said it was giving her diarrhea). She claims everything gives her diarrhea and she has been scoped in/out/up/down many times and nothing is ever found. I agree with a lot of you that I need to get some counseling for this. I have checked into a caregiver support group and am waiting for someone to call me back. I've been avoiding counseling because it made me so mad that she would take even more of my time but obviously I need to go. I'm so tired of being angry. I rarely get angry at her but I do get apathetic sometimes. When she complains about her symptoms I've started saying "oh, that sounds hard" or "oh, that's too bad." Or I say nothing and change the subject or say I have to go. So glad to have found this site.
MLC,
My mom has had chronic diarrhea for probably 50 or more years. We added a good quality probiotic to her daily pill regimen about four months ago. She still has diarrhea, but it is not four or five times each day. Frequency has been reduced to once or twice. We also removed butter from her diet which has been a staple all her life.
I'm 54 now, my sister was 53 when she succeeded in committing suicide. That was nearly 4 years ago. You probably are partly wondering why your sister didn't succeed last week, and now you're really angry at yourself and the world because you've entertained the thought. You can't help her, yet now you are responsible for her. You're maybe angry because she can't "get over it" but she can't, and you're left trying to pull her together. You're pissed because she's the big sister, and when you were growing up, you looked up to her. Now you have to look after her. It's not easy. Knowing what I do now, sibling care is way harder than any other, and I truly get where you are coming from. I will be messed up, so to speak, forever, because I secretly wished my depressed, chronic pain wracked sister- now addicted to oxy and morphene after many scoliosis surgeries for over 40 years would just go ahead and end it all. But I never thought she would. She promised she wouldn't ever do that, but she did. Oh sorry, I didn't mean to talk about me that much. Diarrhea may be a symptom of a mixture of 2 meds ? Ask her what all she takes and look up the side effects. Doctors don't always know. Plus, she may be taking stuff you have no clue of. Yep. It happens, and then it's too late.

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