Elderly Alcoholic Father - We have started to back off but what do we do now?

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My Dad is living alone. He is an alcoholic, 77 yrs old, and has virtually quit eating. He's not that sick (the doctors say), but the alcohol is killing him. I went to my first Al-Anon meeting last week, and I was advised to back off doing so much for him (my husband and I were going over almost daily to do most everything for him). We have asked him not to drive any more also, because of his extreme weakness. Last week he got very angry with me and told us to "back off", so we did,and I didn't see him for a week.
Then yesterday he called and "needed" our help. The dog was out of food, he needed his meds, he "needed" his scotch and his car wouldn't start. We fixed his car for him a month ago and wished we hadn't because then he would not be able to drive - putting others at risk is my main concern.
We went over with the dog food, and his meds. but did NOT bring the Scotch. He was very, very angry. We also told him that we were not going to fix his car for him this time, because he is too weak to drive. Again, a great deal of anger. He told me I was "controlling his life" and I told him that I can't control him, but I do not have to supply him with his alcohol or enable him to drive and possibly kill someone. He said some horrible things to me,and we left.
My concern now is that he lives alone.
What do we do now? Any advice or input from anyone who has experienced something like this is appreciated. Thanks so much.

Answers 1 to 9 of 9
My Dad was an alcoholic since before I was born up until nearly the day he died in October of 2005 at age 88. Therefore, I can certainly understand what you are going though!

Please oh please do be careful about not getting him any alcohol though because if he is an alcoholic and he doesn’t get any, he will likely have DTs and that could actually be a life threatening situation, especially for someone his age and a Scotch drinker on top of it. DTs normally start fairly soon after alcohol has been withdrawn. People that do not have an understanding of alcoholism would disagree with me but if he has been without any for more than 24 hours, I’d be on my way over there right now with that bottle of Scotch if I were you because I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself if he died due to severe DTs.

In addition, DTs are also extremely uncomfortable. He will probably start with an angry attitude, be nauseated, as well as have really bad shakes. He may even start having hallucinations if he goes too long without it. Therefore, I would highly recommend that he not “cold turkey” off of the alcohol but rather consult with a physician first because there are detox facilities available and also medicine they can give him to help him get through the DTs.

Having said all of that, my Mother would not let my Dad have a drink when I brought him home from the hospital on hospice care even though he begged and asked everyone that came in the door to make him a high ball. I personally think that was just so wrong and I would have given him drinks if it were my decision. I am not much of a drinker, probably because of seeing my Dad which is not unusual for the child of an alcoholic. However, I told my 21 year old son if I am dying and begging for coffee or a cigarette that I want him to give it to me even if he has to light it and hold it up to my lips!

I am very familiar with Al-Anon and think it is great but some people misunderstand the message that they are trying to convey. Under the circumstances, I personally think you were right going over there every day to check on him and help him because he is your father and an elderly man that is all alone so to me, “backing off” in this manner is just like abandoning a small child. At the same time, you should not make any excuses for his alcoholism nor allow yourself to feel any type of guilt nor accept any type of physical or verbal abuse from him.

Do you know anyone that is trust worthy that could move in with him that would agree to help him in exchange for staying there rent free? Is it possible for him to move in with you? Would he agree to do it? Is there a house close by yours that you could move him into? I bought my Mom and Dad a house one street over from me and it has worked out very well.

The bottom-line to me is to do for him what you would want done for you as well as don’t do anything that you may regret for the rest of your life after he is gone. I did my best to care for my Dad yet I still have some regrets but I personally don’t know how my Mother can even live with herself! I shall keep you and your Dad in my prayers.

I am sorry about all the strange characters in my last posting. I wrote in word then copied and pasted it into the site because I usually get timed out before I can finish typing so the quotes and apostrophes obviously went south. Anyway, I forgot to mention that if his license needs to be renewed fairly soon, you may want to consider calling the Drivers License Bureau in your state and advise them of your concerns. They will then probably require him to pass the driving test and eye exam before they will renew his license. I suspect that he may not pass which should be the end of your problems because they will not give him a license to drive if he can not pass the tests. Also, he will be angry with them about not being able to drive anymore and not you!

Wow do I know what you are going through. My mom died suddenly in 1975 and it devastated my dad. While married she had the ability to control his alcohol consumption. After her death, he packed up, moved from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, and proceeded to live life hard. He became a fashion icon, went clubbing and of course he had his token 3 or 4 scotch and waters every single night. He started dating and eventually remarried. That should have been a good thing except the woman he married also abused alcohol. So for the next 6 years the two of them would get up in the morning and have a couple of cocktails before work and than sit around for a couple of hours after work and have a few cocktails. I am not even sure that took time to eat dinner some nights. Dad was 52 when mom died and today at 7:39 pm at the age of 85 and 4 months, he passed away. Over the last 20 years since his second wife kicked him out because of verbal abuse he has progressively gone downhill. His doctor would tell him he needed to stop drinking and he would say, “OK doc.” Of course he didn’t believe doctors knew everything, he felt OK, didn’t remember much about his 3 to 5 days binges and so he decided he knew what was best for him. In a nutshell, my brother and I have endured countless incidents of verbal abuse both in person and on the phone. When we tried discussing the subject he would get angry and tell us we did not know what we were talking about and ask when we became doctors. There were many, many episodes of depression, crying and his asking for our support.

Two years ago, he went into the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. No surprise there. He just barely made it through the surgery and because of his frail condition, I brought him to live with me. It is important to know that 5 years ago I made the conscious decision to separate myself from his out of control behavior. I severed all contact with him and my brother who was living with him because I was becoming an emotional wreck worrying whether he would get into an accident, or fall down or hurt himself some other way. For many years, I was an alcohol advisor in the Navy. I learned that I should look out for myself first and foremost. Severing all ties was very difficult and I really thought he would call me but fact is he knew how I felt but chose to follow his own path and ignore any advice or assistance I offered. After his hospitalization, we never spoke about what may have caused his ulcer. He simply became dependent on me to keep him fed and help him with his daily hygiene. At some point during my 2-year absence, I guess he decided to slow down on the scotch and eventually weaned himself off of it. By definition that does not sound like an alcoholic. If you asked him, he would say he could stop anytime he wanted.

Bottom line is, in December it all caught up. The chain smoking had affected his heart and lungs. The alcohol gave him scerosis of the liver. He ended in congestive heart failure, a pacemaker was installed and after a week in rehab came home. His instructions were pretty simple. Take a diuretic daily, keep his feet up at least half of the day and drink at least 40 ounces of fluid, more if possible. Oh, he took the pill, but would only drink about 10 to 15 ounces of liquid and refused to put his feet up. So on January 15 his feet were so swollen, they turned red and started weeping. Back to the hospital. Within 24 hours the labs showed he had a kidney infection, bladder infection, fluid in his lungs and his foot was being treated but with talk of possible amputation. He was put on antibiotics, fed intravenously because he would not eat or drink what they wanted him to and his blood pressure dropped to they had to put him on meds to keep his pressure stable. End result, for the last seven days he has gotten progressively worse and finally passed away this evening.

Through all of this, he suffered from short-term memory loss. They say when you reach 85 you can lose up to 50% of your brain cells. So, I have spent the last year repeating the same things over and over, because though he understood what I said and sometimes agreed, he would forget and I would have to repeat myself over and over. In the last six months my dad has said things to me I could never repeat here but always within 20 minutes of saying them would apologize and say he loved me and appreciated everything I was doing for him. More than once he would say, “Thank god you are here, I don’t know what I would do without you.” My dad had an uncanny ability to tear at my heartstrings at just the right moment. I loved my dad very much, he was my “daddy”, he was always there for me when I needed him but and this is a big but he totally abused me and took advantage of my good nature. How do you look at your parent and say, “You did this to yourself, you made your bed now lie in it.” So for all the heartache and sorrow he caused me, for all the sleepless nights, for all the dirty bed pans, for all the “Linda are your there” calls during the night, bottom line I can now say I did everything I could to make the last couple of years of his life comfortable, safe and I believe maybe a little happier. Many a night I would lie down and say, “Please God let him be here tomorrow.” I am in deep pain right now because I will never again get to hear his funny comments, or see how he looks at me with such pride or receive a kiss on the cheek or a hug. The saddest part of all this is in his last days his infection became contact contagious so visiting him meant wearing mask, gloves and robe. He wanted a kiss so badly but I could not give it to him because I could not chance picking up the infection and bringing it home because my brother lives with us and he is on dialysis and could very easily get sick and die as well. That would just be more than I could bear.

I don’t know how much my rambling will help you but know this. If you ever had any kind of close relationship with your dad and there is the tiniest possibility you will feel guilty if something happens to him because you did not intervene than you need to speak with his primary care doctor, think about options for moving him in with you or to an assisted living facility or maybe even a nursing home. My dad gave up driving on his own because he knew he was in no condition to drive anymore. Maybe if he is self sufficient you can get him to go to daycare a few days a week or every day. Finding things that interest him and keeping him actively involved is also important. From my perspective living alone is the first thing you should change. Who knows maybe if he has some people interaction and distractions, his interest in drinking will subside because he won’t have all that time alone to dwell on it. In addition, as he becomes more out of control the poor dog will suffer as well.

My heart goes out to you during this very difficult time. I realize words can only do so much to console the frustration, anger and maybe some resentment that you are feeling. But remember this, you are not alone, you may think you are but there are options for you. Now you have to muster the strength to deal with them. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

In mourning in Florida
My heart goes out to you Linda! My father passed away in October 2005 at age 88 under almost the same exact circumstances. I know that it certainly was not easy living through all you had to live through as well as it is extremely painful when a parent passes away, regardless to their age. You certainly did the right thing to take such good care of your Daddy. You are grieving now but at least your sleep will be sweet in the future knowing that you did all you could do for him. I am also quite sure that God will bless you abundantly.

This may or may not sound somewhat strange as you may or may not have gone there yet and if not, I pray that you never do but for some reason I thought that I should mention it would be very wise for you to try your very best not to allow yourself to place any blame on your Dad for the grief you experience as a result of his passing, regardless to the circumstances. I know first hand that grief is so very painful but it seemed to comfort me to keep in mind that absolutely no human being can live forever and therefore, everyone must pass from this world at some point in time for some reason or another.

Also, if you should feel some sort of a sense of relief, please do not feel guilty about it because I as well as multitudes of others have felt the same. I actually still feel relieved to know that my Daddy is no longer in any pain and is with the Lord so I know that I will be with him again some day. You and your family are most certainly in my prayers.

I am going to go to a very personal place and share with you that I am a recovering alcoholic. I have 24 years sober and would not trade any of my new life for the old one.
I can tell you about myself and hope this will help you to make choices for yourself. I encourage you to continue Al-Anon. It will help you to understand your feelings, actions, and help you with your father.
I can also tell you that practicing alcoholics are manipulative, abusive, and very good at playing on peoples guilt. I am not saying your father is this way, just saying most alcoholics will lie when the truth is obvious.
It is a disease. Physical, mental and spiritual. There is nothing you can do to make him stop drinking. The only way he will get sober is if he wants it bad enough.
I do agree with above statement about not depriving him of alcohol. He could start having seizures, DT's and all sorts of mental problems. My suggestion is for you to tell him he needs to find someone else to get his liquor for him, you will no longer enable him to kill himself.
I also suggest you call his primary physician and tell him what is going on. As was said, there are many things available to help him detox, but if he wants to drink there is nothing you can do to stop him without harming him.
He is going to get angry and say and do some awful things to get that next drink. If he ever gets sober he will be full of guilt and remorse for how he treated you, but for now all he wants is relief.
I also suggest you read as much as you can about alcoholism, and educate yourself.( Again this is where Al-anon is going to give you much needed information)
I can not stress enough that you need to take care of yourself. I do not recommend you have him live with you unless he is sober. Yes, you worry about him and no you do not have to fix his car. Stand firm about not getting him anymore to drink. Trust me, he will find a way.
And I do not think any assisted living facility or nursing home will take him because he is a drinking alcoholic. If you can find someone willing to stay with him for a few hours, then by all means check it out. But this person needs to know what they are getting into.
If you have any other questions, you can post on my wall, and I will try to answer you. My heart goes out to you, this is a very difficult situation for all involved. Let us know how things are. God Bless.
Top Answer
I can fully understand what you are going through. My father is 77 years old and is also an alcoholic and has told me that he doesn't like to eat either. Please keep a close eye on your father. My father became very week and could not get out of bed. I had him hospitalized. He was in the hospital for 1 month going through detox, and congestive heart failure. Afterwards he was admitted to a nursing home for rehabilitation so he could learn to walk again. He became an alcoholic when my parents divorced. His alcoholism became worse when his second wife died from cancer. He was living alone. Also he now needs to use a walker. He has since been told that he can never live alone again and he now lives in my home. This is also not a treat as he has continued with his drinking and again he has stopped eating. Yes, he too can be very verbally abusive, however you can learn to deal with that. I show him the same respect that he shows me. If he gets abusive, I will also get angry with him and I can put him in his place. You cannot be nice when they get that way otherwise, they will walk all over you. I have also told him that he must eat or he will find himself back in the hospital and a nursing home. This will usually work for about 2 weeks and then I have to tell him again. I have told him that although he may have his full mind, his alcoholism has clouded has judgement. Yes, there are things you can do, but you have to be strong enough to follow through. My dad told me one day to go to hell, and I told him that he wasn't telling me to go any place that I had not already been. I told him spending the morning with him was like being in hell. There are services that can help. You need to check with your county on the office of aging. You can even get a case worker to help with you dad. If you love him, it will not matter what he says about this being none of your business. As long as his judgement is self destructive, he really does not have a leg to stand on. It's funny, because they think they do, but in reality they will learn that they do not. You have to develop a hard shell around yourself to keep your own sanity.
It sounds like we are dealing with similiar issues. Mine is my sister; 60 years old, and estranged from her husband. She'll allow him around ONLY when she needs something. Also, after telling us to stay out of her business, see her on the floor in a pile of her fecal matter, and injured. We called 911, only to have them send her home the next day. We finally called our county and reported a "Vulnerable Adult Act". I'd advise you to look into this, it helps take the strain and guilt off yourself.
Best wishes to you!
I am looking for some guidance regarding my alcoholic 81 year old father. He refuses to admit that he is an alcoholic, although he starts with brandy in his coffee every morning and continues to drink all day. He has fallen several times, most recently braking his hip and needing surgery to replace it. He lives with my mother - his wife of 53 years - who refuses to admit that he has a drinking problem. My dilemma is that he refuses to stop driving. I need to know where to turn to get him off the road. I am terrified that he will hurt someone else. I have accepted that he and my mother and all of their friends will never forgive me if I try to take any "legal" action, but I just don't know what else to do.
I reported my dad to the local police warning of his driving and I told him what I did. He let mother drive for a couple of months, which she had to relearn to do, and he even drank much less. But like a dog returning to his vomit, the drinking resumed, he never got stopped by the police but he did fall asleep and drove off the road, fortunately mother was awake and woke him before it got bad. No answer, except I hope he dies before killing someone else.

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