Do you contact their primary care doctor about your elderly mom's alcohol problem?

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My mother is 81 years old and an alcoholic. Everyone in the family knows NOT to answer her calls after 5pm because she is usually toasted by then. This puts her in jeopardy in reality; but no one wants to talk to a drunk. During the day she is fine, lives alone, still drives and is pretty sharp. However, in the last several months we have had two falls, one resulting in a broken foot. She also ran over her own mailbox backing out of the driveway recently. I live 8 hours away and I get the dreaded phone call about her terrible day, how sorry my dad was or when she feels really froggy jumps on me. My question is this; have any of you notified the primary care doctor of a drinking problem. I know her doctor has received the ER reports. I constantly worry about her but I know I could never move her here, she hates cold and snow. Plus, I would probably start drinking myself in the long run just to be able to tolerate her. I feel this is an accident waiting to happen and I'm trying to avoid anything terrible happening. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Top Answer
My experience, unfortunately, is that most primary care and specialists don't pay one whit of attention when you bring up the alchohol issue. Deaf ear, no useful suggestions, none even seemed remotely concerned about drug interactions. Been there with my Mom and unless you are willing to do a full-blown intervention and get her into treatment, there's not much you can do. Injury might slow her down - that's what happened with my Mom, for now. Too much pain meds, lack of mobility to get to teh store for her vodka and I won't buy it for her.
I would check with the Aging Care Community in the county your mother lives in. I would talk with her dr. as well. If you have POA the dr. can discuss your mother's health with you. How well is she driving otherwise? If her driving is questionable, you could alert DMV that her driving is questionable and they will have her take a driving test to determine if she should continue driving. Not having a car may slow her down and keep her safer. Is there any possibility she may have any health issues such as dementia? Would she be willing to live in assisted living care? Good luck, I hope you find some answers to this tough situation.
There is very little you can do at this point. Even if you have POA, in most states it doesn't take effect until she can no longer make relational decisions for herself. I would talk to her physician and make sure he is aware of the extent of her drinking problem and to her pharmacist to see if there could be any adverse drug reactions. This would provide you with a little more knowledge and help anticipate future problems. However, I would focus on having her move to a Continuing Care Retirement Center, if she can afford it. These facilities have Independent Living, Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Care should it be required. This would also provide her with a little more supervision and companionship. This drinking problem could be the result of being lonely and depressed now that her husband is gone. Hope this at least gives you something to think about and helps you through a tough situation. All My Best to You and Your Mom.
I agree with what eveyone else says. Dr's won't and can't do much unless your mom really listens to him and follows his instructions. I had the same situation but I live close. I started taking her to AA meetings and nothing worked until she fell and was on the kitchen floor for 1.5 days and I found her. She went to the hospital with a fracture pelvis and was so malnusrished she almost died. She never went home from that accident. She went to an assisted living facility and she is very happy. She can't drive or walk too far due to the injury, so the fall ended up being a blessing and saved her life and maybe others. I would also look into the demetia or sundown syndrome. After I got my mom in the ALF, i discovered she has the starting of dementia and that is why she was forgetting to pay bills and do things she normally was able to handle. You are in tough spot. I look back on that time and it brings tears to my eyes. There was nothing easy about it. Talk to her and give her options. For my mom it worked out best to have her in the ALF. There are so many options out there in this type of living. Mom is never alone, always has someone to talk with, eat with and watch movies with etc.... For her is was the best and ONLY option. Be firm, be strong and have faith. Best of luck. You will be in my prayers.
My mother who is 83 denies being a alcoholic. She has driven while OWI, left the oven on numerous times, made a debacle of one of my sisters funeral, peed all over the place, and did not go to her own sisters husbands funeral. I finally had to explain to my cousin on what was going on and she finally figured it out.
She is in the nursing home for the 3rd time. She does not know that her Money Market fund for her retirement, taxes, and of course for her family is gone. She denies everything and always tells me that i am wrong even though i was a witness to all her poor judgements.... There is no hope, sorry.
I have a composite of many of the responder's statements above. I live in another state -- this is what is best for my spouse and children. I am about the only family member left; one other is in her 80's with her own valid health concerns. There is a caregiver agency that sees my mother several times each week. It's the best that can be afforded for care; she is almost out of money. We tried the assisted-living facility it did not work. My mother did not utilize the amenities or company of neighbors. She had to be moved from that facility to a "regular apartment complex" last year to keep rent cost manageable. I suspect that she has a Borderline Personality disorder (the hermit). She says she has to have a drink to go out and face the public. She says she "is lonely" yet she won't go out unless there is a hair appointment or a chance to buy alcohol during the shopping trip. Her caregiving agency is instructed to not buy alcohol for her, but she sneaks it at the store by sending the caregiver to another part of the store and she heads for the booze (it's the kind of city that has all liquors in any store, eg: Walgreens, grocery, ect.). If she is confronted by the caregiver she will cause a scene. She is also getting the alcohol from other sources - orders it with restaurant delivery, neighbors, -- not sure, no one will 'fess up but I have my suspicions. Her doctor is aware but is hamstrung by the same rule mentioned in a post earlier -- if the person appears to be rational, the POA cannot take effect. I have been close to trying an intervention but the laws protecting privacy block even me, a daughter. It has made my life hell -- this person has been an alcoholic for all the years I can remember -- even from way back in childhood. She verbally abused me and my father -- I think I have PTSD from it, but the way to keep my sanity was to move far away when I was old enough. My spouse and children have borne the stress of her behavior although I buffered a lot of it. This eats away at me every day of my life. She's in my thoughts every day - she destroyed my father and she is destroying me because I'm getting just old enough now to not be as resilient mentally and physically. I've had counseling over the years and went to Al-Anon. While they help to bolster me up for a short while there is always another crisis of hers that send me into a tailspin. She is almost 90 years old. Most docs and specialists do not "invest" the time in someone who is not a "good return on investment" meaning (always unspoken but understood) that she probably won't live much longer, so why bother? What my research has shown is that insurances and other gov't "help" agencies have clauses in policy to not get involved until the alcoholic has hit "rock bottom." I've tried $60-$100 per hour skilled specialist attempts already, perhaps they could help for some, so it is an option for someone else out there but the funds for my situation are shot. If you ask for help from any source, the first thing you need to do (as I've seen cited in above mentioned posts) is to affirm that "you, the concerned family member are NOT the problem, you have tried and tried, that you have tried to love, tried to reason, you've thrown money at the problem, you've given of your own life so much" -- do not let them tell you that you aren't trying hard enough -- particularly when the alcoholic has always been cruel to you -- you've probably done way more than you needed to and no one should tell you that you've not tried hard enough.

I dread the holidays in a subtle way because this is always the time of year that she finds more excuse to drink. Thanksgiving weekend is done and two crises in that short time. There is a whole month ahead to (not) look forward to wondering when the next phone call is going to happen. Yes, I could just change my phone number, but it's too easy to find if emergencies happen and officials want to call me to "deal with this issue." Besides, I deserve to have a life, be accessible to friends and persons whom I trust and enjoy via FaceBook, or just phone calls, ect. I deserve to have a steady job and not wonder when I'm going to get the next call to actually have to take time off to travel to her and deal with a crisis. I've told her over and over that she is doing this to me and how upsetting it is. Problem with a Borderline Personality is that telling them honestly is more truth than they can take and they often have a "meltdown" which leads to more drinking. Often during the "obligatory phone call" once a week (which I agreed to per some counseling advice) is that I have to keep everything light and bright, all is wonderful and no mention of anything that may set her on a drinking binge. "Walking on Eggshells" (per the book title) is a brilliant summation of words.

One of the reasons that I am concerned about totally being out of the loop is that she could wreak total havoc on something and then the authorities will summon me to come take care of it, pay for it, deal with it -- because I am the daughter. Being totally blindsided is even more terrifying. Can I say "no"? I guess this is my own question and I guess it would help others if there is some feedback. To those who posted above -- I understand very well and I agree with the post that "having faith" does help.
Drinking was never a problem in my family but I do feel that I need to add something. Dad had cancer and was on morphine with two other powerful pain killers that I can't spell, all at the same time. I became the child from hell. I took the car keys and never gave them back. My Dad died mad at me but I felt I had to take the responsibility to keep him off the streets. Check with the city that they live in and get transportation for your parent that will pick them up at their door. Please don't let them drive I beg of you!
I would highly suggest you consult with a geriatric specialist and get a geriatric assessment done on your elderly parent with the alcoholism issue. Luckily, my FIL had a POA and we were able to take care of matters. How did the doctor help? He helped wean out the unhelpful medications, wrote a note on incompetency due to the alcoholism issue and the fact that while drinking FIL was a danger to self; with 2 letters of incompetency; if your parent has a POA, you can activate it with 2 doctors' letters. This enabled us to move my FIL into assisted living where we were able to dry him out. What we are dealing with now, however, is keeping him there when "well-meaning" family members come to visit and take him out drinking. By the way, he is 89, so lucky us - he'll probably live until he is 100. The police told the facility there needs to be a letter on file at the facility stating no one is to take the man from the facility without written permission. This was just yesterday, the police visit and the runaway situation. It has been a long, long, long 12 years. But yes, once a family member or well-meaning individual takes him from the home without permission, then you can file kidnapping charges.
Oh, and p.s., we had gotten the same blow-off from his family physician of 10 years about the alcoholism. The guy refused to believe that this man was an alcoholic. That's because the little ** would dry himself out 3 days before he would go to the doctor. But they still couldn't figure out why they couldn't get control of his Coumadin level. Duh - alcohol has an additive effect to Coumadin.
Wow dealing with this myself only it's both parents. After the first time mom fell and broke her neck and needed surgery I pulled her Drs aside to tell them she was an alcoholic. She's been hospitalized multiple times since, while her Drs are aware of her alcoholism, there doesn't seem to be much they can to to help because she refuses to acknowledge the problem. To her and my dad I'm the problem because I let the family secret out.

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