cbeck Asked July 2010

At what point to I get involved with my 67-year-old alcoholic mother in advanced stages, who is being cared for by her alcoholic spouse?

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My mother is an alcoholic. She can no longer drive, remember who people are, forgets things minutes after saying or doing them, walks with a walker because she brook her hip aways back and didn't take care of herself, the stairs in her home have to be gated off. Her spouse is an alcoholic as well and I have doubts as to whether or not I should step in. How do I know when it is appropriate?

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Aug 2010
You may want to as Social Services to do a welfare check on them. This could be a hornet's nest for you if they are both drinking. Do you suspect abuse or just that they are drinking so much they can't take care of themselves?

Please try to remember that alcoholism is a disease. It will help you help them with more compassion.

My take would be that if there is danger for them, Social Services should be called. If there is hope they will get help, maybe a good friend or religious leader who understands the disease can help them seek treatment. If one or both are veterans, the VA may be able to help.

Good luck. You've got your hands full.
Carol
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Eddie Aug 2010
CBECK:

Yes, alcoholism is a disease but any effort at treatment isn't going to make much of a difference unless the alcoholic admits he/she has a problem and begins taking personal responsibility for his behavior and the way he's living.

If you dive in to help out of love, you'll be an enabler. If you confront them about their addiction/disease, you'll give them another excuse to keep neglecting themselves, bickering, blacking out, and falling on their asses and break something else. Instead of taking the bull by the horns, I suggest another approach: go to an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting (they're just about everywhere), and tell your story. You'll be amazed by the number of people that have or are going through the same. They can connect you with a ton of resources, including Social Services.

Religious leaders aren't going to be much help. All of them will urge you to pray to their Higher Power for personal strength and your parents' recovery. People's suffering enhances their influence and power, so of course they'll care about your plight. But don't be surprised if they insist you keep on coming and give to the church. After all, churches are big business. ... What you need is practical Earthly advice to help your parents right now; and worry about saving your soul and getting to Heaven later.

Still, any way you look at it you can't save people from themselves; especially adults committing slow suicide who won't admit they have a problem. It's painful to watch someone whom you love dearly go down in flames and there isn't much you can't do about it except try to help them see the light and contact the appropriate agencies for assistance.

You loved them before you knew they really had a problem, you still do and you always will no matter what happens. But the bottom line is that people make choices and there's no reason why others should have to pay for them.

Tough love baby! If they ask you for money, don't give it to them. If they're having an argument, don't interfere unless a life and death situation. If they ask you why you've forgotten them, tell them it's because of their drinking. Of course be there if you notice they're making a sincere effort at recovery. Stay away if you sense you're being manipulated into enabling their alcoholic lifestyles.

Good luck my friend, and keep us posted.
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cbeck Aug 2010
Thank you for your comments. I am aware of the effects of alcohol, have been to Ala-non meetings, and understand the disease. I'm afraid that even stating that I do not come around due to their drinking the statement would also enable as it would be seen as anger. I have spent many a year in my life dealing with this situation. My mother no longer recognizes me as the result of alcohol to her brain. My sister is in denial of the situation as she is a borderline alcoholic herself. My mother is 67 and her appearance is that of a very much older woman. She rarely eats and weighs maybe 100 pounds. I do not believe at this stage that she will ever come out of denial or seek recovery. She has already broken a hip from falling. Her spouse drinks daily and takes her to a bar daily. My fear is that she may physically harm herself and that he will be unable to care for her due to his drinking. Since alcohol deadens the senses and slows down responses, should she fall and require help, could he help her in time and in a effective way? If her spouse was my parent the situation, in my eyes, would be completely different, he is not.

Again, thank you so much for your help and concern. I believe I may seek the social services department as suggested. I realize my opinion may be biased in many ways. Possibly having the situation surveyed by an outside individual could ease or answer any questions. Is there a particular department or group that I should seek?

Thank you
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