My 89 year old father has heart problems, depression and anxiety. Looking back, I suspect he has had mental illness his whole life. He has been a functional alcoholic most of his life and I've been concerned about it since I was a young adult. He used to drink after work. As he has became elderly and isolated he started drinking more and also not being able to handle his drinking. Since he moved in 9 months ago he drinks frequently, often starting around 4 (scotch or vodka straight). He doesn't drink anything aside from beer either. That's his liquid.
My 85 year old mum gets poured a drink when my father pours himself one. She has dementia. She becomes a mess even with just a small drink.
My father has always isolated himself in his office all day, when they lived in a flat and also when they moved in here. So when he is drunk we don't really have to deal with him aside from when he staggers around and falls down. He has fallen down around 9 times since he has been here, one time bruising his face.
A big issue of getting them to move in was how isolated they were. My mum was essentially alone all day long because my father barely interacted with her, even often eating his meals alone. So my mum now has my company all day. Even if I'm not actively conversing with her, I try to engage her, she reads the paper (sort of), she helps me cook, clean, talks to the dogs, etc. So when she has a drink, it's my husband and I who end of dealing with her. And it's difficult and unpleasant. So we've discussed this with my father and he was incensed, ready to move out, that we had the audacity to mention their drinking. And nothing changed.
This afternoon, I asked my mum, why are you drinking and she just shrugged. I told her it makes my difficult job even more difficult and she shrugged again. Said if we want to drink we can drink. She promptly went outside to complain to my father. He came in and they started discussing moving back to NJ (I'm in VA). I told them they can go to assisted living, but they would not be able to find one single person who would support their living on their own. I told them, that this situation is not my fault, that it is just getting part of getting old, that most people there age can't live alone without home care. My father scoffed and said, "you THINK it's not your fault..."
This has been an ongoing issue. He blames his unhappiness and loss of independence completely on me. And he calls 3 of my cousins who don't even know me, and tells them how horrible I am and how I'm abusive and they so sympathetic to him. So it's a BIG trigger for me when he implies this situation is all my fault. I blew up.
All the other times I hear him complaining about me and blaming me I keep my mouth shut just to keep peace for my mum. This time I lost it.
It was heated. I asked him what I'm doing that is abusive and why is this my fault? He never has anything much to say - that I call him dumb (never has that happened), that I say he is too dumb to learn (never have said that. I started listing the many things I do for them, including buying all their food (very particular about food) and he said, so don't buy it and I shouted, "I won't, you can starve to death!". Yeah, not my best moment.
I guess my stand is that he can drink, but he shouldn't encourage my mum to drink because we have to deal with her. I would prefer he didn't drink and fall down and need tending to, but I can deal with that even though I don't like it. I get that he can't fix that at this point. Additionally I want him to stop saying what a bad person I am to my stupid cousins. He thinks I have tapped his phone, but he is deaf and he speaks so loudly that I hear him!
Their response is to say they are moving out asap because I don't want them here. Obviously that is not what I said or mean.
Am I asking too much? Any suggestions on how to handle this?
Can we say dysfunction?
I couldn't handle what you are doing and I don't know how you are doing this, it's too much for anyone not to mention extremely overwhelming. I know you care about your parents but it's time to put everything into perspective.
You have nothing to lose by making inquiries into different Assisted Living Places and being honest with them about your situation just to find out what they have to say. They may surprise you.
I wish the best for you and your family,
It's overwhelming no doubt, but we really don't think it can go on much longer. I think if one goes to AL then they both go. My mum is actually the one would would need memory care, possibly my father too. I have a feeling a hospital stay will open the discussion up.
A friend told me next time my father falls down after drinking to call 911. She told me that after he'd fallen many times and we'd picked him up. Of course the opportunity hasn't come up in a while because the last fall was a bad one (black eye) and he somehow makes it to his bed.
So we will see how life unfolds I guess.
Your father might pass cognitive tests, especially if he started out as bright as he sounds; but there's more to the kind of vascular dementia that's common in heart disease than cognitive impairment alone. There are also things like clinical depression and personality changes. My mother was still doing The Times' crossword but she seriously thought my partner and I had closed the driveway gate on purpose to play tricks on her* and didn't hold back on her resentment of it.
*We hadn't. Brownie's honour.
What did his cardiologist last say about your father's heart function?
Bright star children who crash and burn are a major trauma for any parent. What you've got courtesy of your brother is a right can of worms. Are you still, or I suppose more to the point is he still, in touch with that partner?
I'm relieved that you've corrected my image of you and DH shivering on top of a coal heap in the cellar while the Aged Ps lounge around on your furniture. All the same. You've made an awful lot of concessions and sacrifices, for your parents' benefit; and not only are they not a bit grateful but they're genuinely not feeling the benefit.
To indulge in what, I regret to say, we used to call a bit of blue sky thinking: what would a good end to this year look like?
Bro is still in touch with is work partner/friend and a couple of his friends are in touch with me and ring me when things get bad. I expect I'll get a phone call that he overdosed at some point. He isn't in good health to being with, a cancer survivor, hbp, depression...
He rings here when he needs money.
I'm sure my father has some type of dementia. He isn't willing to discuss it and I haven't even mentioned a neurologist appointment because I know he won't go. I think we're down to cardiologist and PCP with him.
I like the term blue sky thinking, I haven't heard it before. (reminds me of the Allman Bros Band) Well, ideally they would both die sudden deaths - heart attack in their sleep? I know it sounds callous and it makes me feel awful to say it, but it's what they want. They are both ready to die and aren't happy with the status quo.
Thank you so much for your kind support Countrymouse, I can see you are a real blessing on this forum to many. :)
To be honest I am surprised so many elders are also alcoholics. My mom has been one as long as I can remember and I think as she got older and retired she was able to let the dangers fly under the radar by mostly drinking at home and hiding it from people she thought wouldn't approve. Meanwhile through the years my siblings and I have seen her a drunken mess. In fact the first thing my brother complained about when taking her to her cottage last week was she kept insisting they stop so she could get vodka. "She forgot some food items, but not that g*d-damn vodka"... I'm always on the fence as to what to do about it. (and her opiate use). Sadly, it seems to be one of the VERY few things she enjoys. She gets this glazed look and reminisces. I want to cringe but at least she seems content in the moment. Now with dementia, isolation issues and everything else that makes her miserable I have mostly decided it's not worth it to try to force some intervention as long as I'm keeping her safe. For example, she only drinks in the evening, and I stay with her until I know she is pretty much ready to go to sleep (and is done drinking for the night).
Didn't mean to hijack, just wanting you to know I can relate to how you feel, on many levels.
Your dad isn't likely to change his stripes now. What about appease him by letting him drink, but tell him you want to switch your mom's drink to something that will be "better for her", then get something really low in alcohol, and even better if you can dilute it more, and give her that, so she feels like she is still having a drink with your dad, but won't become so impaired. Is that a possibility?
On the cousins-- block that out entirely. Yes it's offensive. Your dad is venting his frustrations and taking it out on you. It's not fair, but it's his defense mechanism. Ignore it all. Who cares what these cousins think??
If your dad still carries on with his "we're moving" charade.... let him see how far he gets on his own. Tell him you will keep mom until he "gets settled in to their new place". How do you think that would go?
It's kind of nice, in a sordid way, to know others share the same trials. Misery loves company and all that...
1 You are right, I need to zap those pesky cousins out of my mind. They are a nuisance, but there isn't anything I can do about it.
2 Right, the moving charade, right along with the independent charade - let's all play pretend. You're correct, humor him/them. I did tell him to go ahead (to Hong Kong was the plan at one point) and find a place and a carer and I would bring my mum along once he is settled. My cousins even looked into airline tkts for him and everything. But it never happened. Health issues are constantly arising so the "moving" gets pushed to the back burner. I think my father would die before even getting on the plane, never mind a 17 hour flight
3 "Better for her" is a brilliant reframing and I think it will work. I just have to figure out a replacement, or maybe just a mixer. Yeah, I'm not so sure it's worth the battle to stop my father from drinking. Cigars and alcohol seem to be the last vestiges of pleasure for him. Sadly.
Thank you. So much.
CM asked some really important questions. I hope you come back and answer.
AlAnon has been mentioned. That was suggested to me four years ago by my Mom’s Attorney. AlAnon which is for families of Alcoholics. Not AA which is for Alcoholics. Honestly I did not know the difference.
I was having trouble making the hard decisions I need to make. I too am from a dysfunctional family. Alcoholics. Drugs. Mental Health Issues.
I never found the AlAnon meeting in my town. But, the last place I tried I ran into a Lutheran Minister. Both her parents had been Alcoholics. She had been an AlAnon leader in another town. Man, did she straighten me out and fast.
First she told me I was not qualified to try to “fix” the mess I found myself in because my view of the mess was skewed due to my dysfunctional relationships with these people.
My question would be how does your husband feel about living under the same roof with this mess?
Husband always knew my parents would likely end up with us. But neither us knew they would turn out such a mess to deal with. In their younger years they were both easy to deal with, even with their evening drinking. Currently he feels like I do - tired. But we both think the current status quo can't last that much longer...
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, it's really helpful and supportive.
Your brother, the drug-taker with the dog he hasn't trained not to be dangerous and the temper on him, has financial power of attorney for your parents? I assume you're not kidding me.
So basically your parents ran into a brick wall when they lost their driving licences, and for some reason this made you - and your husband? Any kids? - responsible for rescuing them with considerable loss of amenity to yourselves.
Who *owns* your house?
The house they own overseas - where overseas?
Where exactly is brother at at the moment, where's he living, what state (physically and mentally, I mean) is he in, is he involving himself or not visible for dust-and-tumbleweeds? Does he actually have formal power of attorney?
Ahh, my wayward brother. Are you sure you want to know?
Oh yes, he is my father's POA and also my mum's. Also the executor for both their wills which were done maybe 30 years ago.
I recently redid my mum's will and I am her executor and POA now. But whether it would hold it court I don't know. My daughter redid my father's will and POA and now she is the executor and POA, but once again, only a few months ago.
My brother is an attorney so I imagine he may will fight the new wills/POAs.
He lives in Florida. Last year his work partner/friend contacted me and made me aware he had a serious drug problem and asked me to take him in to try to break the cycle and get him away from the easy access to drugs. He came, we got him to rehab for a month and he seemed okay after that. The work partner/friend had gone to this home to check on it and found his dog abandoned and starving. The 'dog sitter' drug addict person he left to care for the dog had stolen the money and abandoned the dog. So we had the dog shipped here because the dog is actually not a bad dog. But he is a v large dog and I have v small dogs and one day he just went for my dog and she died. I rehomed him.
My brother was here on and off for all of 2018, I thought he was clean, or mostly clean. At Christmastime, everyone was here, brother, nephew (his only child), my son, daughter, her husband, my parents. My father/parents (mostly father because he controls all finances) have been subsidising my brother's lifestyle for his entire life. He paid for my nephew's private schooling, their (my brother was married) expensive holidays, meals, etc. I had been candid with my parents regarding my brother's situation and they seemed to grasp it quite well a year ago, but not so well any longer. Anyway, my father paid for rehab/medical bills/nephews college/assorted expenses through the year. I was the conduit, my father would write me a check and I would pay the bills (so as not to give my brother money directly). Well, at Christmas my father gave me $10,000 to pay my brother's alimony and a few medical bills. My father, acting like a big shot to my brother told him "now you've got plenty of money, I just gave your sister $10,000). On Christmas Eve a drug addict died in my brother's house and it sent him over the edge. He was obviously using drugs again and he went ballistic at me to give him the $10,000. I did not and he screamed at me and my husband, yeah, it was ugly. He stormed out to a hotel paid for by a credit card my father had given him. My father at one point told me to give him the money but it was gone by then. So after 5 days in a nice hotel and going out to fancy meals he flew back to FL - with a $10,000 check from my father because I was "bad and wrong" not to give it to him. So now we are essentially estranged. HOWEVER, my daughter, who my father mostly trusts, helped him with some banking stuff while she was helping him with the will, and discovered my brother was siphoning off $1000 a week for months because he had brought my father to the bank and they set up a "secret" account. It took a lot of trips and phone calls to the bank to sort that out. My brother still regularly calls my father and he still regularly sends money. $5000 here, $5000 there. My brother doesn't work and lives in a house being foreclosed anytime. My mother wavers between DO NOT SEND HIM MONEY to MY POOR SON NEEDS MONEY. But in her lucid days she would not tolerate supporting my brother like that and my father has paid all these years secretly behind her back. And it's HER MONEY! $100,000s of thousands. :(
My parents adore their eldest child, their only son. This is always the way it has been.
So that's the update on bro.
#2 The difficult bit: having a constructive, open-minded conversation about where to go from here when you are sore and angry and hyperstressed on the one hand, and angry and ill and old and depressed/despairing on the other.
A couple of things I don't understand. How come you all decided it was a good idea for them to move in with you when this entailed you moving into the *basement* and them taking over the actual house? Uh? How did this come to be agreed by everyone?
What investigations have been done with your mother? I'm wondering when her dementia was diagnosed, for example. You say neither of them would consider assisted living - how long were discussions going on post-diagnosis about what to do, and whom did your parents consult apart from you?
Who have you got on board in terms of doctors and other healthcare professionals?
My mum had pneumonia autumn 2019. She was bedridden and my father said she wasn't eating. I told him to bring her to the doctor, but of course, because he doesn't bring her doctors, she didn't have one. I found one online, made the appointment and he brought her. The doctor rang me and told me she needs to go ER. So we went up and brought her and she was hospitalised. They did a scan and a palliative care dr came to talk to us and said she has dementia. So my father (after medical scares he is compliant) agreed to move in with us and they came down after the hospital and I brought her to all kinds of specialists including a neurologist who said it's likely Alzheimer's. My father doesn't attend any of her appointments and didn't really care about the results. After 6 weeks he wanted to return to NJ and we returned them with agreed plans to move down before Thanksgiving. He reneged. So the post MRI appt with the neurologist was just me asking him the results over the patient portal.
My father doesn't really recognise her dementia and thus there was no mutual planning. He used to say "she's fine, she's just old, leave us alone". Even now he has long planning conversations with her and then yells at her a little bit later for not recalling anything.
So her "diagnosis" was end of 2017 from a neurologist, but not further visits to him. Their care is monitored by a very good PCP. Also a cardiologist (father afib/leaky valve, mother a bit hbp). The PCP knows about her dementia. Not sure if he has any concerns about my father/dementia. My father is still very sharp and can easily pass those cognitive tests while in a doctor's presence. At home I see how confused and muddle he is, whether is just the drinking and old age, or whether there is dementia involved I don't know.
Do I need more than their PCP and cardiologist? Do I need to bring my mum to a neurologist regularly?
There will be no constructive open minded discussion because my father cannot do that with me. He can recognise me as a responsible adult. He does consult with the 3 cousins and they offer him support and suggestions I suppose.
Thank you Countrymouse for your time and ever so kind support.
I feel like I just regurgitated a lifetime of dysfunction. Oddly enough, until the past couple of years, I thought I grew up in a fairly stable household...
Please don't be ashamed to use the word alcoholic as many say it's a disease. I am a recovering alcoholic and have been sober for 35 years. I knew something was wrong when I had my first sip of alcohol as I didn't feel like myself but very strange. From what I have learned I metabolize alcohol differently compared to a non-alcoholic. I tell people all the time I am a recovering alcoholic and I'm proud of that.
If your Dad had cancer would you be ashamed? Probably not. There are many diseases and some are acceptable in society and some are not which I don't think is fair.
If I were in your shoes I would give my parents a choice which is either your Dad doesn't drink in your home anymore (meaning you don't bring alcohol inside the home) or they go to assisted living. It's called tough love even at their age but it's better than having your Dad fall down and your Mom drinking when she has dementia.
I understand that's a very difficult thing to do and you may even need help if you decide to stop bringing the alcohol home (I would call the counsel on aging for advice as well as calling Al-Anon).
Other then that I don't have any other suggestions, I wish I did.
Hang in there and know we are here for you,
Thank you for reminding me addiction is a disease. It makes framing the situation a bit more tolerable somehow.Congratulations to you on maintaining your recovery for so long I know it isn't an easy journey.
You are so kind to share your thoughts, it's much appreciated.
I agree - oof! Several people have recommended that you go to Al-anon. Have you ever looked into this organization before? You say that you knew as a young adult that your father was an alcoholic. Do some research online. The only requirement for membership is that you have been affected by someone else’s drinking. They say one alcoholic affects as many as 50 different people, including family, extended family, friends, co-workers, etc. So that includes your estranged cousins who are being sucked in to the alcoholic drama. An alcoholic drinks. That’s what they do, and they will try to control everyone around them to enable them to do so. That is what is happening to you now.
Al-anon teaches you how to let go of trying to control another person’s drinking and to be at peace whether they stop drinking or not. Now, whether that detachment comes while they are living with you or elsewhere, in Al-anon you will learn to make calm and rational decisions. If you were raised by an alcoholic, you have been affected by alcoholism even before your parents moved in with you. Read up on it online, call the Al-anon hotline, go to a few meetings. You will not identify with everyone there or their situations, but you will definitely identify with the feelings expressed.
You are in a very difficult situation of which I am hesitant to give you any advice, but I can say with great assurance that Al-anon will help you to see more clearly. I am praying for you.
I spent years begging, pleading, and finally had to accept that they were choosing to live this way. My mantra: "my parents problems are not my fault, and I cannot fix them". I have had to back away, SELF PROTECT (mental, emotional, protect your career, your spouse/family, etc.). If I knew then what I know now, I would have moved far, far away and let this mess unravel without me as a helpless bystander. It is a nightmare. If your parents want to move out, let them. This will wreck you if you let it.
You can not reason with an alcoholic. It's not possible because the drink poisons their minds and makes it impossible for them to think rationally.
It's a shame that you can't stop your Mom from having a drink. Would you consider her an alcoholic as well or just a victim who goes along with your Dad?
Maybe it's best for everyone if your parents went to assisted living where it would be difficult for your Dad to drink. I also think you would benefit by going to Al-Anon meetings where you would learn about this disease as well as learn the tools on how to deal with it as well as getting the support you need.
Best to you,
They steadfastly refuse to consider assisted living. As another person wrote, they have the right to make their own bad decisions. But there is no way they can go and lease a flat without me, they can't drive/hear and comprehend, but just fail to recognise their limitations.
You're so right, I really need to come to terms with that my father is truly and alcoholic. I've avoided that term all my life, probably as a result of shame/protection. Strange living with your parents as an adult, you observe from a different perspective. And it isn't always pretty.
Working for them 24/7 and then being told what a bad person I am and having others told what a bad person I am is really a bad trigger point for me. I really don't mind caring for them, but it is a LOT of work. And then for my father to turn around and say such bad things about me is really offensive. And then to add fuel to the fire, these cousins haven't given me the benefit of the doubt and assume what this crazy 89 year old man is saying is the truth!
What does your mother drink when she drinks? What happens? - the alcohol affects her very quickly and she becomes a mess, but in what sort of way?
For the immediate term, I mean today and tomorrow, shelve it. Act normal. Give it a couple of days post blow-up to recover your balance.
What I *hope* is that this is a low point, where the novelty has worn off and you're all trying to establish a modus vivendi, but your parents haven't yet settled and you're finding it heavy going (which it IS).
These three cousins... what sort of terms are you on, as adult peers?
They both drink straight scotch or vodka. :(
It's always apparent to us when my mother drinks because her dementia symptoms immediately become worse. She gets very messy when eating (food missing her mouth, on her face, etc.), asks the same question over and over (much worse than her normal), gets belligerent, dishevelled...basically like an incoherent drunk person, but after only 1 drink.
The three cousins I haven't seen nor spoken to in 25 years. They are about 10 years older than me. I think over the past 5 years my father starting talking to them more often and they are extremely sympathetic to him. The contact I've had with them since my parents moved in was one phone call to ask me if I'm bringing them to the doctor and what kind of set up I have in my house for them. (They have 3 bedrooms/2 baths to themselves, we moved into the basement) I hear my deaf father speaking very loudly to them and also often hear their response and they tell him that he needs to get away, change of scenery, move out to an apartment. It's meddling without full knowledge of the situation.
I'm not sure my parents will settle. My father is a very stubborn, independent man. In our screaming match yesterday I told him that I have always said to him, "I am here to help him in any way and to please just ask" and his reply was (with a sneer), "as if I would ask YOU for anything". And it's true, he doesn't even allow me to help him make a phone call.
I'm trying to let it blow over, but I already yelled at my mum this morning. Usually I don't say anything to them about moving out, let them discuss it and walk away, but my father turning around and blaming me yesterday was a serious trigger.
But anyway, I think you're probably right. They lived on their own in before they came here. I would have left my father to live there alone if not for my mum. It was neglectful the way he "cared" for her. He basically uses her as a maid, nurse, servant, but does nothing in return. She would spend the day at the dining table alone, or staring at the blank wall. No medications were given to her. No doctor appointments made for her. Everything was about him. So it was for her that I brought them here.
I'm not sure what my boundaries should be. I would like my father to stop lying to my cousins about me. And I would like him to stop pouring my mum a drink. When I request this they take umbrage and say they are moving out. So I guess maybe that is our line in the sand.
This is exhausting.