Mom has advanced dementia. No short term memory at all. Bad balance issues and ankle arthritis. Lives alone next door to my sister, who works during the day. I live an hour away and spend two days a week with her to pay bills, make sure meds are in order, clean, laundry, and take her for doc appointments, grocery shop. Our brother, who lives about 30 minutes away, rarely visits or calls her, and is oblivious of her declining condition. She used to have a couple of whiskey toddies in the evenings (she and her late second husband got into that habit, and she continued it after he died). We thought it was not a big deal for her to enjoy a drink in the evenings to pass the time in her loneliness- but this past year, with her declining mobility, her drinking made her balance issues worse, and she had a fall in December - I found her the next morning after a night on the floor - the empty whiskey drink glass still sitting on the I knew it contributed. No injuries, but that fall increased her cognitive and physical decline tremendously. She's now dependent on a walker, and can barely get around. The day she fell, I told her no more drinking. Poured out the remaining whiskey and told her we would no longer take her to the store to purchase alcohol. She has been mad at us ever since, but we explain that it's for her safety. A couple months ago, we found a bottle of whiskey hidden in a cabinet - our brother had bought it for her at her request. We gave it back to him and said she can't drink - a month later, it was back in the cabinet - he had brought it back to her. We took it again and poured it out. We reminded him that she can't drink. He just doesn't get it. Then I found another bottle yesterday - asked her about it, and she said she asked him to bring it to her - she started crying, because she'd been busted once again - I told her I wasn't mad at her - I'm mad at him for enabling her and not getting it - it's for her safety. He won't answer my calls or texts explaining that she simply cannot drink.....she overpours and drinks too much. He doesn't want to or doesn't seem to understand her decline and safety issues. Are we wrong to tell her no? We have medical and durable power of attorney. We do everything for her - for her health and safety. He does nothing and it angers both of us. Opinions?

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Sounds like your mom has no business living alone.  If she were around other people and not sitting alone, maybe she wouldn't even think about the nightly drinks.  Your brother is very typical in his denial of your moms situation.  Like I told my moms brothers....your inability to accept her illness and limitations does not change her situation.  She still has dementia and still needs assistance.

Your brother is giving her the booze for the "pat on the head" he has probably gotten from her his entire life.  You are more than likely not going to be able to change the dynamics of their relationship.

Focus on the bigger issue.  Mom needs more care and should not be left alone.  Your brother is not going to be of any help, so don't expend any emotion or energy being angry at him.  He is a speed bump...move past him and focus on how to care for mom.
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Reply to Jamesj
RedVanAnnie May 18, 2021
Spot on
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You're saying that your brother who lives 30 minutes away rarely visits. If you're averaging finding a bottle of whisky once a month, then he's coming by. He might visit during the day when your sister is at work.
You did ask for opinions on your mom's situation, so I'll give you mine.
Yes, it would be wrong to completely cut your mother off having her whisky. What else does she enjoy at this point in her life?
You can restrict how much she can have though. Your sister lives next door. Would she be willing to keep the whisky bottle at her house and let mom have one dram in the evening and no more?
Then make your brother aware of this new arrangement. Tell him that if he's going to leave a full bottle then he can stay there while mom gets lit to make sure she doesn't get hurt.
I'm pretty sure he's not willing to do that and will probably agree to stop bringing by a bottle for her.
If he refuses to stop leaving off a bottle for mom, the next time she's drunk put her in the car and drop her off at his house no matter what time it is. Let him deal with it. That will stop his whisky delivery service for sure.
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Reply to BurntCaregiver

I'm not going to comment on the whiskey toddies. Or falls or even safety.

It's a safety vs feedom of choice issue. Or quality of life vs quantity.

Just going to ask if you have read this book by Atul Gawande?

Being Mortal: Medicine & What Matters in the End.

Maybe it will help, maybe not with this exact issue but for the bigger picture. Your brother may have a different approach. If you can be curious about his reasons & ask him why it may be interesting. Keep an open mind. All perspectives can be useful.
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Reply to Beatty

If your mother has "advanced dementia" she should not be living unsupervised.

Therein lies the problem.

You only have control over your own behavior. Not mom's and certainly not brother's.

As long as she lives alone and has not been declared incompetent, she is free to do as she pleases.

Look at the bigger picture. Your mother needs to be in a care situation with 24/7 oversight; either round the clock at home caregivers or a facility suited to her current level of need.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn

As my uncle reached 90 the Dr told my aunt that he probably should stop drinking. My Aunt was 20 years younger and had worked in health care. He was an off-the-boat Italian and made his own wine in an old whisky barrel in the cellar. His daily routine was a morning drink that included an egg, strong coffee and his wine (Yuck, but he liked it), a tiny glass of wine with lunch & dinner and at 8:00 he had a beer and went to bed. My Aunt told the Dr "the man is 90 years old, how much longer do you expect stopping his routine would add to his life and what enjoyment would he have?"
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Reply to EllensOnly
disgustedtoo May 18, 2021
That's also a very different scenario. He clearly had a "routine" and a drink with meals, one before bed, etc. Leaving a full bottle with a person who can't control themselves (my grandmother, no dementia) and/or has dementia is asking for trouble! Certainly if she enjoys a drink in the evening, mostly out of habit, that could be allowed/controlled. There's no way this woman should have access to a full bottle of whiskey with no supervision (I also question why she is living alone.)
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Safety v. Doing one of the few things still left in her lonely life that she enjoys.

Maybe you should have an all-sibling meeting and come up with a solution, like she can have in her home every day the equivalent of 1 drink so that she can't overindulge. The sister who lives next door may be willing to manage this. Or, someone goes over there after dinner and enjoys the cocktail hour with her.

Growing up my Italian-American family had a small cocktail before dinner religiously. When I visit we still do it. It's not a lot, 1 drink, but we chat and decompress from the day together. You are worried about your mother's body suffering but in the meantime her "self" is suffering. All the caregivers on this forum understand this quandary.

BarbBrooklyn makes good points about her being alone and unattended. In a care facility she will at least have people to talk to and activities and events to attend and no one will be needlessly orbiting around her and fretting. Who has PoA for her? This person can read the document to see when their legal authorities are activated and can then start making decisions in her best interests. If she has no PoA, this needs to be accomplished sooner rather than later, but with all the siblings so that there's transparency and no one can later say, "I didn't know _____". I wish you family harmony and much success in helping her have a better quality of life.
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Reply to Geaton777

I have had a similar situation in the past with my mom. Mom is a fall risk and on blood thinners. We went through months and months of discussions (arguments) about alcohol consumption because visiting family thought it was cute to see her tipsy and started encouraging her to drink when she normally doesn’t. One day I found her outside, by herself, stumbling around in the concrete and gravel backyard, in 104° heat, and a half- empty glass of whiskey on the patio table. She was “weeding.” My family says “she’s 83, let her have some fun.” They live elsewhere and apparently have no idea how much work caregiving is (on a good day!) or how dangerous alcohol is for an elderly 104 pound woman. They said I was being “controlling.” It took almost a year of battles before she finally started managing herself and would only have a little bit and only when we were having a special evening with friends. I am so grateful she eventually came around. I thought I would lose my mind for a while. I’m so sorry for how your brother is disrespecting you. I wish I had some words to help!
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Reply to RZiemba

The drinking compounds an already existing issues - balance and ability to think through issues, dementia itself. It is not a question of letting her enjoy. She probably doesn't enjoy it so much as it is a habit. My mom was a wine drinker. As her dementia got worse, so did her drinking. I don't think she realized how much she was drinking. It became a safety issue - related to falls, her use of the oven, and on top of it, she smoked cigarettes.

First off we turned the oven off, so she could no longer use it. It was not safe. She forgot and left it on with a pan on the oven. She used it to light cigarettes, and wiped off the hot range.

Then, we began watering down her wine so that eventually it was nothing but water and juice. And delivered less and less until she forgot about it. I did the same with the cigarettes, by delivering fewer and fewer.

Both worked - she falls much less, has less incontinence, no longer drinks wine and no longer smokes. It was not to take away her last pleasure - It was to keep her safe from an even worse event. Just like I took away her car and her driver's license. It was not just a matter for her safety, but for all around her.

The idea that this is some kind of enjoyment seems to make sense on the surface, but it is just a habit. And in too many cases, it creates unnecessary dangers. Now it has been nearly a year past and she rarely, if ever, thinks about drinking and never brings up cigarettes.
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Reply to karenonthames
disgustedtoo May 18, 2021
"Both worked - she falls much less, has less incontinence, no longer drinks wine and no longer smokes. It was not to take away her last pleasure - It was to keep her safe from an even worse event. Just like I took away her car and her driver's license. It was not just a matter for her safety, but for all around her."

Thank you for this post. It is a good example that backs up what I've tried to say - it isn't about denying her pleasure or extending life, but preserving what she does have left and avoiding unnecessary illness, injury or worse!

My grandmother was into the wine - I related how it was for her in a comment. In our case, my parents and aunts were old school and didn't discuss all this with us, despite two of us being more or less adults in college! Had they bothered, I would NEVER have taken my grandmother with me to buy wine OR I would have known to just give her a glass and hide the bottle!!!
You state that she drinks too much, that it’s a habit, that she cries when she gets caught... Well she’s an alcoholic. Age is no respecter of addiction. She needs help from a doctor who understands this. You cannot just take it away from her, she could develop a dangerous spike in her blood pressure from the withdrawal and have a stroke. She will need help to detox. Please take this seriously, she cannot do this without help.
But at her age just dilute the whiskey and let her have the two toddies she’s used to. Leave only enough in the bottle for the toddies and refill it daily. Elderly folks fall for many reasons and I question that the alcohol she’s been used to drinking for years caused her fall. It does sound like she should not be living on her own.
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Reply to IamAmy

Hi there, lisah. Alcohol is one of the few things I've ever heard doctors and caregivers say shouldn't be cut suddenly. If your mother is an alcoholic and her body is used to the alcohol, having her stop cold turkey may not be the best option for her health. I would bring this up with her doctor and tell him the amounts and length of the habit, and then go from there. You and your brother can hopefully agree on whatever the doctor's advice is, too, and it doesn't put you at odds with each other over this.
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Reply to AliBoBali

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