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Moved back to my parents house in 2012 with my 2 kids after a divorce. It seemed like a great idea since I could help them pay mortgage and the kids would get to know the grandparents better.


They were completely independent back then and now that my mother is in a pre-Alzheimer’s state their relationship has deteriorated even more. They were never the model couple in their 52 years of marriage, but they usually got along enough. As soon as my father starts drinking (it’s a daily thing for him about 10-12 liters of wine or more per week) he becomes extra sensitive and verbally abusive and sometimes physically towards everyone but especially towards her. She is no saint either (we have all seen it) sometimes she pushes him and he falls because he’s had too much alcohol and very often instigates him by making comments on his ever growing belly. I have always denied to myself that he is an alcoholic mainly because I’ve seen him control the habit - we have been having yearly challenges where we all stop drinking for a month and he has no problem doing that and becomes a much better person during that month period.


Since 2018 my mother has been showing signs of Alzheimer’s and my father drinks more and more every day. When I am home she is usually with me since we live in a 2 family home and lately I ask her not to go downstairs and sleep in the guest bedroom because I know it more than likely result in an argument of some sort.


Lately mother has been crying a lot and regretting not having left him earlier in her life, usually after some kind of argument but nevertheless worrisome. I see her very depressed sometimes and only happy when she’s with me, I see him depressed and drinking excessively on a daily basis.


She has been asking to go see a lawyer and get a divorce, what can be done at this point where her mind is not what it used to be and she is not able to recall events of the day before but remembers something wrong happened.


They often create a very toxic environment around them because of the constant bickering.


As a concerned older son I feel that I have to do something about it. My uncle from my mother’s side is close in age to me and feels the same - we have to do something. My daughter moved out of the house after graduating from high school and went to live and study in the UK. My sister after an unexpected divorce also moved to the UK so I am alone with my teenage son and uncle on this.


There’s a lot more to say but at this point I have to start somewhere looking for answers. We are an honest hardworking family and I just can’t let this happen to us.


I appreciate your help and expertise.

I grew up in a household where there was constant fighting between my mother & her mother, my grandmother. The histrionics were unbearable. I grew up disliking BOTH of these women for their treatment of one another, and blaming my father for enabling them to act like lunatics, and for not protecting ME, the child, who had to endure such hardship, stomach aches & psychic pain. My parents also fought with each other because nothing my father ever did was 'good enough' for my mother, the queen.

It is not your job to fix your parents' relationship. It IS your job, however, to get your son OUT of that toxic environment.

Or else he may be writing MY story one day, and blaming YOU for his dysfunctional childhood.

There is no such thing as a 'pre Alzheimer's state'. Your mother either has Alzheimer's since 2018 or she does not. Once you move yourself & your son out of your parents home, then you can try to help get them placed; perhaps dad can go into Assisted Living and mom can go into the Memory Care section of the same place. Separating them may be their best bet, before they wind up hurting one another or before the police are called and your father gets arrested for being drunk & disorderly, and hit with a domestic violence charge to boot.

Wishing you good luck moving forward.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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Isn't tragic for your son worse than tragic for your mother?

Your mother is an adult who has made her choices. Your primary responsibility is to your child, who is still a minor.
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lkdrymom Dec 2, 2020
I'm glad you said it, I was thinking it. Your responsibility is to your son. Having him live in this environment is the real tragedy.
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Your Mother's insticts seem correct. Her husband will not be capable of being her caregiver if/when she needs one due to her health (you mentioned possible signs of Alz?)

He seems on a pathway for an alcohol related dementia (if not already).

Could you go talk to your Doctor? Find out how an aged care assessment for vulnerable elders works where you live?

In all honesty, if you moved out tomorrow, would it become a catastrophe? If so, then they are no longer independent & need an experienced Social Worker to assist with a transition into a care setting. Separate rooms would be required.

Keep with us. This is going to be one bumpy ride.
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Reply to Beatty
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I’m sorry you’re living in such a mess. You have to know this is beyond your ability to fix. And your son shouldn’t live with an alcoholic, in a home with physical violence, and this level of dysfunction. Your parents had this toxic stew going long before you moved in, and it’s only going to worsen. Please look out for your son and get him out of there. Call the local Council on Aging and ask for a needs assessment for your parents, but know that it’s on them to accept help and changes
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Reply to Daughterof1930
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Teeknow Dec 2, 2020
Thank you for your suggestion I have looked into the city council on aging and will reach out to them asap
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Your mother has lived much of her life, for better or for worse. You're doing a lot for both parents that might be better handled in some of the ways people have suggested.. The bigger risk may be for your son. If he is NOT moved out of this environment, it may be tragic for him down the road. He's your first responsibility, ahead of your mother.
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Reply to caroli1
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Help your parents get their paperwork in order - durable power of attorney both medical and financial, advance directives, wills - but do it with each of them separately.

An attorney will be able to assess whether or not your mother is capable of understanding and signing documents including divorce papers. If she's too far gone to sign, then she cannot get a legal divorce. If they lived separately, that might be enough to satisfy her.

You do seem overly concerned with your parents' marriage, and not concerned enough about the toxic environment in which your 17 year old son is living. Your son is 17 NOW but he's been living like this since he was 9!
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw
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Your mother's 72. I don't call that elderly. And if your father is of a similar age, it perhaps isn't that long since he retired, is it?

What does your father say about the situation?

So. You've been living with them for eight years. Your daughter seems to have voted with her feet. Does your son have similar plans to move out, have you talked to him about what he thinks, what he hopes to do?

Pre-Alzheimer's doesn't mean much to me - what concrete symptoms have you observed, have you asked your mother to consult a doctor, have any investigations been done?

In any case, it sounds as though your mother is some way away from being unable to take legal steps. If she seriously wants to consider divorce, she's free to do so. But to me that sounds like eyewash: some idea that divorce will solve everything, whereas I'm sure you know from your own experience that it's only a beginning of change. What, exactly, will it solve? Where will she live? Where will he live? Does he feel the same?

I don't recommend you get involved in discussing with them what they're arguing about and attempting to act as mediator. You live there, you're much too close to the situation. But a professional outsider might be a very good idea indeed. Do you think that they would consider counselling or mediation?
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AlvaDeer Dec 2, 2020
Yes, what Countrymouse said, exactly. Add my vote on all of this. OP observes that this was never the couple who was ideally peaceable with one another. Having more family around may have even added to a strained relationship. I find if couples disagree about one thing most it is the children. Often one is happier having the kids move home than the other. Whatever the stresses, some couples bicker a lot more. In my own family one person has threatened to move out on their spouse claiming they are "staying for the children". Wouldn't you know it, the children are now grown and they are still together just bickering their hearts out.
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This is NOT an environment that you should be exposing your kids to. ( I see it is just your son) And your responsibility is to your children and to yourself first not to your parents.
I would make plans to move out ASAP
You can not fix this.
No such thing as "pre-Alzheimer's"
Your mom should be diagnosed one way or the other dementia (then of what type not all dementia is Alzheimer's)
The next time your dad becomes violent you need to call 911 and express that you are afraid for your safety, your mom's safety.
Your local Area Agency on Ageing might be of some help. At least you can discuss options with a Social Worker.
Do you have POA for either or both of your parents?
And another thing to put on your list of "to do" talk with an Elder Care Attorney.
Sad as it is it is possible that a divorce might be the best thing for both of them. It is possible that they would be eligible for services as single that they might not be if they are married.
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Reply to Grandma1954
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Sarah3 Dec 6, 2020
I agree about the “pre Alzheimer’s” bit and that it’s a inappropriate environment for a minor. The parents marriage however and whether they want to stay married or not is nobody’s business or decision but theirs. They’ve already been married over 50 yrs. I feel like it’s possible the reason the op is focusing so much on their marriage is bc of his own divorce. Counseling could be immensely helpful to him and to reset the focus where it should be on his own life as a parent his responsibility is to his son. His parents don’t need him to play marriage referee
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Your mother is an adult, her marriage is not your concern. Your concern should be your minor son. Pls seek counseling it seems as if your projecting your own unresolved issues and feelings about your own marriage/ divorce by trying to control THEIR marriage. Focus on your son, this is so unhealthy for him ( and you, and your parents).
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Reply to Sarah3
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I grew up in a family with an alcoholic father too. He was also verbally, mentally, and occasionally physically violent. My sisters and I couldn't wait to leave our parents' home when we were adults. We each are scarred and carry some of that into our own families as parents and spouses. So, my advice to you will seem a bit blunt and to the point, because I know the dangers each person in the family faces.

Please acknowledge that both of your parents have a problem... and you do too.

Your father IS an alcoholic and needs help. He needs to go to rehab so he can safely "dry out." He also needs to belong to an alcoholic recovery group like AA or Celebrate Recovery.

Your mother IS abusive. She needs to see her primary care doctor AND a psychiatrist. They can manage her Alzheimer's disease (early medication is key) and her poor coping techniques. She may need to spend a little time in an inpatient psych unit to get a handle on her anger, but I am concerned that physical outbursts will be her main way of expressing her displeasure.


You are not the cause nor the cure for your parents' marriage problems. Whether or not your parents' marriage survives will depend on whether or not each of them is willing to get help and work really, really hard at their relationship. If they do split, your mother may need placement into assisted living or a long term care facility that will accept whatever finances she has or Medicaid.

You ARE co-dependent in your parents' problems. Please see a counsellor or join a recovery group like Al Anon. Your children are growing up in an environment that is teaching them all kinds of inappropriate behavior. Please find a way to move out of your parents' home into a place that you can afford. Your children deserve to be loved, cherished and taught how to be healthy, contributing adults in society.
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Reply to Taarna
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Tashi5 Dec 6, 2020
This response makes total sense to me. Taarna has insight and great advice an practical suggestions. Tells it like it is.
I see that the original letter was written by a loving and concerned son. There is empathy and straight talking on this website, you
came to the right place Teeknow-
The very best of luck- be strong, take care of yourself and your children
especially- Sending love to you.
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