I asked a question about a year ago about my FIL who was refusing to go into a care facility. I had been taking care of him for four years and also his wife for two years, before she passed away. I received many good answers from the people on this forum. Since then he too has passed away and my husband and I have managed to start getting our lives back to normal. Cue the next crisis.

I have been estranged from my own mom for four years. The estrangement started when I was about a year in to caring for my in-laws. The catalyst for the estrangement was that she accused me of abusing my in-laws. This was absolutely untrue, and she never really gave a reason as to why she thought I was abusing them. I never said an unkind word to either one of my husband’s parents. In fact, I had quit my job in order to care for them, which was never really appreciated.

Although her accusation was the official reason I stopped talking to her, in truth, it was just the straw that broke the camels back. She has been a cruel, delusional alcoholic all my life. Her behaviour has pushed away every single person in her life except for my younger sister. Full disclosure, I have also suffered from alcoholism but have been sober for the past 3 1/2 years.

My sister lives about a 6 hour drive away from the town where my mother and I live. She calls my mother every day and visits three times a year for a couple days each time. On this last visit, she informed my father, from whom my mother is divorced, that my mother is going downhill. She is having trouble caring for her house and can’t even change lightbulbs by herself anymore. She is 69 years old. My sister then informed my dad that she thinks she is going to ask me to take care of my mother.


If I agree to take care of my mother, she will take over every aspect of my life. She truly cares about nothing except herself. She would not care if taking care of her killed me.

My question is, how do I handle this with my sister? We are very close, and I really do hate that the burden of my mother is on her. However, I also know that five minute phone calls and three time a year visits are nothing compared to what would be expected of me.

Although my sister hasn’t even broached the subject with me yet, I know that it is coming. I do feel sympathy for her because I understand that she must be at a loss for what to do since she lives so far away. I just know that I cannot take care of this woman. What do I do?

I think daughters have been trained from birth to never use the word "NO" when it comes to their mother. For petesake, mine would tell me daily how I must NEVER speak badly about her, even if she's a murderer & a drunkard *her words, not mine* & so on. Brainwashing is another word for this type of guilt that's inflicted on us. The truth is, most people are not equipped to be a caregiver for their aged/sickly/addicted parents. Period. We may think we are, or be driven to do so by unfounded guilt, or whatever, but in reality, there is a TON of work that goes into care giving. Take my mother *please* for instance. At 92 she is 100% incontinent, even bowel incontinent from time to time, she is mostly deaf but won't get a hearing aid, can't feel her feet due to neuropathy, has chronic vertigo as a result, has insomnia, chronic anxiety, uses a walker and soon to be a wheelchair, has no sense of responsibility whatsoever *due to her narcissism* and the list goes on. Am I qualified to take care of her? Nope. Would I want to, even if I were qualified? Nope. Does this make me a bad person? Nope. But even if you say it DOES make me a bad person, that's fine. Know why? Because mommy dearest has ruined ENOUGH of my 61 years on earth as it is, and having to take care of her daily would make me want to end my own life. Literally. So, if it's 'her or me', I'll choose 'me'. I love my mother but I don't like her, and that will never change. So thousands of dollars per month are paid for others to care for her in an assisted living facility. I thank God daily that my parents had the money to pay for this incredibly valuable service. If your sister thinks it's your job to take your mom in, tell her precisely why it isn't. I'm an alcoholic too, and let me tell you, if mother moved in with me, there wouldn't be enough alcohol on earth for me to drink. And I say that being sober for 10+ years. Congratulations to YOU for your 3+ years of sobriety, that is awesome!

Best of luck, dear woman.
Helpful Answer (23)
Reply to lealonnie1
Molly72 Dec 30, 2018
Lealonnie1, your comment about there not being enough alcohol in the world to drink made me laugh. Congratulations on your 10+ years!
First priority is your marriage and sobriety.  I believe that morally these come first and under no circumstances should endanger your health. No problem of moral obligation at all here.  Now, I understand your desire to help your sister, but it seems that both of you are not thinking about alternatives to hands on care.  Can you make it very clear that you will not provide this kind of care, it cannot even be considered.  So, look at other alternatives - I suspect that the best place for your alcoholic, mentally sick mom, is in an appropriate facility, not at home. Her health needs are way beyond that. Is there any reason why ex-husband and younger sister are not looking into alternatives?  I'd not wait to be approached but start the conversation with sister, making it clear that you must be taken off the discussion table for any hands on care or extensive involvement.
Helpful Answer (16)
Reply to rovana
Molly72 Dec 30, 2018
Rovana, alternatives for my moms care haven’t been looked into as of yet because although she is a life long alcoholic, she has always been a functioning alcoholic. The idea of her needing care always seemed to be something in the future. Perhaps it still is. I think my sister just got spooked by her going downhill when she came to visit this Christmas. My mother is still living on her own, still driving. I think my sister is just fearful that she may need care sooner than we thought. Since I don’t see my mother myself, I really can’t know for sure how bad she is.

My dad actually did offer help to my sister, but oooooooh myyyyyy Goood no. They have been divorced for 25 years but even mentioning my father turns my mother into something like a wild animal. It would not end well.

I do think you are right about getting ahead of the problem and talking to my sister before she brings it up. Perhaps then we can come up with some kind of a plan. Of course, any plan that involves my mother not getting exactly what she wants will be met with rage. Sigh.
You have gone through personal struggles with alcohol and overcame them.

For this reason alone and the fact that your mother is still an active drinker you need to remain detached.

Alcoholics are often narcissistic & don’t care or are unable to realize the needs of anyone else.

If your mother at 69 hasn’t realized yet that she has a problem she may never admit it.

Don’t expose yourself to that behavior. It’s not fair to you nor your husband who has no doubt provided you with the support you needed to stop drinking.

Explain that to your sister. It’s time for someone else to pick up the slack.

Your sister can arrange for grocery delivery, county transport to doctor visits, home repair, etc. When she visits your mom she can make lists of what repairs need to be done and arrange them via Angie’s List or Home Advisor to get estimates, etc and your mother can choose what how she wants to proceed and make the decision.

Its self preservation for you. People are responsible for their bad decisions. Your mother is still young enough to recognize her problem; whether she does or not is not your problem. You recognized yours and deserve Kudos, and did so while you were caring for your in-laws.
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to Shane1124

Thanks everyone for your responses. I just got off of the phone with my sister and am feeling much better after our conversation.

She told me that what she had actually said to my dad was that she was going to ask me if I would be willing to go to my mothers house and check on her if she wasn’t able to get in touch with her for an extended period of time. She said that she would call my mothers neighbor first and then me. This would only be after not being able to reach her for more than 24 hours. Essentially, she is worried about what will happen if my mother is lying on the floor and no one knows about it.

I told her that if she’s really worried about that, it would be better to call 911 if the neighbor isn’t available. She agreed.

We ended up having a long conversation about what is going to happen with our mother when things eventually do go south. At this point, she’s not leading a wonderful life but she is still capable of being on her own, officially. She’s not at the point where anyone can force her into any kind of care. I don’t know when that time will come. It could be in a month, or she could lead this sad existence for another 10 years.

At any rate, my sister told me that she has no expectations of me ever providing any hands-on care for my mother. She also told me that she doesn’t want to do it either! I can’t blame her for that! She said that when the time comes, she will take care of placement but has asked me to help her look for homes and help her navigate the legal stuff (when the time comes) since I know about it from taking care of my in-laws. I am fine with that.

So I essentially got myself into a nervous tizzy over nothing. I’m very grateful for everyone’s advice. Especially those who told me that I should talk to my sister before any crisis happened. It’s really good that we had this talk because I feel like we’re on the same page. Whew!
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to Molly72
sudalu Jan 2, 2019
Molly72, you did the right thing by expressing your concerns to this group before you had the conversation with your sister. It helped you to be prepared to handle it the best way possible. I'm sure many people, aside from you, were helped by reading this post. Your sister sounds like a saint.
It is your sister's choice to involve herself in your mother's life. Even from 6 hours away, your sister can coordinate the services your mother needs. Your mother is very young, which means your sister may in for decades of caregiving if that is her choice. But to pawn off an alcoholic mother onto a recovering alcoholic sister by asking you to "take care of your mother" is a special kind of thoughtless.

Because you have already been through caregiving, you can share tips and resources with your sister; however, you must remain strong and keep away from your mother. Your are estranged from your mother for good reason, and your sister must accept that, to you, your mother is a toxic person.
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to NYDaughterInLaw

Do NOT INVOLVE yourself in something you know you cannot handle. You know you cannot handle this. Have a heart-to-heart with your sister before you get involved with this and tell her you are “out of the picture” as far as having her come live with you. Be very forceful about this and tell your sister there’s no way. Offer to work with her to find other arrangements, but moving in with you is not an option. Don’t let yourself be walked on. Be strong. You can do this!
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to Ahmijoy
Molly72 Dec 30, 2018
Thank you, Ahmijoy. I don’t think my sister intends to ask me to move my mother in with me. Not at this point, anyway. I think it would be more about taking care of her house, taking her to appointments, that kind of thing. The thing is, I haven’t spoken to my mother in four years. The thought of doing so makes me feel panicked. Like a powerless four year old. And I can’t be around the drinking. I’ve worked too hard to remove it from my own life.
If you had emphysema and your mom smoked constantly, you wouldn't be her caregiver. You have a disease and your mom will make it worse. Don't do it. Your sister will understand. She's just looking for an answer to the problem. You aren't it. There is another answer out there.
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to anonymous594015

Your sister needs to talk to your mom ( a competent adult) about what realistic choices are for the next phase of her life.

They can ask all they want, but your answer must be " no, I can't possibly do that".
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn

I think the first thing to do is a paper list in three columns – what your mother can do, what she can’t do, and what help she would need for the things she can’t do. For example, since I fell off the ladder, I’m not willing to get up on one to change a light bulb, I don’t have a lot of hand strength, and I have to look after my back, but I am capable of many other things. Ahmijoy has given you lots of ideas about transport and handyman needs, and that can include transport to appointments. Your mother is only 69, and may well be able to organise things of which she is not physically capable – particularly if there is no option.

Work on the list with your sister, and make a plan together when you can see the whole picture. Your sister can involve your mother in making the list, and both of them need to know that ‘help’ doesn’t include contact with you! That is better for your relationship with your sister than just saying no. It will also help your sister to see when and if alternative accommodation is needed.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen

NO is a complete sentence.
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Reply to Compassionate5

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