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I am the caretaker for my sister. She has many health ailments along with mental issues. We try to take her out for dinner, to pick up her meds, or grocery shopping, just to give her some type of life outside of the house. Otherwise she is a hermit, a slob of one, at that. I am constantly picking up after her and wiping up spills. I also have had to sent eating utensils back to restaurants we have frequented because she has slipped them into pockets and put in the dishwasher later. The other day, while taking her grocery shopping I caught her opening a box of ice cream bars, taking one out, and putting the package back in the freezer. I had to go retrieve the package to pay for it. She wanted to purchase a cup of popcorn chicken the other day while shopping. I let her (she has a glucose problem), and she began eating them and suddenly I noticed the cup was missing. I asked what she had done with it, she told me she could not remember. I backtracked the aisles until I found where she had placed the empty cup BEHIND a large jar of spaghetti sauce. Then yesterday, my husband took her to pick up her meds at he pharmacy. He thought he had kept a pretty good eye on her. Somehow, she managed to sneak a package of M and M and a container of Accent meat tenderizer. He watched the transaction at the register and neither of the items went across the counter and he looked at the sales receipt. Later, for some unknown reason, he caught her being sneaky. She was secretly going out to the garage where he keeps his grilling seasonings and she was pouring the accent into his seasonings. He came unglued. Help, what do we do? I am so stressed. I don't know what to do so that we can all enjoy an outting.

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Thank you for the answers and suggestions. I am really taking them in and soaking up your experience and knowledge. I appreciate a view from another window. @ alwayslearning, I will do this until the end. It is our family way and the way it should be throughout America. Taking care of our own and quit depending on the country to support us. It is financially tight, but we survive. I could not abandon her. She was my mother figure growing up. There is so much to tell of our story. I owe her this. Truly I do.
@ bobO thank you for offering some wonderful ideas. We are having family here on Sunday for an early Easter celebration. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. We are also anticipating a move to a larger place in a few weeks. There is a park and a center for older adults. I am hoping that enrolling her in the program it will help with the urge to take things. She is missing a connectioin somewhere, for which I believe brings out this behavior. The psychologist has not confirmed that, yet, but I believe it.
@ Everyone that has taken the time to share their thoughts and ideas, I thank you.

Boma
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Dear Boma,
Try having other outings that don't involve retail. Go to the park. Go for a dive to a scenic place. Have a picnic, the lake, the Arboretum. Shopping isn't working for you or her or your husband. Getting out of the house is important but there comes a time when this becomes a discomfort for the person you are caring for and you. Sister used to have panic attacks in public and snatched things from the store and off other peoples plates of food. It just became too much. You can't help what she is going through but you can make better choices of outings.
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You're the caretakers for someone who's not sane. Ed is suggesting that you be less tolerant -- parent more, in a sense -- basically use behavior modification techniques. We don't know how much of that you've tried or how much of her behavior is accessible to influence. If someone's paranoid, for example, the behaviors may be quite calculated but still not necessarily re-trainable. It's good that you have medical professionals to ask questions of; I'd say, while you're at it ask for advice about behavior modification approaches. It sounds to me like you and your husband, and the doctors, and Social Services, are also in for some long-term planning. How long can you go on like this?
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To edvierair: I didn't sugarcoat it. I'm frustrated. How are we supposed to go out and do anything. We can't afford a sitter and rarely go anywhere. Pretty sad when you date night with your husband is going to the grocery store and you are babysitting your older sibling. I've written out a list of things to present to the psychologist and psychiatrist visits tomorrow. We have a whole day of appointments.
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BOMA:

I'm sorry my friend, but in your situation I must tell it like it is.

Mental issues notwithstanding, I'd nip it in the bud; even if I have to make a scene. You saw her opening the box didn't even make her pay for the ice cream bars herself. Even if you had to give her the money and have her stand in line to remind her nothing in the store is free for the taking.

All that sneaking around, moreover, sounds pretty calculated to me. Which explains why your husband will continue to unravel every now and then. It takes lots of practice to become that smooth and good at "boosting," and no matter how much you sugarcoat it stealing is stealing.

Having to make amends for someone else's negative behaviors isn't only embarrassing, but there comes a point when enough is enough. Next time, put your foot down and don't feel sorry for it.

-- ED
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