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Hey all. Glad to be somewhere where it seems like there's great dialogue about senior care.


My mom is 68, my sister and I are in our late 20s/early 30s. Mom has been an alcoholic all her life, in and out of rehab, never able to stay sober for more than a year at most. She also suffers from bipolar disorder and NPD. Mom and Dad have been divorced for 20 years, but Dad still supports her financially — mostly we are all still there for her because it's tough to deal with the guilt of abandoning a family member who we all feel is very sick.


Mom has tons of behavioral problems. Mostly suicide attempts that aren't truly attempts but rather cries for attention. Several DUIs, etc., can't really hold down a job due to lack of confidence and mood disorder issues. None of us have very fruitful relationships with her, as she's never really been around as a mother or partner. Her primary way of "connecting" with people is either recalling her personal traumas or causing new ones to stay on top of people's minds.


Somehow after a life of drinking and never really taking care of herself, she has avoided any major illnesses (at least that we know of.) She is not at a point where dementia is an issue but her mental acumen has deteriorated due to so much alcohol abuse.


It is difficult to set up boundaries for someone with these kinds of mood disorders, especially since we suspect Mom doesn't actually WANT to be happy, healthy, and sober. She has had many, many stints at long-term inpatient rehab programs, very fine programs (Hazelden and others) and truly endless support from family, emotionally and financially.


We are at a crossroads in terms of what to do after a recent suicide attempt has left her hospitalized and held for psychiatric evaluation (easily the 10th time this has happened that I can recall.) Our options seem to be:


1. Continue to support her financially and allow her to terrorize us until she passes away


2. Cut her off emotionally and financially (she receives SS, but not enough to live on) — this is an uncivilized option, in my opinion, and difficult for our father who still lives in the same town that she does (so she would still be able to go to his house, etc. unless he took out some kind of restraining order)


3. Help her find some kind of assisted living/housing situation where she will be safe


Her safety is a concern at this point, but our family's emotional wellbeing is a higher priority, at least to me, given how much she has taken from us over the years and how little she has contributed as a true member of the family.


Are there options for someone like this in terms of care and housing? She is not violent towards others but is emotionally unstable and still abuses alcohol, which rules out almost all nursing homes or senior living facilities that I can think of.


We are comfortable financially but are not interested or capable, really, of incurring a massive monthly expense for her care, so most full-time residential psychiatric facilities seem to be out of the question. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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Tough spot. My parents were responsible people until retirement and depression/boredom set in. They started drinking heavily in their 60s. This took its toll quickly at that age, and both became a burden on me as a result by the time they were 70. So, flash forward a decade and every year it only gets worse. Dad is now in a memory care facility, mom living on her own but not functional and needs lots of oversight. She's been in rehab facilities 3 times in 5 years including within the past 6 months. The alcohol abuse has severely damaged her equilibrium so there have been many falls and some broken bones and damaged knees. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have kept my distance from them. They were a dark cloud over my head throughout my 40s, I am now early 50s, and one or both parents is likely to continue-on well into my 60s based on family history of longevity. Parent made their decisions, lived their life, and has no right to pull you down with them. Keep on your life vest - if the parent takes their's off, that's their choice!!! Don't take her in, do not put yourself responsible for her care, financially or otherwise. I would probably let the state step in if she has no assets or income. I was at the point of refusing to pick my mom up at the hospital the last time she got drunk/fell/called 911. Mostly, I am stuck and it's horrible.
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Cw, you're right, that knowing the right words to say is often the key.

I would think that family members should feel guilty, not for walking away, but for continuing to enable her addiction. She will only get clean and compliant if she has no other alternative. Recovery comes from within. This is tough and heartbreaking, but true.
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Cwminge, I am deeply impressed with the thoughtfulness and compassion you are able to have about this situation. This speaks well of you and your dad and sis. Best wishes for a way forward that makes sense to you all and gives you some breathing space. You deserve it!
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You say setting boundaries doesn't work because of mood disorders and her not wanting to be happy. Boundaries are for you, not her.

You say I won't talk to you when you have been drinking. Of course she will call but you say, I mean it mom, I am not talking to you when you are drinking, then you hang up.

She is holding you all hostage to her desires and her emotional blackmail. Anyone that uses suicide as an attempt to gain attention doesn't deserve any consideration. You may think that's cruel but what she is doing is a choice, every single day, she decides that her booze is more important than anyone. If you all don't jump through her hoops she's going to kill herself to show you. It is mind f#$& games and it is unacceptable.

She has been given chance after to chance to get her act together, she chooses not to. Is she sick? Yes, but she is also noncompliant with the solution, so no sympathy, sorry.

You have all enabled her to continue status quo by not setting and keeping boundaries. If you really want to help her, get everyone on the same page with boundaries and inform mom that things are changing and stick to your guns.

I can't imagine that she would ever be able to stay in senior housing that is income based if she is so disruptive, so you will always be in crisis management until she chooses to get sober and take her meds.

I hope that your family decides to stop giving unhelpful help and get down to getting her meaningful help. The prospect of loosing all of you may be what it takes for her to choose sobriety.

Best of luck.
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cwminge Jan 12, 2019
Thanks for the input. Unfortunately not all of us are ready for this. Like I said in my original post, our priority right now is for our emotional wellbeing, but what you're suggesting would imbue some of us with so much guilt that it would outweigh the benefits of eliminating her from our life.

Not looking for therapy here but seeing if we have actual options from a tactical perspective. Our individual therapists are the ones who we'll look to for this kind of feedback, but thanks again.
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Wow. So sorry for all this hardship
It seems doubtful she will improve. Would she be eligible for aid on her earnings alone? I think she will just pull you all down and none of you need this. I would see what could be done for her possibly by the state and then walk away. I am familiar with addiction and understand the depths of hell it can bring. But it is possible to turn it around but the desire has to be there and sustain itself. I think she needs to know you are all done after so much time and repetitive behavior. I hope your family can find some peace moving forward.
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cwminge Jan 12, 2019
She's been largely unemployed for the past 30 years, which is also a hurdle/issue. She has no savings of her own, hence why she relies on Dad and paltry SS for her income.

We're hoping to avoid leaving her to the care of the state, for us that's our last resort. But if that's the only viable option then it's what we might have to do. Thanks for your kind words.
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There is a discharge planner at the hospital. That department is in charge of making a plan for a "safe discharge. Your family needs to sit down with the social worker or nurse assigned to your mom's case and firmly explain that mom needs supportive housing and supervision. And that living with or being supported by any of you is enabling her addictions and mental health issues, and that you will no longer do it.
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cwminge Jan 12, 2019
Thank you for the tactical advice, truly. Sometimes just knowing what to say to a mental health professional is the most useful advice: so often she's been in this situation and I've been too young to be involved, or no one from our family has been a part of her discharge at all, assuming that the professionals will be able to set her up for success, but I think you're right — it's imperative that we speak up as we know her better than they do.
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