I've been helping my step-mom for the past 3.5-4 years (she's almost 75). She has a history of alcohol abuse and lost her second husband 2 years ago. She was married to my dad in 1978 and he passed in 1995. We've maintained a relationship all this time, even after she remarried in 2000. She was an only child and has no children of her own. She has 5 step children including myself, but I am the only one who lives close.

She had a fall last March after a night of heavy drinking (this was the worst of numerous falls). She had a pretty serious injury from the fall. Unfortunately, she is now bed-bound. Part of the reason is she did not fully participate in the physical therapy that was offered and Medicare stopped paying. Because she is unable to get out of bed, I had to find a personal care home in her budget. She is on a limited income. The care home is close to me and it's ok, but not great.

She wants to go home so bad (understandable), but she can not get out of bed on her own and can not afford 24/7 care. She has been demanding that I bring her her house keys and states she is going home. She tells me it's not my decision and I can't control her. I've told her, I'd be happy to bring the keys once I know she is ok to go home. Going home now would put her in an unsafe situation. If there were a fire or if someone were to break in, she would not be able to get out or protect herself.

Every time I visit, it turns into her yelling at me. It has completely changed the nature of our relationship. I've been very stressed over this (guilt of course); I'm currently seeing a counselor. I can't imagine how'd she even be able to get herself home, but I know from experience she can be very resourceful. Somehow she was always able to find someone to buy her alcohol when I refused to get it for her.

At any rate, am I wrong for not bringing her keys? If I did, could I be held liable if she somehow found someone to take her to her house? I'm really struggling with this. I believe I'm doing the right this as being at her house would put her in danger. It's just so stressful though to be yelled at and I'm so incredibly sad that we just aren't able to have pleasant visits.

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Even though she is sober, years of hard drinking take their toll.

I agree, give her the keys. But as said, tell her its up to her to get home, find homecare, etc. If the place she is living is licensed, they may not be able to allow her to go home anyway without making sure things aren't in place first. I would tell them what you plan on doing.

By law, she can do what she wants.
Helpful Answer (1)

If she has a reverse mortgage and hasn't lived in the house for 12 months I believe that she defaults on the contract and they take the house. Could this be why she is so worried?

My dad had loads of wants and was physically unable to do them. Because I was sick of being the bad guy, I finally told him that he could do what ever he could pull off. He got into shape, bought a truck, then moved 1k miles away, he is living the way he wants to. Do I wish it were different? Yes, but I believe that our elders are entitled to live the way they can and want, he is happy and in the end I feel like that is far better then safe and miserable.

Give her a set of keys, tell her she can do what ever she can pull off and you will not be involved to help at all, period. She will probably try to guilt you and manipulate you into helping, nope, me helping is NOT you pulling it off and doing it. Stick to your guns and walk away when she yells.

You can do this, you can lay her responsibility right in her lap and put her in complete charge of her and her condition.

Hugs for being a great friend and stepdaughter to her. Remember, no is a complete sentence.
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I think BarbBrooklyn's response was perfect. If she's in her right mind, then there's no reason for you not to give them to her.

I suspect she yells at you because that's all she has. As other posters mentioned, even if she had the keys, she can't get out of bed to go home. That realization might be what gets her to physical therapy so she can go home as she holds the keys to what she wants (literally and figuratively). Then she can focus on PT (a positive thing to look forward to) rather than being angry at you (a negative thing).

Thank you for your sacrifice on her behalf, kafox62! {hug}
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So, if you brought her the keys, how would that change her situation?

She still can't get out of bed. She would still need someone's assistance to arrange transport to her home. (That should NOT be you.) She would need to arrange care for herself and have the means to pay for it.

I'm thinking you just give her the keys. (Have a copies made so that when she loses them, you can have a spare set).
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Thank you. I appreciate your reply. She hasn't had anything to drink since the fall in March. She is in her right mind, although she did go through what seemed like dementia from April until about July/August.
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I think you’re doing the right thing by keeping the keys. She needs to understand that she has to get stronger to be able to go home. That won’t happen unless she participates in physical therapy. Unfortunately it seems our elders reach a point when they begin acting like children again. She is throwing a temper tantrum, expecting to get what she wants. I agree with the other post, if she yells at you, you need to leave. Don’t feel guilty. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s her responsibility to work with the therapists. It’s her responsibility to get better. It’s not your fault she refuses to help herself.
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kafox62 Dec 2018
Thanks for writing back. Yes, it definitely feels like I'm dealing with a child. The ironic thing is this is exactly what happened with her second husband (not my dad). He ended up in nursing care. She only went to see him three times in the year he was there. He refused physical therapy as well. He was unable to get out of bed. It's crazy because she didn't fight this hard to bring him home.

It's all just so sad. It has taken some good therapy to get me to a place where I'm finally able to see this isn't my fault. She is making the decision not to do what she needs to do to go home.
She is bed bound, and cannot go home without care.

Limit your visits. Walk away when she yells. Mention your plans to the DON.

Ask her to call you when she gets home and you will see she gets her keys.

Time to detach with love, so that she will be able to get the help she needs
on her own, as offered by the facility.

Yes, it i s very sad. Have you gone to Alanon groups? One visit will help you.
Hoping you have real plans with friends for the holidays. Sorry you have been yelled at, you don't deserve that.
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kafox62 Dec 2018
Thank you. I've been practicing very hard to leave when she starts to yell at me. I went to visit yesterday. I was there 5 minutes before I had to go. Fortunately, I've been talking to a social worker that is associated with the home health agency that sees her. She is in a group home rather than a nursing home. It was the only thing I could find in her budget. I forgot to mention, she refused to see her house so some of her very limited income is going to maintain that house (utilities and taxes). She has a reverse mortgage on the house that she has almost depleted.

I did go to Alanon a couple of years ago. I only went once, not because I didn't like it, because the only meetings were in the evenings after work. I did find it helpful.

I have a very large support system and my husband and I are new grandparents! THAT certainly brings me joy.
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First let me say what a loving person you are and how blessed your step Mom is to have you in her life.
I can see how difficult that would be trying to keep her safe and then having unpleasant visits because of it.
I know you say she has an alcohol problem, but is she in her sound mind? Because if she is then she does have the right to choose what she wants. And unfortunately it isn't always what is best or healthy.
But, if she is in her right mind and is determined to go home, she will find a way. Do you think her yelling at you could be withdraws from lack of alcohol?
This is a hard one, I know I would probably be doing the same as you with avoiding giving her keys.
I also know there will be someone along shortly who will have some good advice for you. I am sorry for your situation, but hang in there. I think you are doing the right thing. Try not to take the yelling too personal, it is not you she is upset with but the situation she is in.
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kafox62 Dec 2018
Thank you. I appreciate your reply. She hasn't had anything to drink since the fall in March. She is in her right mind, although she did go through what seemed like dementia from April until about July/August. That has since passed.

Before she fell, she was living in a senior apartment complex. Her stepson from her second marriage and I were able to convince her to move there since she was falling all the time at her house. I lost count how many times I had to go there in the middle of the night to pick her up. All falls were due to drinking. I once found her on the kitchen floor in a puddle of bourbon and broken glass.

I'm working hard on not taking things personally. She has always told me out of all of her step children, she's always felt closest to me. She says when she met me when I was 16 (I'm now 56) she just felt we "clicked". Anyway, I guess I've always tried to live up to that. Now, things have changed so much.

At any rate, I appreciate everyone's replies. It helps to hear from people who are dealing with similar situations.
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