Mom diagnosed with colon cancer while sibling freaks out. Any advice?

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Please help me. I don't know what to do or what NOT to do. My mother who is a 76 year old widow, (lost Dad from bladder cancer 2 yrs ago) was just diagnosed with colon cancer. We are getting her into Sloan Kettering.

Just to give you an idea of the situation…

My partner & I were asked to move into their large home when Dad was first diagnosed with cancer. I work from home, so I was able to take care of them, cook for them and do the necessary things they needed with the help of hospice. When Dad passed away, I began taking my mom shopping, continued making healthy meals and providing companionship, etc.

I have 3 older sisters. Two of them are very business career women. One of them does freelance, just as I do. We both share in taking Mom to the grocery store and medical appointments.

The sister who helps me, as giving as she is, does not do well with stressful situations. When Dad was sick and in the hospital, she had thought that I left my mom alone at night because I failed to answer my phone at 10pm. I was sleeping. When I finally answered, she screamed and said, "I'm coming over and I'm going to kill you!" (She has bipolar disorder and is a heavy drinker.) I had to call the cops and she was outside the house screaming blood curdling cries, as if she was being murdered. She eventually apologized to me, but I had to keep her at arm's length because these types of episodes occurred often.

Mom is a planner. She took out a reverse mortgage on the house, not a lot, but enough for me to buy it out once it's offered to the final heir in the home (me). The equity would wash it up anyway due to the value now. Anyway, it's not something I bring up or talk about, however my sister was here and said, "I'm moving in with my boyfriend and animals and gonna live here!"

#1. She is unstable and scary.
#2. Her boyfriend drinks till he's drawing in his own vomit. (NOT exaggerating!)
#3. They just inherited a million dollars from an old man they decided to take care of in his final years. They do this often.

Now, they want to squeeze my partner and I out of our home and we plan on having a family. I am in the process of trying to get pregnant, have been for a while. She is freaking out because I calmly stated that we needed the room when we do have a baby. Although the house is large, there are only 3 bedrooms due to offices and bedrooms converted into other types of areas.

Because of my refusal to let her move in, she flipped out on me again, but this time, even attacked my partner, who is the sweetest person you'd ever meet. As we were rushing mom up to the ER because she developed a sepsis infection, we texted my sister to let her know where we'll be and what was going on. I could not call her because I was in the back of the ambulance. My partner drove behind us.

When we arrived at the hospital, my sister was drunk and yelling profanities at us, screaming, "I should have gotten a phone call!!!! WTF is wrong with you? I deserve a phone call and not a text!!!!" We. could. not. call. We thought a text would have been enough since she is glued to that phone 24/7. She texted back, so I knew she got it.

ANYWAY, as we were walking into the ER -- she was still fighting with us, even started to push my partner and insulting her family and saying how unfair it was for us to have a child. Security had to cart her out.

Now she apologizes. We BOTH share in the chores of taking care of mom

Question: How do I handle this? I'm scared of her. She's absolutely psychotic and my mother says, "Oh you know how she is, she means well." But to threaten my life, my home, my partner -- isn't that a bit much?

I'm having so much anxiety over this that I haven't slept for almost a week -maybe 3 hours *if*…. It's ruining my health and I'm going into a major depression. I actually don't feel like living anymore because this isn't what LIFE should be like. I feel like she controls everything.

Any advice would be appreciated. I'm hopeless and depressed and not sure if I want to be "HERE" anymore. It's just not worth it. :(

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The boogs,
I'm going to copy you on your email.
Think of how your killing yourself would affect your mom. She'd think it's her fault.

Call your local hotline and tell them that you are suicidal. Get professional help. I have all the compassion in the world for anyone with mental health issues, but they cannot be allowed to threaten others as your sister does you. Call the police when your sister attacks. If she says you are bipolar, give them the names of doctors who can testify to the truth.

Change the locks on the doors. Get legal help from an elder law attorney to try to get the health proxy away from your sister if your mom can't see that she needs to do this.

Because you love your mom, you may have to do as freqflyer suggests and move her mom to assisted living. Then there would be people to intervene with your sister's behavior.

The bottom line is killing yourself is the worst thing you can do to your mom. She would blame herself forever. Please get professional help to guide you through this. Keep talking to us, as well, but professional help first. Okay?
Carol
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I think you need to withdraw from the situation. Move out, set up your own household somewhere else. Make everyone aware that you will do X, Y and Z for your mother at A, B and C times, and that's that. If your sister has even ONE more episode of threatening you and being violent, get a restraining order against her.

The reason I say this is because you cannot fix your sister's mental health issues, and you cannot make your mother take those issues seriously. So, let them deal with the consequences. Do not risk your health or your relationship over this, and definitely do not bring a child into this sort of drama.
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No boogs, you don't kill yourself tonight. You just realize that you aren't getting the house, so move out now. It's your mother's house and she has chosen someone else for HCP. You walk away from that. You plan a loving family, but you do it at a safe distance from familial ground zero. This swirling vortex of drama can only suck you in if you let it. You walk away with the courage to know the difference.
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Change the locks on the doors. If she gets a foot in the door, it may be her plan never to leave. Can you spell nightmare?

And, yes, you have the right to file a restraining order on her -- even though she has your mom's healthcare proxy. Which, by the way, I would change TOMORROW. So she's drunk. Who speaks for your mom then??? It only makes SENSE that you hold that position. And, again frankly, your sister doesn't deserve to hold ANY position. She's a drunk. You should take your lil' mom to an attorney and have a new HCPOA set up -- as well as a Durable Power of Attorney -- naming YOU. If she doesn't have a will? Have that drawn up immediately as well. With you or one of your other sisters as Executor. Don't let this go. You're not being selfish. It's my opinion that the person doing the care giving and living with their loved one has the "right" to hold both POAs.

There is no need to discuss this with your sister until it's done. Or...maybe even ever. Your HCPOA will have the latest date . . . game over.

If your mom has an invasive colon cancer, your mom's in for a relatively long and bumpy ride. And she is going to need somebody, pardon the expression, SOBER to help her navigate. And someone who isn't so stressed out by a sibling as to be ready to tear out her hair. Your plate will become very full very fast.

Forget about the house. It is what it is. Hopefully, that will all work out in the end. But don't let her move into the house!!

One more thought: when you're engaging her in front of others, or with cops, be sure you take the high road. She's not a drunk. She's an alcoholic. You must keep your cool or you'll both look nuts. ;)
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When you're dealing with someone who is a problem drinker when they're drunk, there's no reasoning with them. Trying to do so is frustrating and, frankly, a waste of time. Your sister doesn't deal well with stressful situations because she's a drunk. Let's just call it what it is.

Your sister doesn't control everything. She's spreads havoc everywhere. When she's drinking. There's a slight (though maybe not significant) difference.

If you want to continue to be your mom's primary caregiver, then, as you recognize, you've got to control your exposure to your sister when she's drinking. (That would be at the very LEAST.) Catch her sober and explain that to her...that she just isn't welcome at your mom's home when she's been drinking.

Now that you know that she expects a phone call and not texts, communicate with her in that way so as not to light her fuse.

It's her fault, of course. But the objective isn't to place blame, it's to go along to get along. If that proves to be impossible, then I would agree with MargaretS. But if I DID get a temporary restraining order, I would follow through with the permanent one...which requires a trip to court. And I would be prepared for her animosity to come back treble-fold.

That would be my last resort . . . after I had carefully considered possible consequences with a couple of drunks and whether or not I wanted to continue in this situation at all. And, by the way, in it with both feet or forget it. If she violates, you call the cops...drunk or sober.

Remember, a restraining order does nothing to protect you. The only purpose it serves is as an aid to law enforcement.
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Your sister is bi-polar. That can be mild and well-managed, or it can be severe and debilitating. I know people in each category. Severe bi-polar disorder is a very serious illness.

You sister self-medicated with booze. That, of course, makes matters worse.

I suggest (from personal experience) that you learn all you can about bi-polar disorder. It will help you understand what to expect from Sis and to realize that some of her behavior is driven by mental illness. (I was amazed at what I learned. It certainly changed my attitude.)

And then take whatever steps you need to to prevent her disease from messing up your life. Love her. Support her. Encourage her. But don't let her run over you.

I'd start with trying to get Mom on board about medical proxy. "Mom, you know how Sis is. She loves you to pieces and she is very concerned about you. She does not handle stress well. In fact, she can't handle it at all. Anytime you would need a healthcare proxy to make decisions for you would be a very stressful time. Sis will fall apart. It isn't fair to her to put her in that position. Let someone else have the stressful responsibility and let Sis just be there as a loving daughter." If Mom agrees, then call a lawyer in to make the changes.

I hope you can avoid a restraining order, It would be good for all concerned if Sis can continue helping with Mom's care. But do what you have to do to protect Mom's peaceful environment and your own sanity.

My brother's behavior became far more conventional once he stopped drinking and is in continuing therapy. But he is still bi-polar. He is very close to our mother and very protective of her (and very good in dealing with her). He has had a few outbursts in the hospital and the nursing home. My sisters and I explained his situation to staff from the very beginning and also told them not to consider him a family spokesperson. He has apologized after each outburst, and whichever sister was on hand also assured the staff person that the rest of us did not consider mother's fall their fault or whatever the outburst was about. So far he is still welcome there as a visitor. And that is good for Mom (who knows nothing about these outbursts).

It is very hard having a mother with cancer. It is very hard having a sister with mental illness. Cherish all the positive things in your life, like a supportive partner and plans for a family. Take care of yourself. This might mean a few sessions with a counselor to sort out your mixed feelings/responsibilities.

I wish you the very best. Please keep us informed.
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Call your insurance company. Find out which hospitals in your area are in your network. Call and find out if they have inpatient psychiatric services and out-patient clinics. Get yourself a psychiatrist affiliated there.
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TheBoogs, that is great news about your Mom's health.

Since you don't want to make any changes, as so many of us had suggested, you will need to find a way to keep status quo.

As for going into your 401(k) for a down payment on a house..... it is probably unwise to use your retirement funds. Read this before doing anything like that:
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Just a few other ideas....

1. Al-Anon. Seriously. No reason for you to be that deeply and personally ashamed of your sister's poor self-medicaiton strategy and its consequences. Bars and restaurants are supposed to stop serving drinks to people that are that obviously past their limit, BTW - the onus should not have been on you anyways! Protect yourself and let your conscience be clear. They have online only options. It's for free or whatever you might donate. Check out www.ola-is.org/

2. Re-assess your specific diagnosis and treatment with your psychiatrist with an open mind. Antidepressants are **usually** first line for anixety disorders, rather than benzos - and definitely first line for PTSD - even a low dose basically gives your brain more good neurotransmitters to play with, so you actually have the bootstraps to pull yourself up with... BUT.... and that's a big but ... folks with true bipolar or schizoaffective disorders frequently, alnmost typically, get hypomanic (which could feel like being frenetic or more anxious) and maybe that's what happened to you. Side effects are what they are - somewhat unpredictable, but correctly dosed and selected medication or mental illness, with attention to what's working and what's not, can be life saving. Frankly, the side effects versus benefit ratio on prescription Rx usually beats the pants off ethanol, THC, and most other things people try for self-medication. Keep a list of the doses and drug names of anything that worked, worked partially, worked but had side effects, had nothing but side effects, or did nothing for you.

3. If meds are not going to work, there are some dietary strategies - like chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate (nonfat if you need to watch calories), figs and dates, blueberries and apricots and anything else with "good" xenoestrogens like coumestrol (hops, celery) , maybe soy if it agrees with you, lotsa good green stuff, and B vitamins, but YMMV. And of course physical activity, as if you had time - but anything at all is better than nothing. Getting away from a smoky house with all the nasty chemicals in that stuff could have its benefits too.

4. Get legal advice either from an eldercare attroney with a reasonable initial consultation fee or an estate planner. I spent I think $300.00 for a consult with a lawyer whose website made it clear their office knew their butt from a hole in the ground when it came to Medicaid issues, and that might do as much to relieve all your anxiety as counseling that would cost more than that. POAs can possibly be quietly removed for non-fulfillment of duties also, depends how they are written.

I cannot imagine trying to work more than full time, plus caregive the rest of the time, while trying to deal, let alone end up LIVING with potentially/periodically violent substance-abusing people. You really are between more rocks and hard places than a lot of people on here! You have great strength just to have endured as much as you have. There is going to be either a way out or a way through - don't let yourself forget that people care and YOU matter.
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God has not given up on you! You have a lot of "stuff" in your life and you must take care of yourself. Your psych doc is a little off. There are many good facilities out there and even some with out patient programs. You can check on these yourself without a doctor's recommendation, in order to get the help you need.

Call your local senior services and/or hospice for an evaluation of your Mother. They can provide help during the day and respite care. There are plenty of options, you just have to reach out..
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