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Hello, new to this website/forum and in need of guidance. I am 33 years old, my partner (Paul) is 35 and has been caring for his parents since he turned 18. At first, it was just financial assistance, but now they rely on him for everything.


Both parents are almost 60; the father is a depressed, anxious alcoholic who gave up on life about 17 years ago after being laid off. He turned to drinking and has not worked since. His health has rapidly declined and he is constantly in and out of the hospital due to falling or alcohol-related issues, including Wet Brain. Most of the time, he refuses to bathe himself and will pee into water bottles or just pee himself. Somehow he still manages to steal his wife's bank card and make it to the store for alcohol.


The mother is bi-polar with a multitude of physical issues including Fibromyalgia. She also falls often and is in and out of the hospital. While she does not have a drinking problem, she has an addition to buying knickknacks and spending money on things she doesn't need. Their entire apartment is like walking into a hoarders paradise.


We have had to move his parents twice in the past two years, and just found out we have to move them again as they have once again been evicted. We found out today we have 30 days to find them a place and get them moved.


The first time we moved them, we spent months ahead of time trying to help them prepare. We got them boxes, set them up with a system for packing, and offered to help pack. Prior to moving day, we were assured they had packed everything. We showed up on moving day, with our friends in tow ready to help move, only to find that 75% of their home had not been packed. The majority of the contents of the home was garbage.


The second time we had to move them, Paul and his friends all requested off work (he already misses work often for them, they live 45 minutes away -1.5 hrs from his job- and he was able to get FMLA approval.) only to show up on moving day, with a rented van and friends in tow, only to be told by his mother when he arrived that the new apartment was not ready yet and she had gotten the date wrong. In fact, they had to wait a week and try again.


We make enough money to take care of ourselves, but we do not have extra money to throw around. They get paid from social security/disability on the first of the month, and they have usually blown their money by the third or fourth of the month. I set my partner up so he could access and monitor their bank account, and he recently set up a separate account for his mother alone so that his father would not know about the account and would stop stealing his wife's debit card to buy alcohol in the middle of the night while she is asleep. Somehow, this still hasn't fixed the problem, and the father still manages to constantly steal the card and blow money. When he can't find the card, he just bugs her for beer until she gives in.


This results in Paul constantly having to pay their bills. He already pays their cell phone monthly, has to make down payments for the apartments each time they move, pays for their internet, buys them food, has bought them four tvs in the past two years because they keep breaking them, and has had to buy them a car as well as fix it up each time it breaks down.


His mother calls and texts him about 30 times a day, I kid you not. Every day. Neither of them have friends, and (he is an only child) he has no family to help. His mother relies on him completely, and goes off on him in an emotionally abusive way each time he doesn't give her what she wants.


Their income is so low, neither of them have worked in so long. We have no idea what to do or how to get them the help they need. I can't convince him to walk away despite how truly awful they treat him. We can't afford to put them in a home or hire a caregiver, and so far the hospital workers, rehab workers and medicaid have not been helpful.


Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

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If Paul has been caring for them for 17 years now, do you really think you are going to change him? If he can't extricate himself from this dysfunction, extricate yourself. Do you see yourself in a long-term relationship with Paul? If so, I'd do some serious thinking.
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ExhaustedInCLE May 18, 2020
I question myself on this daily. I love him so much, but I know I can't keep delaying my life while he caters to theirs. He promises things will get better and he says he's going to stop letting them derail our plans (such as getting engaged, married and starting a family.) but we've been together for 4.5 years and the only thing that has changed is that things with them have gotten worse.
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You feel tied to Paul, Paul feels tied to his parents. Unless Paul puts you first, you aren’t in the running for a marriage and children of your own. No children should be brought up in regular contact with people who are bi-polar, alcoholic, drug abusers, filthy, lazy, bludgers, spendthrifts, liars, thieves, and are regularly evicted from rentals because of noise complaints and hoarding. Yes, that's what you said.

You need to leave as soon as you can, and see if Paul chooses to come with you or stay with his parents. That’s your answer. Can you arrange a long holiday, or some casual work in another town? You aren’t running out on him, you are making sure that the two of you really do have a future. Otherwise, he has run out on you. Be brave!
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Why does your friend think that his parents' dysfunctionality is his problem?

He should call Adult Protective Services and report them as vulnerable adults about to be homeless.

Then he should find himself a therapist.

Adult children are NOT NOT NOT legally responsible for their parents. Parents are responsible for themselves and for their minor children.
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ExhaustedInCLE May 18, 2020
That's an idea I had not thought of! Thank you!
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" I love him so much, but I know I can't keep delaying my life while he caters to theirs. He promises things will get better and he says he's going to stop letting them derail our plans (such as getting engaged, married and starting a family.) but we've been together for 4.5 years and the only thing that has changed is that things with them have gotten worse."

Four and a half years???????

RUN. I mean it. Get out now.
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Frankly, it does not sound as though your partner has given much thought to how he can disconnect from his parents if he's never thought of how to involve social services effectively or how to advocate for his mentally ill mother with her doctors.

That "hopeless and helpless" thing? That's called depression. Pushing back at every suggestion.

Is HE in therapy?

What is it that you so love about him? How much time and attention has he got left over for you and {yikes!} a kid or two?

We're asking you hard questions because we've all seen a lot more of life that you have, and we know that, without a course correction (by you) this ends badly.

You are the only person whose behavior you can control.
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Good afternoon, Exhausted,

Wow! Your description of your boyfriend’s parents could have been my parents, but the difficulties in which we had to step in didn’t start to emerge until they were in their early 70’s. That his parents are not even 60 years old means he could be dealing with this for a very long time.

I know the double-whammy of growing up with an alcoholic father and a bipolar mother. Read some of my earlier posts to see what that was like. The biggest issue here is that your boyfriend’s natural and honorable inclination to help his parents is enmeshed with his enabling behavior that continues and worsens the situation. Trying to disentangle the two seems an impossibility.

The best advice I can give you is to seek out Al-anon. If no one has suggested this to you, let me be the first. It is said that one alcoholic affects up to 50 people. An alcoholic drinks. That is what they do. And they will try to draw as many people into enabling them to do this as possible, from family, to extended family, to coworkers, to neighbors, etc. I remember a woman telling me that she felt like suing the entire town after her brother died of alcoholism at the age of 45. She said everyone enabled him to continue in his disease, including his friends, his boss, the cops, and even the mayor! Everyone had a hand in “helping” him avoid the consequences of his actions.

Al-anon is an organization for people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking. That means your boyfriend. That means you. Look it up online. You may not identify with everything or everyone there, but you will identify with the feelings. Al-anon teaches you how to disentangle true compassion for another from enabling. You should be able to find an online meeting. Usually these are in-person meetings, but I’m sure more online meetings have started due to the shutdown. If your boyfriend won’t do it, do it for yourself. Read about it online, order some of their literature. Talk to some of the members. Growing up in the cauldron of alcoholism and mental illness is a crazy-making recipe which can affect the rest of your life. Al-anon teaches you another way to live and make right decisions whether the alcoholic stops drinking or not, or whether the other crazy-makers get better or not. You have been sucked into this vortex through your boyfriend. There is hope for you. Al-anon can help you to see more clearly to make good decisions. I am praying for you.
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ExhaustedInCLE May 20, 2020
That is really great advice, thank you so much! We've discussed looking into it in the past, but we haven't taken the step. I will definitely be looking into a local group and hopefully I can convince him to attend a meeting with me. Thank you!
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My advice would be to run far, far away from this entire situation and leave no forwarding address. Seriously. Paul can either come with you, under the exact same rules (leaving no forwarding address) or he can continue to enable these two seriously dysfunctional people until the day they die. Which may not be for decades yet.

If Paul doesn't see that he's helping to keep his parents sick & dependent, then he's too far gone for help

But YOU are not. You are way too young to be saddled down with THIS level of trouble for the rest of your life. He has chosen this lot in life; if you stay, you too have chosen it. If you leave, you've chosen to move on with your life toward a healthy, balanced lifestyle instead. If Paul wants to join you, then what steps is HE going to take to disentangle himself from this mess he's helped to create?

The parents need placement. Alcoholic dementia and related disease will follow the father's behavior. Soon. It's ugly, too. Either Paul helps place his parents and gets counseling for himself, or you need to really think long and hard about moving on.

I would advise my 35 y/o son to do the exact same thing. Same with my 27 y/o daughter. I'd HATE to see either one of them enmeshed in such a terrible situation.

Wishing you the best of luck.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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Paul needs to say "no more" to his parents. He is enabling their actions.

Time to practice tough love.

No more paying for cell bills, groceries or helping them move. He had taught his parents he will clean up after them and fix their problems so they do not take responsibility for their actions. As long as he enables them, they will not change.

Paul needs to look up FOG.
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His parents are only in their 60's? They could live quite a while longer. Meanwhile YOUR life is on hold...indefinitely. As many others have stated GET OUT! There is no possibility for the life you want and deserve. Do you really want to look back in 5-10 years and realize all the time/family/kids you never got to have? He is deeply entrenched in their dysfunction I can't imagine he will walk away.
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Paul needs to abandon his parents to their fate, or you need to abandon Paul to his. His parents are not his responsibility and most certainly are not yours. At 35 it's time for him to grow up and stop enabling his parents poor life choices.
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