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Does anyone out there have experience with taking care of an elderly parent who has become an alcoholic? Does anyone have any resources for adult children in this position?

Going to Al-Anon or ACA meetings doesn't cut it for me. I need to talk to other middle-aged people who are caregivers for a parent who drinks. My dad is pushing 90 and I have been dealing with this issue ever since we put my mom into a nursing home 9 years ago. She's been dead almost 3 years now. My dad always drank -- typical blue collar stuff. But I never considered him an alcoholic until my mom went into a home, and he lost control because he was depressed.

I have been to multiple internists, VA doctors, geriatric shrinks, etc. Bottom line: You can't convince someone they have a drinking problem. My dad looks at me like I'm nuts when I tell him what he did the night before. He won't go into a VA program. He has no desire to stop drinking because that's his pastime. He has collected a whole new group of middle-aged drinkers as his "buddies", and he will never give them up.

I take care of EVERYTHING for him. My life/career has gone down the toilet. Please don't suggest I "put him somewhere". You can't do that without guardianship, and that's not a road I want to go down.

If you know of any online support groups or organizations that deal with this head-on, I'd really like to know about it. Alcohol abuse among the elderly (who are depressed for a variety of reasons) is common, but finding help is difficult. It's not like dealing with an alcoholic spouse. I can't divorce my dad.

Any ideas from the experienced?
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Hello Sue -- Welcome.  I'm sure you've been reading these posts.  Hopefully you'll be able to glean some useful information even though this board isn't specifically for your situations.
Have you already gone to Al-Anon or ACOA and decided that it didn't meet your needs?  As Olivia mentioned recently, ACOA isn't only for people dealing with ALCOHOLIC parents (inspite of the name) but also for people who have had controlling or other addictive behaviors to deal with in their parents.  While many of us haven't had the exact challenge to face that you are, many of us have situations similar enough.
The point of either Al-Anon or ACOA is to realize just what YOU can/cannot do.  No, you very likely will not be able to force him to stop drinking, or to see how upsetting it is to you.  You can learn how to "deal" with it, though.
Whether you can force him into a living situation he does not want is another matter -- however, you are not required to remain yourself in a situation that is untenable.  Either Al-Anon or ACOA should help you free yourself of these bonds. 
If you HAVE already tried ONE of them and didn't like it, you might consider checking out another meeting, at a different location.  Often group dynamics are very specific to a specific group.  You might find another group really clicks for you.  I know that you can do ACOA online, also and I think Al-Anon as well.
Please take care of YOURSELF.
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Bear :-)
With any addiction until the addicted person is ready to quit, there is no way to make them quit. The thing is not to enable their addiction, if you are that worried about him and the younger crowd taking advantage of him then call Elder Services in your area to check in on him. If he is of sound mind, then he has the right to drink as much as you hate it, it is his life. One thing when I found this board, I learned that as much as we love our parents we can't fix or do everything for them as much as we would like to.

 Now if he is living with you and you are paying the bills then that is another story. You can forbid alcohol in the house, don't give him the money to buy it. But just to warn you it could get messy and he could cut off contact with you. Basically with any addiction it is called tough love, I went through this with my drug and alcoholic sister who thank God decided that she wanted to live life and sought out help and has been sober for 19 years. And now are battling with my BIL who my sister is helping us through it. Like when we get a call of him getting rushed to the ER, to give them his history over the phone and tell them that if it is life threatening then give us a call, otherwise he will be on his own. And right now BIL chooses alcohol over family, its tearing his dad apart who is not all there upstairs, and his mother is in denial. But luckily right now neither are in a position to help feed is addiction with the money he needs. Though FIL is letting him stay in the house for a bit, but that will soon end when hubby gets guardianship. But if you choose the tough love route, be prepared for a hard journey and you will need to stick to your guns.

Bear :-)
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I echo Avis and Bear, take care of yourself and do not enable him. You cannot make him quit drinking. It is his life and unfortunately he makes his own decisions. Unless he lives with you. I didn't catch if he does. If he does, then you are able to make the rules in your own home. No alcohol allowed. Also, if he doesn't believe what you tell him about what he did the night before, maybe get a video camera and tape him to prove his actions. Just an idea.

Take care.
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Mary z
     Wow this is a tough one. I have a similar situation. My parents were both alcoholics. My dad passed away 9 years ago from COPD, but before that he almost passed from alcohol poisoning. I would call them to babysit once in awhile in desperation, only to not leave my daughter with them when I saw the condition they were in when I got there.
     Anyway, my mom lives with me. I made her agree she could not continue the drinking in my house. I did not want my kids exposed to what I dealt with growing up. She agreed. HA! I can tell when she has had ANYTHING to drink. Several times I confronted her and asked her where the alcohol was "stashed." She said she didn't know what I was talking about. When she was out of her room I would find it. Seems she would have someone buy it for her because I was too mean. My brother picked her up 1 evening ( out of 3 years ) and let her drink until she couldn't walk straight. He then dropped her off and didn't even help her downstairs to her room. I called him the next day and told him next time that happened he could keep her all night and not bring her home in that shape.
     Mom and I have had many fights about this over the years. She says she is old and should be allowed to drink. I disagree since it brings about a personality change in her that is far from pleasant. 
     I know a little of what you are going through. I can't offer much help as to what to do. I just know I have to confront it head-on and tell her that everytime I find the alcohol I will dispose of it. She supplements the loss of alcohol with sugar and candy. The dr. told me it is normal since alcohol has alot of sugar in it. From time to time the urge is still too strong and she binges again. Then the arguing and then the withdrawal again.
     The only sure fire thing is an ultimatum---don't drink or move out. OR find another caretaker. I know it sounds harsh and this is the only thing I am harsh about. I just figure this is one battle that is important enough to fight.
     Good luck to you. You are not alone. Sorry if I didn't offer any good advice, but I tried to give some insight. Of course, no one stops until they are ready. In mom's case she just doesn't want to move out so she tries to stop.
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Sue, why are you trying to take control of your father's life?  Is it love, or do you have a need to suffer?  Why are you sacrificing your life and career?

For heaven's sake, let him manage his own life.  Butt out!

Of course you can divorce him.  Just make the decision and move on it.  Lots of people have done exactly that, only you won't find many of 'em on this site.

This is a place people come to for solutions, to discuss what has been helpful for one or more of us.  You've started right out by telling us the solutions and suggestions you don't want to hear.

You've arranged your question so as to preclude exactly the advice that is most likely to help you resolve your problem, either by living with it or by finding a way to leave it. 

I may have misjudged what you have written here, but based on my reading, I can only conclude that what you really want is to complain about your situation. 

Awww, poor Sue.  She's such a martyr!

There, does that make everything better?
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Hi Sue,

If you need to talk to other caregivers...vent, complain and whine, you've come to the right place! Sometimes we find ourselves trapped in various situations and we can't find the way out! Just venting and talking to others who are facing or have faced the same situation can and does help tremendously and you are welcome here. Most people here are understanding and will not consider your need to vent as martyrdom!

Indeed we can all divorce our parents, but most of us find it extremely difficult to just walk away and abandon them when they need us the most. It causes us extreme pain and frustration to stay and the burden of guilt if we leave! We want to fix what is broken with our parents and we hope that a miracle will happen, if not today maybe tomorrow if we try a little harder! Believe me when I say, I understand completely.

Please come back to vent when you need to!

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Baked Alaska

My mother was a crack addict. I am no longer her caregiver except in that her county-appointed guardian checks in with me. I went to Families Anonymous and Al-Anon and listened to those who told me I wasn't required to jump into a river after a drowning person who would drag me down too.

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Baked Alaska
Families Anonymous might be a better bet if you're uncomfortable with Al-Anon. Many people there are dealing with a child's using, but I did meet some with siblings and another with a parent. In any event the issues tend to be the same, enabling, anger, control and so forth. I found it impossible to recover without walking away from being the caregiver, but people I've met are still caring for their minor addicted children so maybe it's not the only way.
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I found your message board tonight - one of many nights where I sit down at the computer and type in "al-anon" + elderly.

My heart goes out to you Sue. You will find your way. We all do if we seek.

I'm in a couple of 12-step programs of my own and despite a few 24-hours at my own recovery, one of the stiffest challenges is to keep on when it comes to my own elderly family member and that member's alcoholism.

DKV - yes, sometimes I am a martyr, too, and no, it doesn't make anything better, but I have to say that hearing it in a sarcastic tone from someone when I'm reaching out for help is just plain awful and discouraging.

Trust God and love people keeps running through my head tonight.  So many of us care about - and love - family members and friends who are dying of alcoholism and other drug addictions.  If it were easy and black-and-white, there wouldn't be the thousands upon thousands who are just as ill or sicker in their own right as are those who love an active alcoholic or addict.

I've received good help from Al-Anon, however for now, I'm trying to concentrate on staying clean and sober myself - no matter what 12-step program I may be in, it's all about what I'm doing or not doing and about whether I'm using the tools in the toolkit laid simply at my feet.

To see a parent slipping away is never easy. To see him or her being ravaged and de-humanized by alcoholism isn't something I'd wish on anyone.

Yes, I can be and still act out as a drama queen.  The committee in my head tells me quite often that I'm sacrificing my life by continuing to refuse to "divorce" my active alcoholic parent.  Those are the moments when my faith is low, where my own habit of staying stuck and feeling sorry for myself revels.

Many of my close friends remind me, as did Avis, here, to take care - to look after myself.  Thank you for those reminders.  Thank you for not judging me. Thank you for remembering that not one of us joined together in this odd band of fellowship really truly knows what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes, but that we don't have to be in each others shoes to show love and compassion and to be there whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out.

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billie jo

sue, i haven't seen you reply since your first post so i hope you will read this. i was under the assumption that we all agree here to disagree, but if we do dsagree we speak with respect to the other person. whether we can personally identify with the problem of the other their problem is every bit as real and painful as our own and we are here to support each other in times of pain and confusion. sue, i don't know the answer for you, i hope you find to offer you the support you seek, in the meantime, welcome. vent if you need to. a lot of us are so frustrated, we know what we want, we now what we don't want but we really don't know how to make it happen. you say you do EVERYTHING for you dad, can you go into more detail of what that means and does dad live wit you or alone. your life/career have gone down the toilet. tell us more. anyway, i am here to listen if you need someone. i have seen the devastation of alcoholism. i can't say i understand since we are all different but i have a clue, many of us do. tell us more. thanks. hang in there.

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Hi Sue - I totally agree with billie jo.  We are here to SUPPORT each other. Feel free to vent any time to us.  We care.

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Why do you feel it's your responsibiilty to take care of your father's needs?  Is there something that I am missing?  Having been around alcoholics and drug addicts the one thing I have learned is that they are manipulative and will go to any length to justify their behavior.  I'd sooner walk away from a practicing alcoholic or drug addict than to enable them to continue their behavior.  I can understand your not wanting the help of Al-Anon but what I found is that I learned more about myself than I did about the alcoholic and that's what gave me the approval to move on.


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Hi Sue B.
I understand you and your problems.
My mom is an alcoholic who meant well, but put us in harm's way several times when we were young because of being drunk,etc. We went to live with my dad when I was 12. She quit drinking and switched to pills. My college and adult years were great; I had my own life and saw her here and there.

Last year, my mom started getting really sick and it hit the fan. Illness and depression exacerbate addiction and make it worse, times 100. My mom turned into a raging psychotic on Xanax and hydrocodone off and on from November 2006 to December 2007.

I understand what you mean about Al-anon. It is a great group and can be helpful, but when you are in the middle of the storm, it is not enough. The meetings didn't even begin to help me with the insanity and problems that were confronting me in my mom's illness, not even close. I felt like I wasn't getting enough of what I needed until I found this group. There are some people here that gave me what I wasn't getting in the Al-anon group, although I will go back soon to work on me. This message board allows one to post specific problems and receive answers to just our proplems, totally tailored to our situation. It has been comforting and liberating to read the stories of others here on the board who are also children of alcoholics and addicts. Lots of perspectives, opinions, suggestions. Take what you want and leave the rest, as they say in Al-anon.

Something you can work on (that I still haven't mastered) is detachment. Which of dad's needs can you stop meeting or hand over to someone else? Last December, I completely detached from my mom, she went to ER, eventually went to the AL because she couldn't do it alone, and couldn't blackmail me or manipulate me anymore, and I finally won. Everyone's situation is different, but I understand what you are dealing with. The last year for me has been the worst in my life, completely unreal.
Noting your dad's age and the extent of his alcoholism, he can't go on indefinitely. 

What are some things that you can do to save yourself?
What would help you? What would make things better?

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For the person suffering from someone else's addiction, please remember the three "C"s.

You didn't CAUSE it.

You can't CONTROL it.

You can't CURE it.
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