Aging Parents and Elder Care logo

Support Group

I was looking for some advice and found this site. I'm hoping for some helpful information.

Both my parents live with me, both 73. My mother has always been an alcoholic but the last year she has spiraled. She's been in the hospital 5 times this year for alcohol related issues. The last time, in October, she showed signs of brain damage from her years of drinking. Today, Christmas morning, I found her raging covered in her own feces. I called the state mental helpline and she was taken to the county psychiatric hospital.

The last time in October, the state also stepped in and committed her for a 72 hour hold. She agreed to stay longer at the hospital but then changed her mind and came home. She refused to go to follow up care. She was taken to the hospital again in early December by the police for assaulting an officer and then release by the hospital the next day.

The problem I keep running into is that she needs long term psychiatric treatment and they keep releasing her. She's 73 with no other family or friends or personal income. I have no choice but to bring her home and I am at a loss as to what I can do. In October when she was willing to go to long term care, there are three psychiatric/rehab facilities covered by medicare and they all wouldn't take her because of her age.

Has anyone had experience with having a parent committed long-term? I don't know what to do but after today, I'm terrified of having her back home. I adore my mother, she was an amazing and accomplished woman but she is a shell of a person. She is essentially lives like a homeless person but under my roof.

Thank God, I have support emotionally from my brother, father and a good therapist but I can't seem to figure out what to do. I don't want her back home unless she's had long-term treatment.

Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

Quote 0 0
Rocky's daughter
 Neel I don't know if I can help but I will give it a try. Tomorrow morning you will find lots of caring people here to help you.
 Both of my husbands parent were alcoholics. Both died in there fourtys and fiftys. And both were stubborn.
 My Dad who died a few months ago was 90 and he had a mission to find the magic bullet to heal himself. Only problem was some of the stuff he consumed by the handfuls really was hurting him. One tablet he took 20 of every day contained 500mg of calcium per tablet. No wonder he had kidney and bladder stones.
 When Dad moved in with me I cut out all his alternative meds and told him when he got well enough to live on his own again to go for it. Well when his property sold he found a place to live where he could get it all. He died five months later.
 Sometimes I think there is just nothing we can do but we don't have to condone there behavior. If your mom is not able to get her own booze dont buy it for her and dont let any one bring it to her. This is a tough one as alcohoilcs have a way to find it.
 I did the tough love with my Dad and it blew up in my face.
 Glad you found this board. Keep us informed and I hope somone can give you advice that works. Until then we all have ears and harts that will listen when you are having a bad day.
Quote 0 0
My mom was an alcoholic who switched to narcotics. I didn't get to the point of commiting her (read today's thread  'back again' by phoebe ) but it was the hardest situation ever.
My concern is her living with you and the impact on your health and sanity in that close proximity to her. Rocky's daughter has good advice for what addicted, stubborn elders are like and how we can't really change addict's habits. Get an elder care attorney to give you advice. Some people on this board have had bad experiences with having someone committed---legal and financial responsibilities, etc. I avoided it and it worked out for me.
She is too far gone to stop drinking and chances are against rehab/drying out working for her. Let's see what others advise for you. My heart goes out to you in this hard situation.

Blessings from a veteran...
Quote 0 0

My mother has an alcohol problem, she no longer can get alcohol herself and does not drink for that reason and that reason alone. It took the fact that she had no other way to get her alcohol than us to stop her from drinking by us refusing to get it for her, took a few days of being with her to make sure she didn't have bad withdrawal and that worked out. The thing is the county had tried to put my mom in a NH for  a lot less than your mom is currently doing, they said it was a thing of if you are a danger to yourself or others. Can you not seek out a social worker and tell them she has no place to go, you cannot deal with her and she is a danger to herself and perhaps others? Perhaps you can say she is no longer welcome in your home, you are afraid of what she might do, you need to do what you, yourself needs to do for your own sanity and welfare. I am a person who does not like institutions for anyone, but what you describe seems to warrant more care than you can possibly give her. Alcoholism and the havoc it causes family is so very devastating and my heart goes out to you. I would keep on social services, I would enlist friends and family to call them and complain, I would not let up, I learned from what was done to my mom for no more than walking to a couple of neighbors and knocking on their door and if no one answered, she would leave. They called to say she asked the same question several times and were afraid she might fall on their property or get hit by a car, so if these are valid reasons for being sent to a NH, you sure have enough things she is doing to warrant  getting help for your mother and your family. I think the act of wearing down a social service worker with your complaints may do more for you than anything you have ever done before to get your mother help. but I have also this advice, know what you want and be willing to realize any decision that happens once social services are brought in, well, they may have ideas different than you in this situation and once they are involved what happens then may or may not be what you expected to happen. Then much of it will be out of your hands and if you are not happy with their decision, you then could have a legal fight on your hands.Each situation is different and each state and county, parish, local city or town is different, I wish you help with your situation.

Quote 0 0
Hi Neel -- Welcome to the board.
My mother-in-law was taken from her home (after multiple visits of the police).  She had to clearly indicate that she was a danger to herself or others.  Finally one day she did.  She had been threatening to burn down her own house.
She was put on a 72 hr hold and that was later increased to 14 days and finally 30 days.  During that time my husband petitioned to be her conservator.  When it was finally granted he was able to move her from the Nursing Home where the county had put her and move her cross country to be closer to us.
My understanding is that when someone is hospitalized, they become the responsibility of the hospital.  They cannot make you bring her home.  The discharge planners must work with you  (or without you if you will not work with them) to find a placement for her.  A person with her issues sounds unlikely to benefit from rehab -- though I am not an expert in alchoholism.  It sounds like she would be more appropriately placed in a facility for patients with dementia.
Different states have different rules regarding commitment/guardianship/conservatorship.  For this reason you really should consult an elder care attorney in the state which you reside.

I'm truly sorry that you are going through this -- especially during this time of the year -- but please take heart that a lot of us have been through similar issues.
Come back whenever you want.  We're here to help.

Quote 0 0
Neel K.
Thank you all so much for your help and support, I can't tell you how much it has meant.

I just spoke to the social worker and of the seven I've experienced this year, she was the worst and least helpful. My mother is currently in the acute psychiatric unit until they evaluate her. She basically said once her condition is not acute they are required to release her if they believe she's not a threat to herself. Apparently she doesn't think she could be a threat to us because we don't have weapons in the house - the first time I've heard this. I asked her what if we refuse to take her what would happen and she said it would go up to a judge and "they don't look kindly on families who do this." She told me my best option would be to hire a full time nurses aid, which is pretty expensive.

I don't buy her alcohol and dump it when I find it. She buys it with her Social Security money and I am told if I take guardianship, I can close her account but that would take three months I'm told.

Avis, your husband's experience is exactly my goal. I want to extend her hold to 30 days so that for one thing her medication can start working and also to work with a social worker to see what our options are for long term care. But at this point the social worker won't talk to us because my mother hasn't given consent. I know this is the law but it's the first time I've experienced it being applied. I'm a bit shocked how this woman was talking to me, as if there is something wrong with me for not wanting to get my mother out of there as soon as possible.

It gave me hope to read your message that the reality is that she is in their custody and they probably can't make me take her home which is why it would have to go to a judge. I would hope they would want to avoid that as much as we would. I'm really going to focus on her assault charge which is still pending as proof that she is a danger to others and herself.

Thank you all so much again.
Quote 0 0

This thread has proven once again to me that there is no rhyme or reason to how social services does their job and the laws concerning all of these things. I would think though that you do not have to put up with living in fear of your life and if your are then you need to do what is necessary to keep you and the rest of your family safe. I think if you say no to bringing her back to your house, if you own the home yourself, I think it is in your legal right to do that. I do not care if the court may or may not frown on anyone for refusing to take someone in their own home and they are abusers, you have no right to abuse them, so it should be the other way also, they do not have the right to abuse you and your family.

Quote 0 0
"She basically said once her condition is not acute they are required to release her if they believe she's not a threat to herself"

Wrong. they can not release her (no matter what state she resides) if she is an altered adult in need of care and no the "family" is not obligated by law to take her in if thats not what they want to do, they have to abide by the law here to dump her out on the street (or even in her home if she is altered) is against the law and they know that they are trying to intimidate you dear, dont take the "bait"
Whether or not authorities frown upon you for your right to refuse to bring her into your home is their problem, they dont have a lifetime of experience with her, you do.

Quote 0 0

I agree with Diane, take anything and everything the hospital personnel say with a huge grain of salt unless and until you confirm it with an Elder Law Attorney.   From what I've read here on this message board they are BLUFFING!!!! 

They figure if they keep saying you HAVE to take her and there are NO OTHER OPTIONS you will cave and give in. DO NOT GIVE IN.

Quote 0 0

My heart goes out to every person that posted a comment.  I'm going through the same thing with my 74 year old Mother.  My husband and I moved from Texas, left our jobs and college age children to care for my Mother.  She is out of control.  I don't know what to do or where to turn to.  Attorneys cost money that we don't have.  We are living in my Mother's home.  Since I am the only child, her estate, when she passes goes to me.  I don't want my Mom to die of alcoholism.  I don't want her to fall and hurt herself.  I am about to lose not only my marriage, but my sanity!  I don't understand it.  We grew up in a home where there was NEVER liquor.  Now in her elderly years, she is a drunk.  Not a nice drunk, rather a mean one.  What do I do?  I have so many people telling me I should do this, do that.  I need help, please!

Quote 0 0
The common theme here seems to be that when you tell someone that a person in their 70's is an alcoholic, they either can't believe it, or they think it's just another lifestyle choice, or they treat it like a short-term binge (as if it were a frat party?)
Guess what. Perhaps we should leave the alcoholism out of it. Tell the social worker that  what we have here is any elderly person, living alone, unable to take care of themselves, and you cannot afford to. Period. Call her superiors. Immediate state nursing care is called for, and it can come out of her estate.
Yes, it is risky, but sadly, perhaps the parent waking up sober to find themselves trapped in a nursing home, being treated like an Alzheimer's patient, is what needs to happen. I'm beginning to think that in our case (with elderly alcoholic parents), "tough love" is not to leave them alone to drink, but rather to force them into a co-dependent situation - just so long as you're not the co-dependent.

Quote 0 0
P.S. - Betty Jo:

Either you or her has to move out. Now. (If your husband leaves, follow him.) Put on your own oxygen mask first. Otherwise you & your husband will both be broke, jobless, emotionally wrung-out - and old yourself. It is amazing how long the elderly can live on alcohol content alone.

Read this other thread also. I found some of the posts very enlightening:

I moved to the other end of the country because I knew what would happen in twenty years, and yet the fantasy still strikes me every so often that "if I were there, I could help her" -But when I am there, she's not.

It is sad but it is not your fault that you cannot help her. To quote another poster, you don't need a front-row seat.

Quote 0 0
My heart goes out to you.  I'm glad you found this site, and glad it is helping you.

After reading the above threads, I was wondering if your mother has a regular M.D. (or the attending one in the hospital) who can write a letter stating she needs long term care?  I think that will help when you go before a judge.  If I were in your shoes, I'd be constructing a strong case with any police officers, EMT's, etc who will testify to her deranged behavior when out of 24/7 care. 

I'm saying this because one of the requirements my mother had to meet in order to have my brother committed to a mental health facility was a doctor's letter.  While the doctor was demeaning to my mother, he did write and sign the letter.  (He said he didn't believe in mental illness.)

Quote 0 0
I disagree!
My mother jumped out of a second story window and I really don't know how she survived.  Several members of my family spoke with as many people as we could.  This was one of several attempts to hurt/kill herself.  We BEGGED for help.  In the end, my mother claimed that she did not want to hurt herself or anyone else and she was discharged.  NO FOLLOW UP, nothing.  She jumped out of a window and broke over 50 bones... This was not her first, second, or third attempt at hurting herself.  The system just wants to get you out of the system.  THEY DON't CARE!
Quote 0 0
I have been dealing with my alcoholic mother for over 15 years now. I am 41 years old. She was not an alcoholic when me and my brother and sister were kids. She was an amazing mother. She went through a pretty civil divorce, but her heart was broken as were all of ours. She has been in and out of rehab. And these were very expensive and would last at least one month. She would sometimes be ok for awhile after she completed a program and sometimes she would drink the moment she got out. None of us has abandoned her, but she makes us the villains when we try to help her. She has had terrible accidents and damage to her liver because of her drinking. She is in an assisted living place, but she has broken her promises not to drink and I'd driving a car that she is in no condition to drive. She could kill herself or someone else. The assisted living place is about to kick her out. And that leaves us out of options. She thinks she can take care of herself but she can,t. She,s fallen, broken bones, fallen asleep with lit cigarettes, etc. She is going to bring us all down with her with any lawsuit for whatever stupid thing she does. I love her so much, and I don't want her to die. But I don,t know what to do anymore. I see people on the streets and I think that could be my mom if we all wash our hands of her.
She is so mean to us. My brother has already washed his hands of her. Do I too say goodbye, so I can live again? But if she dies I feel that I would die too.
Quote 0 0