When people find out that my mother was an alcoholic, and that my sisters and I cared for her up until her death from the complications of a drunken fall, they're often at a loss for words. Unless, that is, they're in the same or a similar situation. And then the stories come pouring out.
Dealing with an aging parent who has a drinking or addiction problem isn't quite like any other challenge. How do you cope day to day with someone who can be kind and communicative one moment and raging and incoherent the next? How do you keep a family member safe who could stumble and fall when drinking alone or pass out in an alcoholic stupor? What about hiring a caregiver or finding a home? Our experience was that no assisted living facility would take my mother, and although we found a part-time caregiver with the patience of a saint, my mother fired her on an almost weekly basis.
If you're reading this and want to share your story, please comment below or e-mail us and let us know what your experience has been like caring for a parent with an alcohol or addiction problem. You'll be surprised how good it feels to connect with others who are desperate to hear from someone who's been there.
At Caring.com, we've had several discussions on our bulletin boards about how to handle a parent's out-of-control drinking, and our members have found solace in each other's sympathy and good advice. That's a valuable resource, because there are probably few situations as lonely -- and as thankless -- as this one. Since most alcoholics don't admit they have a problem, it can feel like trying to help someone who refuses to be helped -- or doesn't even acknowledge needing help in the first place. The guilt, frustration, and fear can be overwhelming. And few people can understand what you're going through.
It took my sisters and I a long time to feel comfortable speaking openly about our mother's alcoholism and the challenges of trying to keep her safe. But once we did, we found that nothing was as comforting as hearing we weren't alone.