This family needs help - what can be done for them?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 06, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

A close relative is taking care of her mom who has dementia and an adult brother who is legally blind and has suffered from anxiety disorders for years. He receives disability payments and has not worked for over 25 years. Her mom is collects social security. My relative supplements their needs on her modest income. Her father passed away from Parkinson's complications and she has recently been diagnosed with Early onset Parkinsons. She works at home about 20 minutes from her mom and brother and requires constant phone contact during normal work hours. Her brother's limited vision has gotten worse and he requires surgery. He is severely depressed and needs care. Her mom needs constant attention. What can be done for this family.

Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of

Your question about a close relative caregiver who needs help and doesn't know where to get it has a lot of parts. First, let's consider the mom who has dementia.

You describe the mom as needing constant attention and the daughter as someone suffering from Parkinson's. It does not seem that the caregiver daughter will be able to maintain being a caregiver as she is for much longer. Her own well being is at stake.

First, the daughter needs to consult with a social service agency in mom's area to find out what programs are available for her mom. Adult day services may be an option. Some can only help low income persons, and others serve a variety of participants. These programs can be lifesavers for the caregivers. Other programs can fund in home support services, paid for through local funding. It all depends on where mom lives. Now is the time to find out every possible source of help and go after it. Her Area Agency on Aging is a place to start.

As for the brother, he needs medical attention if his anxiety disorder is not properly medicated or if his situation has changed since any prior prescription was provided. Anxiety is treatable. Other programs are available for blind persons, depending on his area. Again, a local social services agency should be able to direct you to resources and programs for him. One must first ask, and the brother must be willing to participate in any local program or service.

If he is not, his sister need not feel guilty if he doesn't get help. It's his choice. She needs to try her best and recognize her own limitations. She must not continue the habit of "constant phone contact". It's energy-sapping, risky for her own mental health and tends to foster unhealthy co-dependency between herself and her relatives who need help.

Finally, your relative needs to get some emotional support for herself. Her local mental health association, county's professional psychological organization, social services agency or faith based organizations can offer guidance and counseling. She is in a sort of trap that will only be more burdensome with time and more risky to her own health. She needs to learn her way out of it.

There are proven physical health risks to caregivers in her situation. Heart attacks and depression are among those risks. She needs to take action to find some relief or her mother and brother might outlive her.

Many kind, interested and helping professionals are there to assist people in her situation if she reaches out. You, as an observer, can only make suggestions. You can't make her get help for herself and her family members. What you can do is urge her to find all available sources to help her do better than she is doing. I sincerely hope she listens to you.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Thank you, Carolyn! I am researching and will print all info for her. Her brother's illness has controlled the family for years. It will be a huge step for her to bring outside help in. I am trying to be encouraging without being overbearing. Her brother talks to me but when I go into having help come in for his mom - he shuts me off. She is getting worn down. I live two hours away. The police were called when his mom went out for a walk and got lost. She now has a "bracelet" to help police locate her. Mom is on Medicare and he is on Medicaid. I don't know how she does it - I'm exhausted just thinking about it! Thanks so much for your help!

Frustratedmember answered...

When I read stories like this one, all I want to do is be there with the person and give hugs and love. I know that is not what this person needs now but I feel that sometimes my life is like this one. Being torn in the middle of people who need help and having others around them that don't care and just walk away. Encouragement to get help and some relief do seem to be the best for this person. I really hope that she can get the help needed for her Mom and brother. I will pray for her to reach out to as many people as possible to get the help for her loved ones as well as herself.

A fellow caregiver answered...

It is difficult to know when to force help. Going day to day is not working. Some days it goes along ok and but more and more there are bad days. I am taking chances by communicating with doctors and social service agencies about options. I am worried something horrible will happen.