How Can We Help His Alcoholics Parents as They Age?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 13, 2016
Kmerp asked...

My boyfriend lives in his childhood home while his parents live in an apartment above the garage they built for themselves. This arrangement worked out in the beginning but as they are alcoholics. His father is disabled and almost despondent most days. His mother gets angry when drunk and frequently makes things up. We have also caught her in sober lies, truly delusional in some cases.

I am going to move in with my boyfriend in less than two months, he is on the deed with them and gives them the tax money to hold 'in escrow' for the year. However, he recently found out that they have been skimming off the top to the tune of $3000 a year. Neither of them work so essentially this money is used to supplement their government assistance. Sadly, they are only 54.

We not only trust them to handle the finances at this point, we don't want them to. Together we are making almost $100,000 and are making improvements to the home every day. They refuse to let him take over the finances and it scares me to death as an independent businesswoman that I'm allowing us to be put in a situation not of our own making.

Can we call social services, etc. to get some sort of record? We live in New York. My love for him outweigh my fears at the moment but we understand that we may have to leave this home when we have children, leaving us open for liabilities with them and the property itself.

Any suggestions would be helpful, thank you!

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

Helping alcoholic parents is not easy. As long as the alcoholic is drinking, which only he or she can decide to do or not, I had a friend who put her alcoholic mother into a treatment center where she gave up drinking and started smoking. When she got out, she returned to drinking. So my friend complained that her mother both drank and smoked.

But I can share some red flags that went up in my mind as I read your question. In many places it is impossible to get Social Security Disability if you are alcoholic. There may be more to the story than you know. Does your partner pay rent for the house in addition to paying the taxes. If he doesn't, they may think that $3000 is little to ask for the rent of the house. In any case, it is important to work out communication and make legal arrangements for these kinds of transactions (especially with family).

I can't help but wonder why your partner's parents moved out of their house at such a young age.

If you want to be helpful, I would suggest that you attend al anon meetings which often often makes a real difference in family communication issues. You also meed to get a good lawyer to help you identify and sort out issues that could lead to real trouble, even losing your business.

When you see people, especially people you love, in such trouble, you tend to think that alcoholism and depression and poor communication are stronger than sanity, compassion, love, and happiness. Your instincts are good. You don't want to enter into a world (no matter how much you love him) that is ruled by people who are suffering so much their judgement is impaired.

With proper help, these not old parents of your partner could turn their lives around and move back into their home when you move out to have your children. Or they could continue to live where they are and use the rent from the other house as income for a simple and decent life.