Caregivers need care, too
Dear Annie: I have a 31-year-old son who has always struggled with mental illness issues. He was diagnosed with depression at age 15 and again in his early 20s when we sent him to a weeklong involuntary residential treatment. He will not stay on medication or go to counseling.
In the meantime, after years of not being able to keep a job, he finally had a good job for two years, which he lost 16 months ago. He moved in with us 10 months ago and has made no effort to search for another job. We gave him a deadline to get a job or move out, because we are nearing retirement age and cannot continue to pay for his living expenses, his car insurance and other bills that come up. It is obvious that he is not going to get a job. We do not want him to be homeless. He has been there before, and I know the outlook on homelessness and those with mental illness is not good. However, we can’t continue to enable him. He can function. What should we do? — Parents at a Crossroads
Dear Parents: I am so sorry that you and your family are struggling with the ongoing battle that is mental illness. As painful as it can be to draw boundaries with our adult children, you said it best: To continue paying all of his living expenses at this point would be to enable him. If he is capable of working, as you stated, then a job could not only help stabilize his housing and finances; it could help with his mental health. Humans thrive with routine.
So let your son know that you will always unconditionally offer your love, but you can’t continue to offer your money. If he is at a loss as to how to get back into the workforce, you can point him toward Individual Placement and Support (https://ipsworks.org). The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that IPS “can help people with mental illness find and keep meaningful jobs, supporting their mental health recovery.”
And lest you think you’re alone in this, please read on.
Dear Annie: I’ve read letters in your column from parents at their wits’ end regarding children’s behavior, whether they’re adolescents or adults.
My son has a personality disorder, and I often have found myself exasperated. I had to call the police twice and take him to the ER once. And I’ve done a lot of praying. I talk to him every night and tried to encourage him. I am always bending over backward. It has been very difficult.
Many things have worked out well for him that previously were sources of stress. We are all still working on it. I’m very thankful to God and my relatives, who gave my son much needed social support. I encourage parents who have written to you in similar situations to keep praying and to contact NAMI. I have done that in the past. And ask family and friends if they can help. — S.B.
Dear S.B.: I’m printing your letter because it touches on such an important point: As important as it is to set boundaries, it’s equally important to reach out to others for support. Caregivers need care given to them, too.
Dear Annie: I’m a little chagrined to admit that we can’t come up with a solution to this situation by ourselves, but we are really stumped. We have a friend who has stayed over with us twice. The first time, he brought two others with him, which worked out OK. The second time, he stayed for four days, ate everything in the fridge, as well as meals, and didn’t leave the last day until 9 p.m. Also annoying is the fact that he is an in-your-face talker.
This probably sounds a lot worse than I mean it to, because he is a good-hearted person and he did leave some money for all the food he’d eaten. But since the second visit, he has invited himself over a few times. We have made excuses, such as “we’ll be away” and “we’re just too busy at this time,” but that hurts his feelings. We truly would like to keep this friendship at a less intimate level but can’t figure out how to get that across without breaking his heart. He just sent us another self-invitation yesterday, planning ahead to the spring. How can we tell him no? Thanks for your help. — Stumped in Vermont
Dear Stumped: Don’t be so chagrined that you haven’t come up with a solution yet. As playwright Titus Maccius Plautus wrote, “no guest is so welcome in a friend’s house that he will not become a nuisance after three days” — and that was in 200 B.C. The question of what to do when good friends become bad houseguests has been stumping people for millenniums.
I feel that your friend needs absolute directness, because you’ve generously dropped hints to no avail. Tell him that you’d love to spend time with him but he’ll need to find somewhere else to stay. If your having boundaries “breaks his heart,” that’s his issue.
Dear Annie: I’m considering not leaving an inheritance for my children or grandchildren. I am nearing 70 and have done so much for them, e.g., buying cars and helping pay for roofs, clothes, tires and so many other things. My daughter has always been a handful and told me herself that she’s always done the opposite of anything I have suggested. There’s always been an underlying resentment from her. Whenever there has been a misunderstanding with my daughter, it ends up being the “whole family” who is under attack. She has just plain worn me out.
I know that the norm is for parents to leave their money to their children and grandchildren. How am I supposed to feel? What am I supposed to do? I do know for sure that this feels like elder abuse. — Weary
Dear Weary: If you worry so much about how you’re supposed to feel, you’ll never have a chance to learn how you actually feel. Allow yourself to experience your emotions as they come to you. I’d encourage you to see a counselor to help with this process. And I implore you not to make any decisions about your estate under duress. You aren’t obligated to leave anything to your children or grandchildren. They might even be better off; I hear from many people who have fallen out with family members over estate settlement. The most important thing is that you look after your own health and well-being now.
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