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What to do when a family member won't accept help? - Carers UK Forum

What to do when a family member won't accept help?

For issues specific to caring for someone with mental ill health.
Hello - I'm new here and trying to stay as undetectable as possible. Hope you don't mind me getting straight into it without an intro.

I am a twin. I am also a mother and wife and we are a multi-disability family. This means we all care for each other and in our little unit this works well.

However my twin is posing some serious problems. As she suddenly (a few years ago now) found herself as a single mother to a of a lot of children, she is not coping. She has had mental health issues (undiagnosed) for many years. Her partner used to care for the kids pretty much single handed with our help. This was difficult even back then as she has always stirred for drama and attention and portrayed herself as a victim in anything she can. This makes her sound awful but she really is underneath all this a lovely if very fickle and immature woman.

Many years ago in a rough patch with her ex, she did some things that landed her in the hospital when people fell out with her. This was described by doctors to myself as attention seeking behaviour typical of personality disorders. She has never received a formal diagnosis of anything as she sees everything as happening *to* her and everyone else's fault. While it has been a very long time since she did any of that, this has had a profound effect on my decisions surrounding our relationship since. I've been terrified to pull her up for anything especially now she is the only parent in her kids' lives.

This all has led to a cycle of us trying to support, support being refused, and now a whole new personality on Facebook of all places, where she repeatedly rewrites history to make herself a victim and makes passive aggressive posts for sympathy, including ones saying she gets no help from her family. She seems to derive some sense of power from knowing I will not respond. Sadly much as they are unaware that they are exacerbating the issue, she has plenty of strangers as friends who are willing to pat her on the back and call her super mom etc, they will often say how disgusting it is that we specifically aren't doing anything to help.

There is also an issue of dependency. She will say the most purposefully horrible things about us online then 2 minutes later, knowing I daren't confront her, she will send me messages asking why I haven't answered within a minute, have I died, etc. She will even ring friends and family and ask them if I've had an accident and that is why I haven't replied in say 10 minutes. If I can't meet with her at the drop of a hat every day then I am apparently avoiding her and hate her. Last week for example I was really unwell and when I said I couldn't even get clothes on to come and meet her and could she come here instead, I got "I feel like you're never there for ME any more, you always let me down. I guess you're too ill to be bothered with me." It's like having a petulant 7 year old sibling not a peer.

And finally but most importantly she is not doing enough for her children. This is super frustrating because she absolutely will not allow us to help or even take our advice and yet she moans to us about them non stop. She has a partner of 3 years which is exaggerating his input - he doesn't want her kids at all and sees her maybe once a month, but she portrays him online as their stepdad and sends me photos of wedding dresses and venues she has picked (this man has said he wants no commitment at all). To us she seems to be desperate in her need to find a new dad to take over all the hard work she can't be bothered with. The kids are all older now but we (when we have been allowed to have them) have had to deal with them being in smelly unironed clothes or sent for a day out without a coat or in football studded shoes because they simply don't have what they need. She even senthough them to my elderly parents for a weekend with no clean clothes and bags of washing. We have bought coats, shampoo, shoes, deodorants and even foot sprays and yet they never get seen again, or she uses them herself. Her house is in dirty disarray but it's apparently not bad enough for social services to go in. We have offered, very carefully, to take and raise the children that remain at home. We have offered to have them temporarily. We are lucky if she will let us have them for a day once every couple of months and yet she moans to anyone that will listen that she never gets any help.

I have no doubt in my mind that she has some sort of personality disorder. I am scared to seek help as it's all so final in that she will see it as the ultimate betrayal. I think I am stuck in the vain hope that I will get my twinny back but in all reality I haven't ever met her (she was perhaps that person as a young child but hasn't been her since her teens). I am gutted, really physically and emotionally gutted, when I realise there's very little chance of saving 'us' as a relationship and that every time she pokes and prods and uses passive aggression, it's another nail in the coffin of our relationship. Being a twin isn't like having a sibling - it's like a part of you lives in another home. But I have to put her kids first if she won't. This all has had a massive effect on my own disability (stress makes it far worse) and as such has a vicious circle effect on her when I can't drop everything and be at her beck and call every time she wants me to be.

I don't really know what I'm here to ask. I know I can go to her GP or social services. I know all the right advice. I guess I just want to moan to someone (I'm not a moaner typically) who isn't my husband as he has to hear what she's done again and again and how hurt and worried I am. There's no real point in me sharing this with him any more if I haven't got the balls to make a change for the better. You get what I mean?


Dear K (If I may call you that)

I don't really have any practical advice, but wanted to let you know that I had read your post and that I'm sending you moral support and hugs. I don't have time for a long reply as I've got to take over from my son's carer very soon, so maybe more later. However, I do think that you have to harden your heart, cut your losses with your twin and do the best you can for her children. I'm not sure why SS won't get involved, and I'm not sure what else you can do other than keep calling them. If the children are as ill-kempt as you describe, I would have thought that the school might have picked up on things too. Again, no practical advice but focus on the children, give up any hope of having a relationship with your twin (easier said than done, I know) and free yourself from the emotional blackmail and passive-aggressive tactics. As others will tell you, the only power she has over you is the power you allow her. She clearly has MH issues and is not rational/balanced as I hope most of us are (but I do sometimes wonder!) so it is unlikely that she will ever appreciate or understand what you're trying to do, or that you have a right to a life without being at her beck and call, especially as she bad-mouths you so much. Stay strong, we're all here to support you. Vent and moan as much as you like. Take the advice we offer, or not if you don't agree.

I hope I haven't offended you in anyway, I certainly don't mean to. I hope that somehow you can get the children's situation sorted. All the very best, and stay in touch with us here and let us know how you are progressing.

Sadly, I have to agree with Emma. You have lost your twin (she's impossible, completely impossible!) (and you've given her quite enough chances, but no more!). BUT, you still have your nephew and nieces, and what is more important THEY have you.

With a worse than useless (and indeed, damaging and neglectful mother), the most important thing now is for you to do your best by THEM (not your sister) (she deserves nothing any more!).

I'm afraid I think you should talk to your GP, and SS, and maybe the NSPCC initialy perhaps, to explain the situation, and say that you are talking to them as a matter of safeguarding her children. They may not be taken into care, or fostered (any chance YOU could bring them up?), but at least they will have the SS 'keeping an eye' on them.

Although of course it would be best if you could physically see them and spend time with them, that will mean being 'accessible' to your sister - so how about if you simply establish contact with them via the Internet, so they always have you, their aunt, available to them when they need you, and know they can turn to you.

Other than that, then I'm afraid that ignoring your sister (certainly ignore the rubbish she puts on line!), and preferable never seeing her again (awful, but there it is, she will twist and turn every encounter etc etc) and basically cutting her out of your life.

There is indeed something wrong with her, but if she refuses any professional help for her MH (even if help is possible - can anything turn her into a non-narcissitic person??), there's nothing you can do.

But, like I say, I think myself that your focus should be on your nephews and nieces, who do not deserve a mother like that.
Hi guys - thank you so much for the replies. No, not offensive in the slightest, in fact quite the opposite!

There have been periods of hope where she will have better "I can do this" days or when something happens to her that makes *her* happy for a short time. I think I've confused that self centred fickleness with progress and I can't see why I keep falling for it when history shows that it never lasts. I have come to the realisation that instead of keeping her happy so I have access to the kids (which is what I thought I was doing), I'm actually just scared of cutting her off. When her partner was around she used to set him on us by manipulating him into believing total lies and if there ever was confrontation it resulted in days and days of door knocking, physical threats (and in one case I got punched), calling and shouting abuse and then calling back over and over and over til we had to keep the curtains drawn and pull the phone out of the wall (I know in hindsight I should have contacted the police but I also know I wouldn't hesitate to *now*). Since he's been totally out of the picture she has used her older kids in the same way to a lesser degree - the two oldest have since moved out and have no relationship with her and instead see us. Now it's her and her youngest kids who are teens now and I have been worried that if I don't keep her happy they will be the next set of soldiers on her behalf, and I'm really trying to prioritise a relationship with them.

On the younger children's front, there's no way they would go into care. I'm fully prepared to raise them. My older sibling feels the same way. It is at that point where we are essentially teetering on the edge of going in and discussing how to go about it and what outcomes would be best for the kids. I haven't been as tough as my parents or other siblings (one of which has cut her losses and doesn't see her at all) as I've been the one that my twin could come to and let off steam to when they've been tough and I mistakenly thought that would keep her from spiralling.

She seems determined that everything has to be a competition that she 'wins' though, whether it's in being iller than me (she sees me being disabled as something to beat on a day to day basis, and often tells others I fake it and my husband even gets stick for being blind) or anything else - she even tells people online she suffered years of domestic abuse when she knows she didn't. The thing is noone else is competing. Noone else cares about winning. We would take our lives any day over the chaos and unecessary drama of her life. I can remember going through the competitive twin stage very young and it being pointless and hurtful, so I haven't opted in to that since I was maybe 7. I think even back then she was domineering and sensitive and I genuinely think my whole life I've been trained into feeling responsible for her happiness or her woes. I remember her having a bad fall while out playing and her first words to me, despite me not being involved, we're "Look what you've done!", I hid under my bed for 2 days blaming myself despite having no input in what happened.

It feels like I'm only waking up now. Having adult kids myself, it's become more apparent that I'm perhaps not responsible for keeping her happy. I've managed to prioritise my kids always but I've held her in nearly equal position in my lost of people I'mean responsible for, and while I had counselling through the worst period of her behaviour before her being on her own and been told again and again it's not my job, it's taken til now to believe it.

If she will let me support her to do her job herself without the emotional blackmail and mood swings I would much rather do that still. However I'm expecting her to change and like you said that's not going to happen. She's never going to recognise her responsibility in this. So now I need to make a plan that's not so dramatic as to feed into her perma-victim mentality and not going to make her do her typical "If you don't do X, you'll never see the kids again". At the moment one of her kids is playing frightened to spend time with anyone outside of her friend and mother because she's got behavioural issues from essentially a mother who ignores her and gives her money to keep her happy. We have boundaries and consequences although nothing scary, but she knows she can't play those games here so is avoiding coming to stay. The others feel very responsible for their mothers happiness or unhappiness and the priority has to be not making them feel even crappier.

The school *have* noticed and sent in a support worker but not social services. She is very good at saying the right things and will frantically clean the living room the day before she is due. The daughter is not attending school regularly at all because if she takes her time and kicks off, her mum will take her shopping to avoid having to take her to school herself against her will. She is very close to being prosecuted and yet sees that as the school's fault as she said to me, "Can you believe they think it's *my* job to get her to school? I told them if they want her there I can't walk all the way up, it's their responsibility to pay for taxis or to come get her!" More recently her daughter has been running away and she doesn't even go looking for her. She texts me and says "Just thought you should know.....", for *me* to worry about it and then her refuse my help.

You can see why it's all getting too much. I'very been so close to her kids all their lives - to the point where I see them as my own. I know I have to cut to the chase and drop my hopes for her. I also know that it's going to bring an epic sh@#storm on my family when we do. But it's going to happen anyway. I just have to hold in my anger and melodramatic feelings of my own (just because she's not mentally well doesn't mean we all don't have our own tendencies - mine is morality and justice-thinking) and do it the right way. And I know this sounds melodramatic too but I feel something like grief.

Thanks guys.
Hang in there, K. We're rooting for you. As you say it will be tough and there will be lots of emotions swirling around, but somehow you need to just stay focussed on the children and remember that you're doing the very best you can in a very difficult situation.

Please let us know how you get on, and come back for more moral support anytime things get too much for you - or preferably before that point.

All the best.

Thanks Emma, that means a lot.

My big sister and I talked last night about things and she enlightened me as to what she feels my twin's only motivation is to keep her kids. I've been confused about why my twin keeps saying one minute that she wants someone else to raise her daughter/put her into care (it used to be the same threats with her autistic son, but his needs have lessened over time and currently the daughter is seen as the most 'hassle' to her) and the next (after an offer to take her) she's lying and saying everything has been perfect for months. For one she can't keep up with her fibs and exaggerations and sees online as somewhere to portray herself in a perfect saint without being told "Hang on a minute, you said X to me yesterday!" but more importantly there's a financial motivation. Without her (working) boyfriend moving in, she would lose most of her income which is in benefits for the kids - not only standard ones but an exaggerated claim for DLA for her son (he definitely has needs but not to the level that she has claimed for), which she doesn't spend on him. Of course she's not going to hand them over to anyone no matter how much she says she deserves to not have to care for them. I'm finding this particularly hard to swallow - not because I think my big sister is wilfully cynical but because it's probably true. She really doesn't care about anything unless it benefits her.
Glad we're helping for you to get things a little clearer in your mind! (A mind that has been 'messed with' big time by your sister, so no wonder you're confused!!!).

I do think (as a layperson, nothing more) that your sister is something like narcissist - she is mentally incapable of seeing the world from anyone else's point of view. The whole of her universe is ME ME ME ME ME!!!!!!

That makes her utterly ruthless (as you have experienced!)

One of the things I might suggest, if you could afford it, or if you could get it hopefully on the NHS or whatever, is to get some counselling yourself. If you printed out your posts, and handed them to a trained counsellor, they would see in an instant what was going on here, and would probably have a good few labels for it.

I suspect,. sadly but resignedly, that they would also say that you are beating your head against a brick wall expecting or hoping her to change, and that she won't, and probably can't.

Whatever she is doing to her children, when they are 16 they can live where they like, and if they want to come to you, they can.

Yes, I agree that she probably sees them as 'tickets to ride' in so far as she is 'paid' in benefits to look after them (even though she neglects them!).

I'm wondering whether, if you yourself saw a counsellor, that you could then ask your nieces and nephews schools if you could talk to their form teacher, and tell them 'the truth' about what is happening in these poor kids' home life! You say she can put on a show when she chooses, but you know that isn't real.

Please keep whatever lines of communication open with her children as you can, even if they aren't the easiest in the world (not surprising, given their mum!) - and remember, too, the older ones will be talking to each other, and to the younger ones, just as you are talking with your older sister as well, so the younger ones can turn to their older siblings as a source of help and support.

When her children all leave - and take their 'meal tickets' with them! - then you can cut off your sister completely, and get her off your back.

Personality disorders like narcissism (if that's what she's got - and it does sound like it from what I've read about it!), may be 'incurable' - but even if they are curable, until she accepts she has to get help for it and CHANGE, then she is better out of your life.

So often in life, we go on and on and on hoping that someone will improve, but they seldom do. TIme to cut your losses, invest no more emotional time, or energy, in your sister, and leave her be. Her children are far more important, and I'm glad that some of them are turning to you, and hope that comforts you, and encourages you too.

Kind regs, Jenny
Thanks Jenny - I really appreciate your reply.

Well, after a few days of being known to be out of contact (the day I posted this I'd had a minor confrontation with her and blocked her messages), by total fluke I ran into her in the town yesterday. There were kids present and as such when she acted like nothing had happened I went along with it. More for public decency than anything lol but it meant I got to see them (one of my kids was present too and I don't want additional drama in their presence either). I feel a bit sick and doormat like now but it was calm at least.

One thing I found out was that after her youngest ran away again, she now has a proper social services referral from a local charity she approached. I think she sees this as validation that her child is awful and she's a victim but I'm seeing it as a positive for very different reasons as I'm sure you understand.

I also know though that it's rare social services pick up these referrals unless there are several of them and very carefully worded. We will see. What I will do is ascertain who sent the referral and who picks it up and take it from there.

I do think eventually I will speak to a counsellor again but rest assured I have in the recent past at length when her drama made life very difficult and I haven't forgotten the thoughts and advice I got and have been using them more and more. Back then it felt 'wrong' or like a betrayal but I've come to the realisation that that is my issue to get past as clearly enabling her is far more of one.

Many thanks xxx
One of the things you could do is this - when she is 'pleasant' to you, be pleasant back' (like you did in that surprise encounter) but if she is not 'pleasant' then you simply stop communication with her across any means (in person/phone/text/online etc). This is not, most definitely, you being 'weak' it is you choosing only to acknowledge her existence IF she is 'pleasant' to you, and if she isn't, she gets 'switched off', as if you were turning her off for the duration of her unpleasantness.

Fingers crossed the situation re the support for her children continues to improve.

People like your sister are 'exporters' of their moods and 'neuroses' or whatever, so it's essential for your own peace of mind that you can 'cut her out' from you when necessary, and put up a kind of 'moat' around yourself mentally (and maybe physically!) (ie, not seeing her or meeting with her), to give you an essential breathing space from her.

Such people are exhausting, and drain all the 'life energy' from us, which is why we sadly have to cut ourselves free from them, or they 'drown' us with them.
Hi all

Thanks Jenny - that's how I've been trying to play it and things do tend to go wrong more when I stray from that.

I'm sorry for the late reply - life got in the way massively this week and not through the issues above, totally unrelated. There hasn't been much contact because of that. What contact there has been hasn't been tense but it has at times been a bit almost laughable. I suppose you've got to laugh or you'll go crazy haha! I won't give specific examples but it's mostly been competitive at a level I can deal with through ignoring and instead redirecting to the good. Because I've been tied up with my own little unit I don't have any update on what's happening there which is frustrating as I believe she is now being prosecuted for the school absences. I'm going to get in touch with other family and see if they have news as I'm getting a bit of the cold shoulder for not being as available this week! Not going to lie, if this hadn't been a week filled with worry in another front it would have been a really enjoyable break. Lol.