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Help with elderly alcoholic parent - Carers UK Forum

Help with elderly alcoholic parent

A place for those 18-35 to chat about all things caring.
Hi everyone,

I’m very new to this forum as I have been relentlessly trying to search for help with this.

I am 24 years old and my dad is 77 and has a number of heath issues. Heart, kidney, back, stomach, hypertension and water retention. I have been caring for him for a number of years and put my life on hold for it.

Recently his drinking has spiralled out of control where he is drinking a bottle of vodka every day and because of this he is having trouble balancing and falling frequently. Mostly in the night when he’s trying to get more alcohol. I’ve tried talking to him openly and honestly that this is deteriorating his health quicker and he needs to be more careful to which he retorts that he can’t drink when he’s dead.

I’ve tried to ask him to go to the doctors but he is refusing saying they don’t do anything or know what they’re doing so there’s no point.

I suffer with depression and I’m completely overwhelmed and at a loss of what I can do to help anymore. It’s got to a point where it’s affected my work and my relationship with my partner because it’s all become so demanding.

I don’t know what help I am able to get and I know my dad won’t like or accept if we brought in outside care for him.

If anyone can offer some advice how to cope with this and how I can help him please let me know. I love him and it’s heartbreaking to see the man who raised you give up on life.

Oh, Amy - what an appalling situation for you!

I had an 'elderly dad' too, but thank god he was never like that!

OK, dear girl, I'm going to tell you the truth - it will take a while for you to accept, and I do realise this.

You can't care for your dad any longer.

He needs outside care, and, to be frank, he needs residential care in a care/nursing home.

Alcoholics are notoriously 'impossible' to look after. They are on a self-destruct course, and they will take down ALL who try and look after them.

Your dad simply wants you around to make him feel better about himself. He has no interest in you, or his life, or his health - his only 'interest' is his vodka.

Now we can be as sympathetic as we like about alcoholics, and say 'oh, it's an illness' and 'i'ts not their fault' and 'oh, they had a lot of tough things to put up with in their life' etc etc, but that doesn't change a thing. They are RUTHLESS SELFISH PEOPLE - and the booze has made them that way.

Your dad will 'use you up' like a wet rag, and not give a toss about you! That's what the alcohol has done to him.

Amy, one of the SADDEST things about children with selfish parents is that the children go on ad on and on loving them, and looking after them, desperate to 'prove' to themselves that mum/dad DOES love me.....

But they don't. If your dad loved you he'd stop drinking, look after his health. Most of all, Amy, he would SET YOU FREE!

He would say to you 'Amy, pet, no way are you going to waste your precious youth looking after me! You've got your life to live, and I love you far too much for you to spend it on your ancient rickety old dad! There's plenty of help out there for me from social services, so off you go and enjoy your youth, and your partner, and your job'. Off you go love!'

THAT is what he would say.

Time for you to say that to yourself. I bet your partner is saying it to you....
OK - practical stuff now.

Where are you living. I DO HOPE it isn't with your dad, but with your partner.
Are there any other family? You don't mention mum? Any brothers or siblings etc?

I know your dad is refusing to go to the doctor (very typical for alcohlics because they know they won't like what the doc says - ie, give up the booze, which they don't want to!), but that doesn't mean YOU can't go.

Go and see his doc, and tell them what is happening, and what state your dad is in. The doc won't be allowed to comment back to you, ie, he can't 'discuss' your dad with you, but the purpose of this visit is twofold:

- one, it informs the doc of just how bad the situation is

The second is essential because only when you tell the doctor that you aren't going to be providing any more care, will he tell SS etc (and you tell SS yourself by the way!), and they will organise care-workers to come in, or, indeed, possibly have your dad taken in to residential care.

Your dad will be free to refuse this care - BUT, and Amy, this is the REALLY important thing - if he does you must NOT step back in and take up caring again!

Sadly, we see, time and time again on this forum, members saying 'Oh, Mum/Dad only want me to look after them, they don't want strangers'!. Well, how nice for them!

We have to make it clear to them that the choice is NOT 'we care or strangers care'....it's 'strangers care or NO ONE cares'.

We HAVE to be strong on this, as it's the only way to 'force' them to accept outside care. You have to be strong to force your dad to accept SS help, or he will just 'collapse' all over you. (I expect he doesn't want outsiders seeing him drunk and so on - whereas you, are 'only my daughter' and he doesn't care if you see it!)

Other members will be here soon to guide you through what can sometimes be a tricky path through the NHS/SS etc etc.

But the first step is to accept you CANNOT and indeed SHOULD NOT be providing daily care for your dad.
Thank you Jenny for your kind words.

I do have other siblings, my sister is in Germany, my brother is living with his soon to be wife and me and my other brother are at home sharing the load looking after him. My dad and my mum are divorced since I was born so he raised me from birth more or less.

I did speak to him and tell him either he gives up drinking or we both leave and he more or less said “well leave then, I’m not going to the doctors and I’m not going to stop drinking” we’ve left him to think about it but I’m not sure if it will really sink in seeing as he’s drunk right now and I feel like he thinks we’re bluffing.

I am going to call the doctors tomorrow to arrange an appointment and I’ve already started looking at alternative housing for me, my brother and both the dogs. I will need to take the dogs as he won’t be able to care for them and it would be cruel to leave them here despite being one of them being his.

I’ve rallied my siblings so they understand to hold their ground with this too, just because I am stopping care I don’t expect one of my siblings to come and pick it up and go through what I have had to.

I just wish that he would see what he’s doing but I’m now no longer hopeful of that.

Thank you for your advice again, I feel like I knew the answer deep in my heart but I just didn’t want to admit it because it’s horrible to admit and I feel like I’m failing him. But I realise I am not failing him, he is failing himself. I gave him a choice and he has chosen alcohol.

Amy, you are NOT failing him, he's failing you. He hit the Self Destruct Button years ago, and sadly the time to change has long gone. Long term alcoholism often leads to brain problems in later life as well. You CANNOT save him but you CAN save yourself and your brother. Move out, make a new happy life for yourselves.
Ask your GP to arrange counselling for you, to help you build a better future.

I’m a ‘recovering alcoholic’, as such people like myself are called. I too used to drink a full bottle of 70cl vodka a day, but on my last bender (after months of abstinence) I progressed to a litre bottle a day. It nearly killed me. I ended up in hospital threatened with being sectioned to a residential re-hab place. That didn’t happen, thanks to the intervention of my baby bro. That was about 6 months ago.

You’d think saying all of the above I’d be posting in support of your dad, seeing as how I can see things through his eyes so to speak.

I’m not. I agreed 200% with what Jenny Lucas and Bowlingbun have said/suggested. Where I differ from your dad is that I’m a lot younger, and only started to develop my alcoholism approx 4.5 years ago and have been tackling it for 3years on and off come this October.
There’s hope for me, primarily because I actually WANT, and get, help/support, etc. Your dad doesn’t. It really is true that unless an addict actually wants – not just wishes – to stop, then all the outside help in the world won’t stop them. If anything it makes them worse. It did me!
Not until I fully/totally/completely/100% accepted I was an alcoholic – and no longer wanted to be – was I in with a chance. Another cliché is ‘hitting rock bottom.’ I had to do that before I hit the ‘acceptance’ stage. For me rock bottom was landing in hospital, hallucinating my head off, wired up to buggery on machines and being threatened with my biggest fear: Being sectioned.
For others it’s losing all family/friends and/or becoming/being threatened with homelessness. Regardless of the ‘rock bottom’, it usually has to be hit before recovery can start in earnest.

Maybe you and your bro getting your own place will help him on his way to the fabled, but very real, Rock Bottom (sounds like the name of a English country village.)

But have you ever thought that at 77 years of age your dad might be doing the right thing by carrying on drinking as much as he does?
It will probably cause him even more misery to stop than to carry on. Regarding his health, that’s already shot, and at his age I think he’s probably passed the point of no return regarding improving it.
It’s not just a case of stopping; it’s bloody hard work and really difficult to do.
Forget about he should never have started in the first place, because he did. Unless you have access to a time machine that can’t be altered.

It’s your fantasy that he stops drinking and then everything will be rosy in the garden. No it won’t, and you’ll have wasted more of your life persuing that mirage if you persist with it.

I’ll let you into a secret. There’s loads of help available to those wishing to overcome addiction, any addiction. It’s almost like a secret, underground world. But it’s not advertised very well.
I asked one of the alcie nurses (as they’re affectionately called round here at my drop-in centre) why this was so? Was it due to council/government cuts in funding?
That didn’t help, according to the alcie nurse but the real reason is this:

They only want people they know will have a half way decent chance of accepting help. If someone, like me, confesses all (as I did) and went to see a doc begging for help they know I’m serious. I might be in with a chance. So I was given the keys to this secret world.
However, if someone is dragged to the docs kicking & screaming by concerned relatives/friends then that person is not ready. They’ll waste a lot of time/effort/resources that could be better spent elsewhere.

In other words they only want to help people who are prepared to help themselves. Brutal but true. Also brutal is the fact that a lot of addicts who really, really want to stop fall by the wayside.
Just what chance do you think your dad stands of stopping drinking if he doesn’t even want to stop in the first place?
Not a snow ball in hell’s chance, is the simple answer to that one. You’d be wasting your time and that of others by trying.

Finally now to play Devil’s Advocate. If I were 77 with failing health I wouldn’t be hitting a bottle of vodka a day. I’d be necking back two bottles of vodie a day, and damn the consiquences. In fact, I think I’d look forward to them.

Also do not get hurt by your dad’s selfish behaviour. All addicts are supremely selfish but we’re also very democratic. We treat everyone the same; as gist to our over-driven mills.
For example, I love my dad to bits; he’s my hero. Yet I stole the most from him to fund my drinking because he was the easiest to steal from. I didn’t love him any less but that driving need to get my grubby mitts on vodka dominated EVERY SINGLE OTHER consideration.

Hope the above helps.

Good luck with it all; you’ll need it!
I think Sajahar's post is exceptionally brave, and I hope it can help you, Amy. I have to say I actually completely agree with her in respect of your dad. At 77, with failing health, indeed, the torment of freeing himself from his addiction hardly seems 'worth it'. In that sense he 'might as well' drink himself into oblivion. It will, sadly, both hasten his end, but it will also 'ease his passing' and I think that is something to be 'grateful' for in many ways.

I also completely agree with Saj that any thoughts of 'oh, if he gave up the booze and looked after his health he'd be well again' just is impossible now.

I think the name of the game is to safeguard your OWN life, as urged (and great that you are taking steps towards this) (in a way, you know, no one joins this forum with a problem that they aren't on the point of facing solving themselves - our 'role' is to give practical advice from the collective experience here, plus any factual info that's needed - lots of that, too, from the team of experts at Carers UK itself (best to email) - and to 'cheer you on' in a way, and reinforce your 'inner decision' that things 'can't go on' and that some kind of change is now necessary).

And also, I think, once you've safeguarded your own life, to arrange your dad's care with view to his 'premature passing' (not sure when that might be, but as I say, the alcohol WILL shorten his life - but make the remaining time more 'pleasant' for him than giving up would!).

Often on this forum we use the term 'care organiser' rather than 'carer'. It's not about 'abandoning' the person we care for (and about, yes), but about organising the care they need, that we should not be giving directly ourselves (should not or cannot, doesnt' matter which!).

I do hope that with outside care supplied (and yes, I suspect that his 'go on then, leave!' will change its tune when he finds he wants care after all - and that is the point at which you exert the 'outside care or no care, Dad!' - that is your 'pressure point' on him!) (and you will have to stay firm), then you can, with your bro, move to a situation where you are far more 'hands off' with your dad. You don't cut him out of your life, but you stand back from daily care - that's for the outside carers (or residential home if it comes to it).

Very often on this forum we hear that a carer who was stressed and overworked with hands on care, with a very difficult relationship with their caree, found that when 'someone else' (ie, external care/residential care) stepped in, that their OWN relationship actually improved hugely with their caree. For example, instead of having to spend time on all the 'chores' of caring, you can actually spend time chatting and keeping company, etc etc.

I do hope you can rearrange your life now to ensure you and your brother (and the dogs!) can 'step away', but not 'abandon' your dad, and that some kind of acceptable compromise all round can be achieved. It will be a 'bumpy ride' - just him being an alcoholic will determine that, alas - but it should be a LOT less stressful for you.

Remember, you have to rearrange things such that the situation is 'endurable' and 'sustainable' until your father dies, so trying to hang on desperately in the current impossible situation is just not going to work, as you are already feeling so strongly.
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