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Elderly parents

Recently bereaved mother seeking solace in alcohol

39 replies

desperatelyseekingwisdom · 20/09/2023 16:30

Hello all, this is my first ever post and I would be so grateful for any advice as I feel completely lost. I lost my absolutely beloved Dad last month, and my Mum is in very ill health and over the last few years has sought solace in alcohol. Now Dad is gone, and I feel a responsibility towards her. Due to a recent hospital stay she had been required through necessity to reduce her alcohol consumption. Upon returning home I had a heart-to-heart conversation with her and asked her to keep control of her alcohol consumption so that I could work with her to build her independence/mobility back up. She said she would try. I just noticed her weekly alcohol online order contained 9 bottles of red wine and two bottles of gin. What do I do?!

OP posts:
Allthecatseverywhereallatonce · 20/09/2023 16:39

Firstly I am sorry for the loss of your father, it must make this even harder.
Honestly what can you do? That is a lot of alcohol for 1 person but, you cannot make someone stop. I understand it must be hard for your mum to have lost her husband. Is this her way of coping?
Did your mum always drink? It may be that she needs this for a short time (grasping at straws). What does she say when you discuss her alcohol intake with her?
Is she aware she has a problem? Or does she consider she is grieving?

desperatelyseekingwisdom · 20/09/2023 16:49

Thank you so much for replying, I’m very grateful. Unfortunately I think the alcohol has become a crutch over the last 10 years or so, as her health declined (she smoked all her life and became diagnosed with COPD). She is 79. We have been sheltered from the magnitude of the problem until my Dad passed away. She told me she is deeply ashamed of herself and is sorry that I had to raise it with her when I last raised it, and she said she would try to keep it under control. I don’t know what the responsible thing to do is 😰

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FirstLaburnum · 20/09/2023 16:53

This is so sad. Is she open to getting out of the house much? Does she have any friends?

desperatelyseekingwisdom · 20/09/2023 16:58

Unfortunately she doesn’t have any friends anymore, just the hairdresser who visits once a fortnight 💔Ultimately she never managed to reinvent herself upon retirement to a new life/purpose and from there became very solitary. Prior to that she was an extremely active and busy person, so it’s been such a sad change. Over the last 10 years she has slowly pushed everyone away 😰 unfortunately due to neglecting to keep mobile, especially through covid, she is virtually housebound and struggles to walk almost any distances without a walking frame.

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aswellascanbeexpected · 20/09/2023 17:00

I’m not sure you can do very much. You could encourage her to cut back, maybe suggest 2 alcohol free days in a row to begin with, and buy some fancy cordials for her to try instead?
She’ll know she’s drinking too much, but maybe just doesn’t really care and it’s numbing her grief too.

Frodedendron · 20/09/2023 17:03

I used to be a community carer and honestly this is very common. And understandable: your mum is 79, has lost her husband and has a life-limiting illness. She probably doesn't feel much motivation to stop doing the thing that gets her through the day because really, to what end? I don't imagine she sees herself taking up new hobbies or developing an interesting social life and maybe it is the case that it's beyond her now. Lunch clubs and the like are not for everyone.

All you can do is provide or arrange the day-to-day care she might need as a result.

aswellascanbeexpected · 20/09/2023 17:07

Do you live close enough to do things with her regularly? Maybe join a choir or WI together, or some sort of class or going for a swim?
She does sound lonely and obviously low in mood.

desperatelyseekingwisdom · 20/09/2023 17:16

It means the world to have so many replies and input, thank you. I live a 4 hour drive away, but have shared details of local age appropriate activities with her and explained I am willing to accompany her to the first session if any of them catch her eye. She says she will think about it 😰 I am worried that this window of opportunity is slipping away if she is back drinking gin again.

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desperatelyseekingwisdom · 20/09/2023 17:19

I’m planning to visit every three weeks for now, including staying for a week next month with my primary aged children over October half term, so she knows she has regular in-person company coming up, and I was hoping that would help her have something to look forward to, but of course it isn’t enough in itself

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aswellascanbeexpected · 20/09/2023 17:34

It's so hard being so far away.
In some areas there are local befriending schemes, and I think this is a national scheme but it's not necessarly right for your mum, who probably thinks these are for old people!
Her local authority adult social care services should be able to point you in the direction of local services, but again it sounds like she lacks the motivation to do very much.

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FirstLaburnum · 20/09/2023 20:27

I would just add that it might be dangerous for her to stop drinking suddenly.

Sounds like you're doing everything you can, OP. Might be worth getting some help for yourself too, maybe via al-anon or counselling. Likely to be a bumpy ride emotionally.

PheonixAndTheCarpet · 20/09/2023 20:46

Would she move closer to you?

desperatelyseekingwisdom · 20/09/2023 23:37

Thank you all. Your sage advice is much appreciated and I am taking it all on board. Maybe a move closer to me needs to be investigated xx

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REP22 · 21/09/2023 11:59

I am so sorry. For the loss of your dad (I lost my dad suddenly and unexpectedly a while ago - I know the wrenching despair and grief is worse than any words can soothe away), and for your mum. Would she see a GP? It sounds a bit like she is "self-medicating" with alcohol to ease her grief and sorrow. As well as other effects, however, alcohol is also a depressant. She may not be open to it, but perhaps some grief counselling or prescribed anti-depressants might help?

I don't have an easy relationship with my mum and found it hard to talk to her, so sought solace in drink myself. It did not go well. A local bereavement support charity were incredibly helpful, as was my GP and an NHS recovery service called Inclusion, who offered something called SMART Recovery sessions. I am sober now.

As others have said, however, your mum needs to want to make the change herself. It may be that, at 79 and with her lifestyle, this is how she wants to live out the remainder of her days and - I'm so sorry to suggest it - perhaps hasten her journey to be with your late dad. I'm really, really sorry.

Al-Anon, a support service for families and loved-ones of people who struggle with drinking is excellent. You can find them here if you want to: Al-Anon UK | For families & friends of alcoholics. They are kind, supportive and non-judgemental.

I sincerely wish you all the best, and for happier times ahead for you and your mum. x

HoraceGoesBonkers · 21/09/2023 16:00

I feel really sorry for her (and you) OP. I can understand why she would drink too much as it doesn't sound as if she particularly wants to swap drinking for having a longer life. Is her drinking a concern because of problematic behaviours?

If she's not going out an awful lot anyway it would probably be worth her moving closer - she's inevitably going to have more health problems and it's easier if she's not so far away.

Whether or not she does move, it's worth making sure her house is future proofed. She's likely to have more falls, so I'd look into alarm services and accessibility aids.

Perhaps controversially, if I were you I wouldn't speak to her about the drinking again - it's making her feel ashamed but not bad enough to stop, and it might stop her asking for help or being honest. It's something you might want to get help yourself for to feel a bit more accepting of. It's impossible to get a younger person to stop drinking if that's what they really want to do, so I'd guess a lot harder in your mum's circumstances.

Finally, make sure you put your kids first! Your mum's chosen to drink a lot and live quite a reclusive life. From bitter experience it's doing them a disservice if you're running yourself into the ground trying to look after her.

desperatelyseekingwisdom · 22/09/2023 12:56

Thank you @REP22 for being so candid. I thinks it is incredible that you managed to dig yourself out of such a hole, it is very inspiring, and very best wishes to you xx

I have gently suggested antidepressants to Mum in the past and she quickly shut down the idea, but it might be worth me revisiting. She did also have some telephone alcohol counselling sessions earlier in the year but ceased them, at least she knows they are available I suppose if she feels strong enough to try again. I do agree that I’m not sure he has the motivation to stop right now 😰 I am definitely going to look at Al-Anon, thank you for the link x

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desperatelyseekingwisdom · 22/09/2023 13:10

Thanks @HoraceGoesBonkers. There were problematic behaviours during my Dad’s final weeks, where Mum was repeatedly falling and completely unable to care for herself - and unfortunately I had to admit her to hospital in an ambulance 4 days before my Dad died whilst simultaneously trying to hold vigil at my Dad’s bedside whilst also caring for my children 4 hours away from home, just horrendous times really. This crisis in the family did stimulate a fall alarm and a switch to downstairs living and associated adaptations.

It was helpful to hear your suggestion about not raising the drinking again. I actually visited her yesterday as it would have been my parents’ 60 year wedding anniversary 💔 I decided not to mention anything about the drinking. Instead we looked through the wedding photo album and she agreed to come with me to lunch at a new place which is actually a big achievement. She opened up to me about how she’s doing and I’m pleased we were able to connect, which was lovely.

I think it’s a “make or break” time for Mum, and based on all your comments I am going to try to go for a positive, “love bomb” approach in the short term rather than a big intervention. I hope it’s enough to inspire her to keep a lid on the scale of her drinking, but what I am hearing from everyone is that it isn’t a battle I can win for her. I can just do what I can, and keep assessing where we are. Your words ring in my ears about putting my kids first, which I will be sure to do in the long run, thank you xx

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FrenchandSaunders · 22/09/2023 13:18

Such a difficult situation OP, living so far away with young children, there is only so much you can do. So please don't feel any guilt about it, you sound like you're doing your absolute best for your mum. But she does also need to help herself and if she isn't willing to do that then you're a bit stuck.

Do you have siblings?

FrenchandSaunders · 22/09/2023 13:19

Will she drink 9 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of gin in a week? If so that's deadly amounts 🙁

floppybit · 22/09/2023 13:24

She really needs to be nearer to you. A supported housing flat would be perfect, but I don't know what her situation is regarding property ownership/renting etc. Good luck with it all.

desperatelyseekingwisdom · 22/09/2023 16:09

I do have siblings @FrenchandSaunders but unfortunately they live overseas and it seems our views on any “duty” to Mum are different. I desperately wish they didn’t live overseas right now but what can you do 😰

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desperatelyseekingwisdom · 22/09/2023 16:11

I agree, it’s beyond my worst nightmare that she purchased this much. It worries me greatly that at the very least, this quantity of alcohol is in her home.

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desperatelyseekingwisdom · 22/09/2023 16:16

Thanks @floppybit , a big move feels daunting, and moving Mum to my doorstep makes me feel like my siblings would then be completely absolved of helping with this shared situation, which I have been battling against. However in reality this is where we are anyway, so I think I need to face up to this and move forward on this basis. Thank you for helping me to see the wood from the trees x

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floppybit · 22/09/2023 16:31

desperatelyseekingwisdom · 22/09/2023 16:16

Thanks @floppybit , a big move feels daunting, and moving Mum to my doorstep makes me feel like my siblings would then be completely absolved of helping with this shared situation, which I have been battling against. However in reality this is where we are anyway, so I think I need to face up to this and move forward on this basis. Thank you for helping me to see the wood from the trees x

Ah, apologies, I didn't realise she has other children nearby. You're right in that all the responsibility would land in your lap if she was on your doorstep. I hope your siblings step up and start to help out a bit more x

Loopytiles · 22/09/2023 16:41

Sorry about your dad, and that your mum has what sounds like a serious, longstanding alcohol problem, on top of her other problems.

You won’t be able to do anything about the booze,there is no ‘window of opportunity’. Odds are high the alcohol problem will continue.

Would focus on deciding on and maintaining your own ‘boundaries’ with respect to visiting her and other things, and seeking to agree with your siblings on what happens if/when she needs care or has another crisis such as an accident at home. Would also update her GP of the situation.

wouldn’t seek for her to move closer to you as chances are she’ll need a lot of care, eg from carers or residential.

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