Exhausted, co-dependent caretaker

In 1993 my brother had a nervous breakdown and it shook my family to the core. My parents were racked with guilt so instead of doing the tough but proper thing of putting him in a facility, they decided that they could fix it. It cost them their marriage, their happiness, and in my mothers case, her sanity. I was taught co-dependent behavior since I was 22 and I am now over 50. My parents both passed in 2019 and my brother fell squarely in my lap. My brother’s illness has cost me relationships, caused me to leave a successful career earlier than I wanted, and has put an immense strain on my marriage. I made a huge error in moving him into my parent’s house from an apartment because of my parent’s dog, and the thought that it would help him grieve to be back at home. I now have a schizophrenic brother, an old house, and a dog to take care of. I am so far over my head with trying to take care of him. He has had two major bowel surgeries this year as well to add to the misery. I have tried to get him back to an apartment to simplify things but he goes off the rails. He is a manipulator and unfortunately a liar, a trait that he has honed over many years with my parents. I am starting to back off after doing everything for him and I can see a change in his behavior for the worse. I am wiped out and do not know where to turn anymore.

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Oh my goodness. First, welcome to our broken family on this forum. You are NOT alone! Second, our heart breaks with you!!! We’ve all experienced this feeling of being overwhelmed.

Caring for a loved one w SZ is very challenging. Most of us have lost friends, family, opportunities, and our sanity on this journey. You’re in good company.

And there are so many wise, loving members who will have excellent ideas and resources to help you on this journey. Hang in there. Keep the faith of a brighter tomorrow. Love wins and you’re doing an amazing job.

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Welcome to the forum @Djh153 . I was wondering, what about your old idea of the proper thing being putting him into some sort of facility? Does your brother receive any monetary support from Social Security? Are his medical bills paid for by Medicare and/or Medicaid?

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Hello. Another sibling here, a sister in my 50s. It’s exhausting. I totally agree. I’m sorry you have to be in this situation. My brother with schizophrenia (age 61) lives alone, my elderly mother is in a house. I keep tabs on both.

What you have described so well is sibling burnout. We siblings are the invisible helpers. The guilted helpers. The supposedly optional helpers, but you know that’s not really true. We are groomed or compelled to help, whether our parents intend this or not. And yet everyone always asks how “they” are doing, right?

I hope others here have practical steps to assist you, depending on what direction you want to go in. And yes, deciding “what to do next,” after a billion other tough decisions over the years, is the very definition of decision fatigue, I know.

I relate to so much of what you wrote and am grateful you shared your losses and the toll this has taken on your life. How it has altered you. Me, too. I listen to a ton of caretaking podcasts, see a therapist, talk my poor husband’s ear off, have lost friends who can’t take it anymore. All that…

Try to be proud of yourself for not walking away from a monumental task for all these years. You’ve done so much good. Well done, I say to you with all my heart.

Please post again with an update, if and when you can. Good luck.

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It was so nice to read your supportive post, thanks so much. Unfortunately yesterday my brother had a mental break, tried to fight me, made some horrible accusations to me and a dear friend of the family, and wound up in a crisis housing unit for a few days. Hos caseworker witnessed the event and got him placed immediately. With some digging we discovered that he had stopped taking his meds about a month ago. He can only be admitted for five days, nowhere long enough to get him remedicated, so we will be back to square one soon. One positive is that i was able to remove his dog and rehome him quickly. I was so sick worrying about the little guy, now he gets a second chance.

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Welcome to this forum @Djh153 . You have gotten so good replies so far and I will add my two cents: do not ever feel guilty about having to make tough decisions for someone with severe mental illness. Especially if those decisions might seem to help them butfor sure will hurt you yourself. Only you know what you are capable of. We have all lost some large and small parts of our lives trying to manage care for our ill loved ones. Please get yourself the help you need to keep well and happy as possible, while attempting to help your brother. It is a long long war with many battles when you are fighting schizoprenia. I am very glad that you were able to re-home the dog.