Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

How to have a relationship with my dad?


#1

I’m glad I found this forum. I’m hoping to gain some clarity with regards to my dad, who has had schizophrenia, depression and anxiety since he was 18 or so, and he’s in his 60s now. His diagnosis changed in 2016 to schizoaffective disorder.

My dad married my mom in the 1980s and was stable for pretty much the entire time they were together, except for 2 hospitalizations - one after the marriage and one when I was a toddler. I grew up thinking my dad was normal, except he didn’t work due to his “nervousness.” My dad’s mom died in the spring of 2015 and after that (I was still living with my parents at the time, dealing with my own depression and anxiety), I noticed he became more distant. Then I learned from his psychiatric nurse that summer that he had stopped taking his meds. My mom, who had cancer for years, by this point was not well and bedridden often. She died in the fall. After she died, my dad was normal the day of, but by the next day or day after, he completely changed. He told me bad things about her that I couldn’t verify now that she was dead, but I know them now to be false, he started hitting on other women right away and insisted he needed a female companion. He never listened to me and did whatever he wanted. He became obsessed with the Bible and religious things, he bought things he didn’t need, became so messy, and became worse as the weeks went on, eventually making a scene at church. I got him to go to the emergency mental department at the local hospital. I was his health care proxy and power of attorney (POA). He was hospitalized for months and it eventually became a lot for me, and I asked my dad’s brother, my uncle, if he could help me. He became my dad’s health care proxy.

My dad ended up in a nursing home about 5 months later, still highly delusional. A month into his stay he was still ill and my uncle had no prognosis to tell me about - just that they didn’t know when he would get better. As power of attorney, and having lived with my parents basically all my life, I knew a few things: my dad doesn’t know how to manage money, especially a large amount, as my mom did it all for him, made his appointments for him, etc. After my mom died, he got everything: the house, my mom’s life insurance money which was a lot, the car, and all he was doing was blowing through the money without a plan, and I needed to make a plan for him. I also needed to sell the house so he could downsize to benefit him financially, etc. The nursing home even advised me to see a lawyer. Long story short, I was working with a lawyer to transfer his assets to me (I am disabled due to mental illness and could do so because of that), so that the nursing home (which was charging my dad $10,000 a month) wouldn’t get all of his money, and so that I could properly manage it for him so he can live off of it for the rest of his life, etc. Lawyers and my mom’s sister, who I trusted, and even my uncle who I told the plan to, were for it. Three days after I told my uncle about it, he texted me that I’ve been revoked as POA and the document is in the mailbox. My uncle took my dad, who was still severely mentally ill at the time in the nursing home that they wouldn’t let him go home, to his lawyer’s office for an “outing” and had my dad sign the document revoking me as POA. My uncle told my dad over and over that I was going to steal my dad’s money, so my dad believed him, and signed the paper. Neither talked to me about their concerns before they did this. After that, if I wanted to ask my uncle a question, or tell him anything, I had to text his wife for an response. My dad truly believed I was going to steal his money and was angry with me. Eventually my dad softened, but I don’t even know if he trusts me at all now.

A few months later my dad was “released” from the nursing home, although I don’t know exactly how he got out as the doctors etc. wanted to keep him there. My dad comes home to live with me, at his house. I start a job and am not home a lot. My uncle schedules a pill dispenser, nurse, and “maid” for my dad. Months later my dad ends up telling me, after much prying on my end, he is in a relationship with the maid. I end up telling my uncle. Turns out, my uncle was not and likely is not, monitoring my dad’s bank accounts at all, and my dad ended up giving this “maid,” who he thought “loved him,” $33,000 and two cars. She kept asking him for money and he kept giving it to her. I have been furious about this ever since, there was an investigation by the elder services organization, but nothing was ever done about it, other than her being fired from her job. My uncle did nothing - my dad was not even limited in how much money he could take out of the bank, nothing. My uncle was blamed for nothing.

Cut to August 2018: I have moved out of my dad’s house and he’s been living alone for 11 months or so. My dad gets worse again because he stopped taking his medication. He gets hospitalized, released after a month, and back in the hospital after a week. During that time, my uncle made glaring mistakes in checking up on my dad’s care (like not getting my dad’s medication list asap to the hospital - it took him 3 weeks do that; and not making sure there was a nurse to visit my dad at home to make sure he takes his pills). I was furious yet again, but could do nothing. My dad’s been hospitalized ever since and is much better now but in a nursing home for a short time right now to do PT and OT. He may be released, back to his home, within the next few weeks. I spoke to the social worker there as soon as possible (My dad was transferred there on a Friday, I called her on the following Monday as she isn’t there on Fridays); turns out she hadn’t even spoken to my uncle yet. I told her my dad cannot be trusted to take his medications on his own. He denies not taking them. He acts and tells everyone he is fine when he is not. He can put on a good face for a while before his behavior really becomes problematic. He doesn’t take his medications when he’s supposed to and says he will take them “later.” I’ve seen it all. I told her I do not get along with my uncle and feel he is not doing enough for my dad (my uncle doesn’t monitor my dad’s bank accounts, has not sold his house like he should have by now, doesn’t have a plan for my dad’s finances which are dwindling, and doesn’t even make sure safe guards are put in place for my dad when he’s discharged, and overall doesn’t get my dad what he needs promptly - I was the one who noticed my dad lost his glasses, and brought my dad his new glasses after them sitting at the eyeglass store for over a week when my uncle was the one who was supposed to deliver them to my dad, etc.). She said it’s unlikely they will find a nurse to watch him take his meds every night and that it’s news to her that he can’t be trusted to take his meds, and if that’s the case, he needs long-term care. If he needs long-term care, my uncle, the health care proxy, is the one who has to push for it.

I never received an apology from my uncle about taking over as POA, and never will. He has disrespected me in a few other ways since 2015, and really didn’t validate my feelings at all. I tried to give him and my aunt advice, they don’t take it. It all came to a head a few weeks ago, where I was disrespected by them, and just gave them a piece of my mind via text, and then said I don’t want to have anything to do with them from now on. I’m on the verge of unfortunately doing the same to my dad. He’s better and not as dense as the rest of his family, but he lacks empathy and accountability, which seems common with his type of mental illness.

My dad puts his (younger by 1-2 years) brother on a pedestal. He can do no wrong. If I tell my dad about my uncle’s bad behavior, he gets angry and makes himself out to be the victim, or swears he loves me more than them. My dad doesn’t say that his brother was wrong or made a mistake or anything. He just says he’s “busy” - that’s why he’s neglecting him, and shrugs his shoulders, so to speak. Today I told my dad I’ve been hurt by him and his brother - how he chose his brother over me, thinking I was going to steal from him. Again, he gets angry and insists he loves me better, but his actions speak otherwise, as my aunt and uncle can apparently do no wrong, and he doesn’t take my advice seriously; he only takes advice from his brother. When I visit him he always ends up offending me in some way. He has put my fiance and I through hell; once I started dating my now-fiance my dad’s actions turned into what I can only describe as an effort to sabotage our relationship and put us in a panic at times. He’s better now, but his happiness for our pending marriage is luke-warm.

I have my fiance, his parents, and my mom’s sister, on my side. They love me, care about me, are compassionate and validate me. I’m so lucky to have them. They think my uncle doesn’t care about my dad and may be stealing his money. I agree, but can’t seem to get through to my dad about this at all. My hands are tied behind my back as far as helping my dad; because I am not his health care proxy or POA, I am practically helpless. I was going to try to get my dad a third-party guardian, but I am low-income and mentally ill myself, and don’t want to deplete my life savings for lawyers. I also have been told that judges usually choose a family member as guardian, so my uncle has a good change of winning anyway. My uncle is a true salesman with a huge ego. He admits no wrong.

Please help me to feel less crazy. I see a psychiatrist and therapist who are also on my side and understanding. But I am having a hard time understanding my dad and his brother, how they can lack empathy (although I know schizophrenia can cause that, but there is no excuse for my uncle). My dad makes me feel like the crazy one for not getting over how I’ve been treated by them. I cut contact with my dad’s family a few weeks ago like I said, and my dad doesn’t want me talking to him at all about his side of the family. This is a dad who used to listen to be as long as I wanted, who cared and validated my feelings, when he was stable when my mom was alive. I doubt he will be like that again. How can I have a relationship with him if I always feel inferior in his eyes compared to my uncle? My dad has not said he knows I wouldn’t steal from him, or that I could manage his money better, or anything. Instead, he judges my personal choices in my own life (like moving to another state), or tries to give his own ridiculous opinions on how I should live my life. I end up crying after visiting him because I feel so bad for his poor condition and grief that I can’t do anything to help. I don’t know how I can get past the betrayal and disrespect he has done to me, along with his complete denial of him and his brother doing anything wrong to me.

Any advice is much appreciated. Apologies for the length of this, but it’s a long story and I want to include it all.


#2

Wow! You have been through a huge long battle that has not yet ended! Welcome to the forum. You are to be commended for your tenacity in trying to connect and help your father, it is obvious you care very much for him. I am so sorry for your tragic loss where your mom is concerned, very sorry. My heart goes out to you for having had such a hard family road to travel. You are very wise to be getting emotional help for yourself, that is an essential component of staying well enough to keep trying to help your father. I am also happy to hear you have a sound support network of your own. You sound very bright and compassionate.

Your uncle sounds like he could have alternative motives for interfering with your efforts to help your father. One thing to consider is that often times mental illness can run in families although sometimes to varying degrees and even different diagnosis’ entirely. Your uncle may not be thinking or behaving in the healthiest of ways, emotionally or cognitively…no way to know for sure if he doesn’t think he has a problem and won’t get help for himself.

Through my trials and tribulations with my sz son who was diagnosed at 21 and is now 34. I found that POA’s are relatively ineffective to get any real headway with a very ill relative. I went for full guardianship which covered both my son’s health and his residence and property, wherever that may be. He never had much to speak of but if he did I would have managed it for him. He lives with me now and because he has been medically compliant for several years he is very stable and doing well, with my help.

Focusing on your situation, it sounds like your father had some substantial wealth to deal with after your mom passed. That always attracts people who may want to get their hands on money. I don’t know your uncle but you sound like a person who would do well to continue trusting your instincts. I think you should be able to have someone investigate the care your uncle is supposedly providing or not providing. My first thought was to call NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) if you have one in your area… They are a wealth of resources and information as well as free classes called Family to Family which teaches everything you could ever want to know about mental illness and the care taking of people with it. I learned so much from that class when I took it. https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers Another thing you could consider if you are up for it, and anyone would understand if you are not…but if you contact your local county Probate court and explain your situation, they could give you options (perhaps) on how to obtain legal guardianship of your father which would supersede any POA that your uncle would have. I also would not let your uncle know anything that you decide to do for your father from here on out…he sounds like he can easily undermine your positive efforts if he chooses to.

Where I live (Ohio) we have something called a Mental Health Ombudsman, which is a person who has even more mental health resources and connections than even NAMI itself…I owe my son’s wellness in part to our ombudsman who has since retired but it was he who gave us the place where we found the doctor who ultimately got my son on clozapine which was the last in a long line of drugs he tried and the one that finally worked for him.

Another idea is to see if you can get in touch with an experienced social worker (hopefully not one fresh out of school but one that’s been around the block a few times) and explain your situation and he or she may be able to come up with other helpful ideas to help your father that you have not thought of yet. Many social workers over the years have helped me deal with different phases of my sons lengthy and rocky recovery.

I hope my suggestions are helpful or at least thought provoking. Your situation with your father is different than the one with me and my son but the common thread is we love our family and want to do whatever we can to make things better for them.

I wish you the best going forward and feel free to read the many stories here that touch a chord with you and to ask as many questions (or vent) as you need to. Stay strong.


#3

Welcome to the forum and than you so much for your post. You have a good heart as you have tried your best to help your dad. I do understand not spending your money to get a 3rd party guardian, and yes, the legal system favors relatives. Unless there is some way to prove very detrimental actions by your uncle, and especially if your dad would dispute them being bad actions, there probably is no way to change the relationship your uncle has as proxy. The only way would be to prove he coerced your dad into revoking your proxy, or that your dad was mentally unsound when he made that decision.

Honestly, I am very glad to hear that you moved out of your dad’s house, you have a fiancee and a loving relationship, that you get along with your fiancee’s family, and you are surviving OK.

Sometimes, there is no way to handle a situation that arises: you were cut out when your uncle became proxy, and you probably will remain cut out of your dad’s care, legally.

I suggest something really simple: just try to be a friend for your dad. You love him, want to visit him, and he doesn’t want to talk about his brother and the rest of his side of the family with you. So, don’t. Just visit and play cards, or watch TV, or just be near him. Tell him jokes, remember the old times, stay pleasant, and be his friend.

It is awful how your uncle perverted your dad’s trust in you. I’m so sorry for all of the wasted money. But in the end, when your dad is gone, perhaps you will be able to say that you remained his friend and built some good times for his last years.

From my own care-giving experience, I learned to stop talking “seriously” with my daughter “all the time” (trying to help her manage her life), and just started going for silent walks and giving her breakfast and dinner, and a year later, our whole relationship is different: she smiles, tells me she loves me, makes me little gifts, etc. She isn’t living her life like I wish she would, but we are friends again.

Good luck sorting this all out for yourself, come a lot to the forum, read and learn. It will help you to better your life and your dad’s.