My mom (51) has schizophrenia, occurence started two years ago; and I just don’t know what to do or how to be supportive and have boundaries

My mom started showing signs of psychosis two years ago. About 5 months ago, she came to visit my partner and I, and never left. I found out a few weeks ago that she gave up her apartment in her hometown; she’s taking a little road trip now but usually stays outside in her car even when she’s here, coming in to shower and use the bathroom sometimes once an hour or sometimes less.

She doesn’t want an apartment, as she thinks it makes her situation worse.

She won’t seek treatment, as she (sadly) does not have the insight to see that she is experiencing hallucinations and delusions.

As her daughter, I’m exhausted. She always wants my time and energy, and is always so low - she’s functioning less and less well over time, able to do seemingly progressively less for herself.

I don’t know how to help her appropriately while having healthy boundaries; I feel guilty sharing this, but I just want to have my home back and be able to live and thrive with my partner. I also want to know that she’s safe, and to be able to see her for planned visits, but living together really isn’t working for my family (although currently it’s the only option that doesn’t leave her homeless “by choice”.)

Any tips/advice?

I’m also especially interested in knowing other people’s experiences, especially children of parents with psychosis.

Hi Rishl, Welcome to the forum.

Rishl, I was wondering if your mom had been diagnosed with schizophrenia? Late onset can happen, we are told its not that common. Dementia and brain tumors can cause similar symptoms What sort of psychosis is she experiencing?

My MIL was neurodiverse/schizophrenia. From what we can tell from observations of family members, her symptoms showed up quite subtly in her late teens. She was quite functional on some days and was able to be married and had children. She self medicated with alcohol and was considered to be an alcoholic. She developed vascular dementia, eventually she needed full time care.

Did you know there is a growing culture of people moving into their cars? While many are homeless and its not by their choice, there are older adults “choosing” this lifestyle due to limited income and resources. She may need a home base to use as an address to keep her car registration current and to have a place for her mail to arrive.

One of our biggest struggles is our desire to want to keep our family members safe. Maybe the best option is to encourage your mom to take those road trips? We are told we have to release our family members to their “journey”.

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I love the idea of just supporting her travels! She has had brain scans done, and no signs of a tumor as of a year and a half ago, but I’ve wondered about dementia, too. She hasn’t been diagnosed as far as I know; I’ve heard that severe PTSD (which she has) can also cause psychosis - I’ve also wondered if that could be a cause, worsening with lack of treatment. She was also on a sleeping medication, started on it a few months before the onset of psychosis, for which psychosis is a side effect. She told me she stopped taking it a few months ago, but it’s possible she wasn’t truthful about that? Psychosis can be caused by so many different things; I should clarify the lack of diagnosis in my title… I would love to have her checked out to see what a possible cause/treatment and/or care path would look like. She did take an antipsychotic (I’m not sure of the exact medication, as she wouldn’t tell me at the time) when this first started with some success - and then dropped them. I’m not sure if they provided a preliminary diagnosis at that time, either, although of course a lot of this can be educated guesswork/the application of treatments until or unless something sticks.

I’m a fan of van life! My partner and I traveled for years with our two dogs! My main concern with her social anxiety/her ability to meet her needs (showers, etc) while traveling because of it. I think finding a way to help support her travel adventures could be really amazing, maybe helping her to structure a trip or get a five gallon with a pump spout etc, although admittedly I do worry that she might not ever seek treatment - and casually hope that she might seek treatment if she’s nearer by? That thought may not be grounded, though.

Thank you so much for your insight and advice; I truly appreciate it!

Oh, and as far as the type of psychosis, from what she’s shared it includes delusions mostly involving people wanting to harm or frame her (she believes her brain is chipped, and that people believe she has done harm or want to frame her for doing harm that she hasn’t done, or taking advantage of the government to get SSDI, which she’s been on for years for PTSD and severe social anxiety - she definitely needs it and cannot sustain work, even more so now.) She does also have auditory hallucinations and physical sensations/hallucinations.

I’m curious, how did those “subtle” signs present in your MIL?

My MIL began secluding herself which is often an early sign. She began to be fascinated with herself in mirrors. One of her relatives spotted her at age 19 walking in their small town’s downtown, very much in her own world, captivated by watching herself in the store windows.

Later in life, she would constantly tell people things that she said other people had told her. This caused a lot of problems in her family life as many of the quotes were quite unkind. I find it interesting because she interpreted her “voices” the same way my son, her grandson did. Both attribute auditory hallucinations to real people.

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It is a difficult situation. Are there organizations in your area that do outreach to homeless and/or mentally ill people? Some orgs are very good in trying to engage people in your mom’s situation. You can send them a picture, name and places she could be. My mentally ill son was homeless and one org. reached out to him every week. The story of my son is complex but just saying that could be an option. As of now it seems that the most you can do is support her with a place to take a shower, etc. I know u want to do more and get results, but this is a very long journey. You cannot solve all the problems, just a few.

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Thank you for that; I’m trying to just be a friendly face and learn more so that I can provide appropriate support going forward. It’s a process!