Schizophrenic Uncle

I’m nearly 50, and I’ve been a caregiver of my mother with Parkinson’s for nearly 14 years, and dad passed away a year ago (I’m an only child and only son). Mom’s brother (my uncle) helped some when dad was dying, but my uncle’s judgment was really bad, and his thinking was all over the place.

There were years when this uncle was mandated to take shots for schizophrenia. But a few years ago, apparently a doctor said he didn’t think he had schizophrenia, so no more shots or medication of any kind for schizophrenia. I don’t know exactly what the story is there because I heard that second and third hand.

Anyway, a year and a half ago when my uncle was helping at our house when I was at work, dad was home with heart failure, and mom has her Parkinson’s, my uncle “remembered” that his brother and his brother’s wife molested him when he was a child. The only problem with this is that this brother HADN’T MET HIS WIFE YET when my uncle was a child–they were all way into adulthood when that uncle met his wife and they married. The delusional uncle also went off on how doctors kidnapped him and another (different) brother when they were kids and implanted something in their feet, so that’s why he has a limp now. (The other brother has no idea what he’s talking about, and the brother he accused of molesting him won’t talk to him anymore either, although he did try to reach out a couple of times to get him to see reason, but to no avail. And they are all in their 70s now, and he just now “remembered” this.)

Ever since dad died, my uncle has tried to get money out of mom at every opportunity (every holiday, every birthday, even dead relatives birthdays to see if he can catch a ride to the graveyard and get money from mom), tried to get one of her old cars so he can “come take care of her” (he literally sold his car for $400 bucks then immediately thought he could just have mom’s old car), etc. He has a son who also has schizophrenia and has been in the state system for about 25 years, and he’s supposed to visit him for 3 weeks starting January 4th.

I can’t really convey in simple (or short) terms how dysfunctional this all is. My uncle is against all doctors, all medicine, yada yada yada, and is extremely negative. Mom has Parkinson’s and a DBS (Deep Brain Stimulator) that acts like a pacemaker for the brain. She literally has wires going into her brain to help her function, which plays into all my uncle’s delusions. The only family members that talk to this uncle routinely are my mom (who still kind of thinks she has to be the big sister and take care of him), and a cousin of mine who is a few years older than me. The uncle really has no interest in talking to me because he thinks I’m “drugging” mom with her Parkinson’s medications. I tried to explain to him that she cannot walk, talk, or move without the medications, but he just ignores it all.

My cousin texts me often to warn be about what he’s thinking or trying to get out of mom. This cousin tries to help him also, but it often backfires. For example, she bought him a bunch of groceries, thinking he would waste the money if she gave him money. She came back an hour later with more groceries and he was selling the first load to his neighbors!

He took all his Christmas money and spent it on presents for mom (we need nothing and told him so many times), and apparently he spend 150 on cheese and crackers and 160 on cigars for when his son visits in January…so by the end of the first week of December he was broke again. If you give him money to help him out, it immediately gets wasted. He’s angry at everyone, and now I’ve been added to the list of people he hates for reasons that make little sense. If the doctors can’t make mom 25 again, he apparently thinks it doesn’t matter that she can walk and talk and continue to live at home with the caregiving I supply. Mom’s urologist recently prescribed hormone cream to help with her urinary pain, and he immediately called my cousin to tell her I’m forcing mom to take hormones that screw her up

I’m getting to the point where I’m afraid I might go off on him, and I know that won’t work. But nothing seems to be working NOW. My only strategy now is ignoring him because all he can do is talk to mom on the phone, and so far she’s not listening to him. But just his negativity and anger can make her Parkinson’s worse.

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Hi @greyeyed123 and welcome to this site. Personally, I think your strategy is the best strategy for this situation. It is a shame that the doctor took your uncle off meds that were working. There is no way to talk someone out of their delusions/hallucinations, so most likely your uncle will NOT get better, especially coming around to gain access to money and possessions the “easy way” (i.e. if people keep giving him their money and possessions.)

He’s almost relentless with trying to get money, but last year I only allowed her to give him $40 for his birthday and $100 for Christmas (some relatives send him money on occasion, but other relatives who USED to send him money don’t anymore as it just gets immediately wasted most of the time). I’m a teacher, and during parent conferences last spring he drove out (before selling his car) to watch her during my late day, then told her he had no money for gas to get home. She knew I was keeping tabs on how much cash was in her purse, so she gave him a bunch of quarters for gas! It really takes a lot to get me angry, but that did it.

My oldest living uncle said many years ago (probably 40 or more) that this delusional uncle once called their mom (my grandma) for money (which he did all the time even though she was dirt poor). She told him she had no money, only a dollar. He said, “I’ll be right over!” to get that dollar.

Once in the late '90s I brought this grandma and this uncle out for Christmas. After I took them home, this uncle started asking me about my work at the grocery store (I was in my early 20’s), how much I was making, and how he had no money for gas! It was so bizarre. He was twice my age and I was only making $7/hour at the time. I just ignored him and left.

The cousin I mentioned was helping him quite a bit with money until a few years ago. She drove him to see his son (also with schizophrenia, in a state facility) and it came to light that almost all the money she was giving him was going to his son and then immediately wasted. The $150 he spent on cigars this month is apparently for when his son comes to visit in January (he only gets 3 weeks a year for leave, and each year he uses all three weeks in January). This cousin texted me a couple days ago, and she said my uncle wanted her to go buy chewing tobacco for when his son visits. She said no.

What makes this all worse for me to deal with is that I’ve moved heaven and earth to take care of mom and dad, and he second guesses everything I’ve done (when he’s not trying to undermine me, but unsuccessfully…it still stresses me out). Dad was in the hospital three times in his last 7 months, and this uncle tried to convince me to have dad shipped to a VA hospital many miles away because “the VA should pay for it”–even though dad had plenty of insurance, hated the VA, and needed to be close to me and mom as he was dying. Similarly with mom…she’s on year 14 of a Parkinson’s diagnosis, and still walking and talking and getting around the house pretty well. Yet he continually complains about all the pills she has to take, suggests to my cousin she should stop taking them, and this week has finally started vaguely complaining about her implant (the very two things that allow her to function).

I sometimes can’t believe how backwards everything in my life is, or how I’m holding it all together.

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I do hope that somehow you keep on coping with your life and holding things together. Your mother depends on you to do that. I’m sorry that your uncle is not doing well.

Thanks. Sorry I wrote so much. I’m an English teacher and I have no one to talk to about this, so it’s a double whammy of writing too much.

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Oh you made me laugh with your comment, I can totally understand why writing comes fast and easy to you and you might write a lot. It is totally OK to post here a short or a long or a very long post. People have their own styles of writing here. The important thing is that you DO come here and post and read! No one really ever understood what I was going through with my daughter’s episodes and there WAS no one for me to talk to except on Reddit, this site, and at NAMI. This site was a lifeline for me, @Hope started a thread I found long ago on unmedicated schizophrenia. That’s how I found this site. So you just keep coming and posting, OK? Promise? You do need someone to talk to.

I could get carried away and write a lot too, I type fast, am very good at English (highest entrance exam score in my college at that time) and love to talk, in general.

One question: how far away does the ill uncle live from you and your mom?

My uncle lives about 8 or so miles away, but literally one block from my work. He’s tried to use that fact often to obligate me to stop at his house and get this or that for mom, but I just ignore that (he’ll have me jumping through hoops all the time if I jump every time he wants me to). Mom’s birthday is August 23, and he had her presents in the middle of July! I picked them up when we returned for school right before her birthday, but he called very often (sometimes every day) to see if I was coming to get her gifts. For Christmas, I couldn’t pick up the gifts on our last day of school because of testing and because mom had a doctor’s appointment at 4pm. He was mad about that so had my cousin drive him out with the presents. Then a couple days later he bought MORE presents and wanted me to pick THOSE up. He got so antsy about it that he had the cousin bring him out for those also.

It will be two years ago in March that my folks had their 50th wedding anniversary. I was going to take them to a home decor store to pick things out for the house, but dad didn’t feel good that day so my uncle said he wanted to go, lol. I thought was weird, but he complained the whole time that you had to be a doctor to afford any of that stuff (I’m sure it looked expensive to him since he’s broke all the time, but it really wasn’t–he is often overly concerned with everyone else’s finances).

Later that year when dad became sick, dad wanted him around just in case because of mom’s Parkinson’s (and I was at work for 8 hours on school days). For years dad was angry about any money mom would give my uncle, and I didn’t care much because it was only $20 once in a great while (years ago he used to waste money playing bingo all the time). But dad and I switched places when dad got sick–he gave my uncle $500 once right before returning home from one of the hospital stays, and after that my uncle became worse at wanting to stick around our house all the time. This made me nervous because his judgment was terrible, and most of the time mom was watching him more than he was watching mom and dad. Dad was in end-stage heart failure, and my uncle was buying canned soup with WAY over dad’s daily allowance of salt in one can, which literally could have killed him. My uncle was “taking care of him” like dad was a child with a cold or something. (Dad was on his deathbed, and my uncle was trying to make him eat three big meals a day. After I got home one day, my uncle asked dad what he wanted for “din-din” and dad said nothing. My uncle got mad about that, and I had to explain that he doesn’t eat that much anymore.) He was also trying to feed dad donuts when both he and dad had diabetes. Dad had to tell him that he (my uncle) wasn’t supposed to be eating them either!

Once when I took dad to the heart doctor, we forgot to turn off his oxygen concentrator at home, and the little cup of water attached to the machine to humidify the oxygen ran out, so the little alarm went off to tell you to put more water in it. My uncle thought it was going to explode so freaked out and called the number on the side, rather than just shutting it off (with the giant on/off switch on the side). That kind of thing always scared me because if he couldn’t deal with THAT kind of non-emergency, what if something actually happened?

I just felt like my uncle was not only trying to replace dad (and doing a terrible job), but also trying to replace ME, and doing a terrible job. He kept grabbing dad’s truck keys each day (but driving his own car) to get the mail at our PO Box. I told him we didn’t need him to check the mail everyday. Later, my cousin told me that he said we had an extra car (mom’s old car) and an extra truck (dad’s), and he apparently had his eye on those for some time. In September he called mom to tell her he couldn’t come out to watch her anymore because he sold his car. To me this was an obvious ploy to get one of our cars, but mom didn’t seem to catch on. A month or two later, he flatly ASKED her if he could have her car so he could “take care of her”. She told him the brakes didn’t work right and the battery was dead. He said he didn’t care about the brakes and our insurance could pay to fix it, lol. (She did admit to me that it was a bad idea, and we just ignored his request.) He’s never asked for dad’s truck, although my cousin told me he said months ago that we have “an extra truck”. But there is no way in hell he’s getting dad’s truck.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned he might show up at my school some time (and my school has very good security, so a tall, limping, '70 something old man would stick out like a sore thumb), but my cousin says he is terrified of being hospitalized again so hides his symptoms as well as he can. I’ve also started locking our doors at night for fear he might get it in his head to catch an Uber or a cab to our house in the middle of the night for some reason. He apparently calls his son at 1 in the morning most nights. (I can’t imagine those two talking to each other, and I can’t imagine how it will be when his son comes to visit for 3 weeks starting January 4th. My uncle has no car, and a tiny one bedroom apartment. I’m sure all his money will be spent in a couple days and he’ll be scheming to get some from mom again.)

Oh gosh, sigh, what a problem your uncle has been, but as I see it, it was very smart of your mother to refuse him her car. And of course you must keep your dad’s truck! It is actually not social at all of your uncle to expect you to give him things. I feel sorry for him.

I have a cousin by marriage who about 4 years ago became severely mentally ill. Her aunt took care of her rent for 4 years and then finally stopped paying. Everyone in the family feels guilty that the cousin is right now a homeless person, but after 4 years of being helped to exist by everyone, it has all stopped. She is making it “OK” with the homeless community and still insists she is not having mental problems. All the help in the world from the family couldn’t save her from herself causing her own decline. She was offered several places to live with family and friends, but couldn’t abide by simple rules of decency (politeness) and now she is on her own. I think the family members were all shocked by the reality of SMI (severe mental illness).

You need to care for yourself and your mother as your top priorities. Your uncle is not capable of being a help and is almost like a black hole, sucking down your energy and help. I wonder how the visit from his son will go later this month.

It’s a year ago today that dad passed, and my uncle’s son visited him for 3 weeks last January as well. His son came to dad’s funeral, but the uncle did not. He said he didn’t want to see his brother and his brother’s wife who he says molested him as a child (but as I said, they were all very much adults when his brother met his wife, so it makes no sense all the way around).

I know my uncle doesn’t deal with death very well. Five or so years ago he made a friend who did landscaping, and ended up working with him for a year or so and seemed to do pretty well (at least in terms of making extra money, keeping busy, socializing with this friend). But this friend ended up dying in a motorcycle accident (and may have had other health problems that led to the accident), and hence the job disappeared (the only job he’s had in decades as far as I am aware). He apparently had some other disabled friend since then that he was trying to help who also died. And then dad, of course. It’s odd, but he seems attracted to helping people who are near death, then falling apart after they die.

My oldest aunt (mom’s sister) called her a couple weeks ago to tell her she got a Christmas card from this uncle that rambled all the way to the back of the card about how they’ll all be dead soon with their other dead relatives. This aunt was very concerned his schizophrenia had returned. All mom said was that he told her the doctors told him he didn’t have it.

I had been under the impression for years that he was still mandated to take the shots. When he first started helping with mom and dad a year and a half ago, I thought his behavior was odd. When I asked mom if he was still on medication, she told me he took pills now. I told her at the time that I didn’t think he was actually taking them. But later mom said she just assumed he was taking meds for schizophrenia because he said he had to take “pills” everyday (and would often forget to bring his own pills to our house, and use that as an excuse to leave as soon as I got in the door). But after dad passed and my cousin started texting me, she said he’s been off the injections in recent years and only takes medicine for diabetes. So suddenly everything made sense to me.

I’ve tried to explain to this cousin that we can’t talk him out of being sick, but she’s kind of like mom in that she wants to take care of everyone. She says she’s not helping him with money to the extent she was years ago, but I suspect she is a big reason he hasn’t become homeless over the years. But at this point, he’s only a step away from homelessness. When he got rid of his car for 400 bucks, he told mom he was buying a cart to pull his groceries home from the store. I told her the cart would probably cost almost as much as he sold his CAR for. And now I think he’s either sold the cart also or gave it away because I’ve only seen him carrying a bag or two now. (He often throws away things or gives them away also.)

I’ve also suspected him of wanting to move in with us (which is not happening, and even mom knows that). Shortly after asking her for her car, he told her he was moving to a town 50 miles away because the rent was cheaper (he only pays 300 a month now because his apartment is subsidized). I immediately thought that was a ploy to get her to say, “Why don’t you move in with us?” He had no money to move, there are no relatives in that town, and it just sounded like he was trying to get her to feel sorry for him (again). When THAT didn’t work, he called their brother that lives out of state and asked if he could come stay with them “for about three weeks”. That brother’s wife said no before he was finished with the question.

I’m sorry you are in such a difficult relationship with your uncle. You could document these events and do a involuntary petition for him to be evaluated? I know this is stressful as well but he definitely needs help for both your Mom and yourself to be safe.

He has an adult daughter also who is doing well, but according to my cousin this daughter won’t help much or give him money anymore because he “won’t take his meds”. All I know for certain is that he was mandated to take the shots for many years, and at some point in the last 10 or so years that mandate stopped. All the details I have around that are second and third hand through people who are elderly with bad memories, or from my uncle himself (through mom, who isn’t terribly clear headed much of the time, or my cousin, who is likely more accurate but gets a lot of her info straight from my uncle also).

I don’t feel like I have enough to kick the bees hive of trying to get him evaluated. Plus, I’m just his nephew when he has a stable daughter, and several living siblings. And I have enough on my plate with mom’s Parkinson’s and work.

Unfortunate for you and your Mom. Wish you could set better boundaries for your Mom and you. How about a family meeting? Ask his daughter to pursue a mandate? I agree this is hugely stressful especially caring for your Mom. You are an amazing son. Do take care of yourself.

I think I’ve done fairly well with the boundaries last year. He only got birthday money (for his own birthday, lol), and Christmas money. He didn’t get anything else he wanted from us.

Mom is always going to talk to him on the phone. She was like a second mother to the five younger boys (mom was the 6th child of 11, so right in the middle; after their father died when mom was 14 and the older children moved out, she helped take care of the younger ones, including this uncle…so her sense of obligation toward him is deep).

Only six of them are still with us. One is out of state (and also recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s), one is 87 years old and on the other side of the state (and mostly deaf), one lives here but is nearly 80 and housebound (unable to walk anymore) with a caregiver 40+ hours a week (and he hasn’t talked to this one in years), one is the brother he accused of molesting him (who takes care of a disabled wife, also unable to walk), mom has Parkinson’s (and has a caregiver we pay for for 4 hours a day, plus everything I do before and after work), and the 6th is this uncle himself.

The daughter is in her late 40s, lives several 100 miles away, and I fear she reached the end of her rope with him several years ago. His son is under state care also with schizophrenia.

I have many, many cousins, but I don’t see anyone wanting anything to do with this (except the one I already mentioned). So a family meeting isn’t feasible.

He’s never done anything that physically hurt himself or anyone else. I know he was hospitalized in the '80s after he put a blanket over one of his brother’s tvs and wouldn’t let the family take it off as he thought it was stealing everyone’s thoughts or something. After they were unable to reason with him (and started scaring the whole family) they called an ambulance. There may have been some episodes in between that were similar, but that is the one I remember where I think he was first diagnosed.

Just an update for me to vent. My uncle hasn’t been calling mom at all since his son started visiting him on January 4th. But she calls him every few days. Last night she called and he started yelling and cussing, as he often does, and she tried to calm him down. Apparently he called his pharmacy for a refill on his diabetes meds, and they refilled the prescription in the name of his old doctor. A few months ago he started yelling at his old doctor and that doctor’s nurse, until that doctor told him he can’t talk to people that way and told him to leave. He vaguely thought he would go back to that doctor, and either decided against it or they told him he couldn’t go back there anymore. In any case, he switched doctors. And when he saw the name of this old doctor on his new prescriptions yesterday, he went berserk and walked back to the pharmacy (he still has no car) and yelled at them because they wouldn’t take a refund or exchange. He wanted a pill bottle with his new doctor’s name on the bottle! (The medication was exactly the same.) As anyone knows, a pharmacy will not give refunds or exchanges on prescriptions. And he didn’t have any money to fill the prescription again in his new doctor’s name. I could hear him yelling in mom’s ear (on the phone, not on speaker phone), something like, “Would you want to take medication that has the WRONG doctor’s name on the bottle? WOULD YOU? WOULD YOU?” This is apparently what he was yelling at the pharmacy people, but was still angry so kind of yelling it at mom also.

On her last phone call with him a few days ago, he was talking bad about his brother whose wife just passed away (the brother and wife he “remembered” molested him when he was a child). He told mom this brother will probably get drunk and get a new girlfriend, but his language was much more disgusting. It’s so bizarre. This other brother was married to his wife for over 50 years. He took care of her for the last 25 years as she was mostly wheelchair bound. And like I said, it is impossible they molested him as a child as they met as adults (and he was an adult at the time also).

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Your uncle had got to get back on monthly injectables. Hopefully, you can work with your cousins to make sure that happens.

Keep boundaries for yourself! You have more than enough on your plate.

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Well, sort of an ironic update. As I said before, my uncle with schizophrenia had his son (also with schizophrenia) visiting him from state care for 3 weeks. His son (my cousin) only has 3 weeks leave a year, and uses them all up in January. But since my aunt passed away (his sister-in-law), his son wanted to stay and go to the funeral February 9th.

At first I heard through the texting grapevine that the son had to go back to state care for one day (today), take a UA, and then could return for nearly 2 more weeks for the funeral on the 9th. I thought that was weird as they have been pretty strict with the 3 weeks in the past. I can understand funeral leave, but adding two more weeks of leave with a shrug seemed unlikely to me. (My guess is that the info is coming from the son, through my uncle, to my mom, and then to me, and it’s probably getting scrambled at the source as his son often seems to characterize things the way he wants them to be rather than how they are.)

Today my uncle called mom, and had it on speaker phone. Apparently his son ran out of meds for 3-4 days, and my uncle said he “had a hell of a time handling him”. He said they didn’t give him enough meds for the 3 weeks. His son didn’t want to go back to state care, and apparently had to take 2 valium simply to get on the bus to go back.

During this conversation, his son was calling him (having arrived at the state facility on the other side of the state) so he hung up. He called back a couple minutes later and said that his son discovered he took his meds wrong over the 3 weeks, which is why he ran out early. And now returning for our aunt’s funeral looks doubtful. My uncle said he told his son that if he can’t even take his meds correctly for 3 weeks, how is he supposed to live on his own (I think he may be in a “halfway house” at this point, but I think he’s been in the “halfway house” for 3-5 years now. Maybe more. At one point he was supposed to be getting a job at Amazon, and “supposed to be” stretched into a couple of years before he said he had to achieve certain milestones first before even getting the OPPORTUNITY…milestones he never reached.)

My uncle seemed exasperated his son had no meds for a few days (usually my uncle hates all meds and doctors), and happy his son was gone, but apparently doesn’t see that his own behavior is strikingly similar.

My thinking is that if his son was agitated, took his meds wrong, may have taken other substances (hence the UA), etc., when he arrived back in state care, whoever is in charge isn’t going to send him right back to his dad’s house. I think he’ll be really lucky if they give him one day to go to the funeral on the 9th, but I would probably doubt that as well. (Also, his son is about 45 or 46 years old. I’m doubtful he’s ever going to be “on his own”.)

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So, my uncle’s son is not coming back for the funeral. If the info through my uncle is accurate, it’s just as I thought. His son has apparently been out of sorts since taking his meds wrong, so when the doctors tried to get him back on the right track, it didn’t work very well. So they stopped him again, then are starting him again (on new meds?). In any case, they said it will take at least two weeks for him to stabilize if this works, and the funeral is on the 9th, so he’s not coming back until next year.

His son was “supposed to be” getting an apartment on December 1st (moving out of the “half way” house he’s been in for years now), but that never happened either. Every couple months something is “supposed to” happen that never does.

Update. So I guess my uncle’s new doctor asked him if he “missed any of his shots”, apparently under the impression that he SHOULD clearly have been on them this whole time. In talking to his daughter at my aunt’s funeral, she said he has been off them for 3 or 4 years since a previous doctor just decided he didn’t think he had schizophrenia. His daughter was really mad about this. I don’t know how many doctors he’s been through since then, but at least a couple as he rants and raves at them until they tell him not to come back.

My guess is that this current doctor went through his charts, listened to his delusional statements, and asked the obvious question (“Did you miss any of your shots?”). So my uncle was mad about that.

He didn’t go to my aunt’s funeral (as I discussed above), but my cousin told me his neighbor just died. So we were concerned about him getting worse from THAT stress. But when mom called him yesterday (not mentioning the neighbor just in case it would trigger him), he spent the whole call talking about people who knocked on his door and wanted to buy his apartment complex. He said he kept telling them he wasn’t the owner, but they kept asking him questions anyway. No mention of the dead neighbor at all. Mom said he was giving her a headache with his talk so she told him she had to go to eat dinner.

I think either he was delusional about these people wanting to buy the complex, or they were robbers/scammers scoping out the place and trying to get information out of him. Most of the time it’s impossible to tell WHAT is going on the way he tells things.