Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Setting and sticking to boundaries

I would love to hear how family members have set boundaries regarding money and living expenses. My 28 year old daughter is unable to maintain a job. On top of her mental illness, she also has a learning disability. She has tried numerous times to hold a job. She receives SSI and she lives at home. She is also a substance abuser but for the moment is sober. Her meds are finally kicking in and she is starting to get clearer. She insists on hanging out with her old druggie friends and they continue to take advantage of her financially. She claims none of this is her fault. She takes no responsibility. I have told her that i would provide a roof over head and food in her stomach. All else she would need to pay for, especially her cigarette addiction. She also loves to gift her bloodsucking friends with packs of cigarettes. So once again, she has no money and no cigs. She storms and stomps and gets aggressive if i dont buy her cigs. We live in a very small rural town. Other living options for her are pretty nonexistent.
Want to hear how others have dealt with boundary setting particularly for individuals who arent equipped to live on their own

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You mentioned SSI. My son has SSDI and is not allowed to handle his own money. Can you become her rep payee? If so, make it a condition of her living with you. You set an allowance, and if you find she is gifting cigarettes to others reduce her allowance the cost of her gift. It will make her gift doubly expensive and she might decide not to be so generous.

Setting boundaries is pretty easy. Sticking to them requires a decision from you though. Every time she has a temper tantrum and you give in she knows the boundary is not real. So if you set a boundary and she crosses it you have to let her feel the sting of it.

I know it is hard. As I type this my son is in jail. Schizophrenia or not disorderly conduct landed him in jail. He cant afford bail and I wont pay it.


It might help if you become her “guarantor” for her SSDI. You would become the person who receives the checks directly, and could then transfer the money to her account in set increments at scheduled times.
You would probably have to go to a court to be granted that kind of control.
Most banks allow account holders to set this kind of transaction up to happen automatically.
It might be a good idea to get that “guarantor” status and set up weekly money transfers for the same amount.

It can be extremely difficult for someone with Sz to manage their own money, especially if it comes in the form of a monthy, or bi-weekly check.

It is also very common for people with Sz to develop addictions to nicotine and drugs.
There are addiction clinics, substance abuse support groups and therapy targeted toward addiction in some areas.

It’s a really good thing that you are providing a safe and comfortable home for her, but if she isn’t actively engaged in a treatment program (including medication, pdoc visits, therapy and probably more as needed), then you might really just helping her to put off the inevitable. That is, active, consistent treatment.

Her friends might well be a source of a lot of her strife, but I think they might just be another symptom of the disorder. With better clarity and better understanding of how her choices impact her daily life, she might eventually realize those ‘friends’ are hurting her.


@Katee, our son lives at home and receives SSI, but I was designated his “Representative Payee” shortly after he was awarded benefits. As Rep Payee, I receive the Social Security deposits to a bank account and only I have access to those funds.

Right from the start, I told my son that SSI is government money and it’s being used to pay for his food and shelter. It is not “free money” and it will not be wasted. It is money that was granted for a very specific purpose, to pay for his living costs due to his disability and inability to work. I ‘ve also told him numerous times that he’s welcome to seek other housing, and that money will go with him to pay for that housing. Has he complained, tantrumeed, argued, threatened? Yes, absolutely. Too bad. These are the boundaries I’ve set.

Are you the Rep Payee for your daughter’s SSI? If not, I would start charging for food and shelter. I know it’s incredibly hard, but we can’t be held hostage by this illness.


I have set up a joint account with my son, and a separate account that is only mine.
I have determined the amount I will provide him, and once a week set up automatic daily transfers. He occasionally asks for additional more - depending on the reason, I might give a little extra or advance a scheduled payment.

It didn’t get easier overnight, but he knows now that he has a steady source of money but at the limit I have set.


With your daughter’s history of mental illness and substance abuse it should not be too hard to get a probate judge to allow you to be her rep payee. Then her money would be managed by you in a joint account. I had a similar situation since my son was a substance abuser and unwilling to give up old drug friends etc…and had his dx of sz as well so I got guardianship and was named his rep payee early on.

I don’t think he would have come as far as he has so far had I not done that. He was not capable of holding a job or managing his own money-- I did eventually concede to providing him his cigarettes even though I am a non smoker and 100% against smoking in general. I had a long discussion with his doctor and another therapist and studies do show that smoking and mental illness are often directly linked and while it is physically unhealthy it does help calm a mentally ill person’s mind if they have chosen to smoke. I see it in my son all the time-every day,

I hate that he smokes but he If I forced him to go without which I did many times early on because I was so against it, and during several hospital stays he was forced to go without or use a patch and it always made him even more unstable, erratic and full of anxiety and anger.

He started out when he was on his own and often homeless he would somehow manage to go through up to 3 packs a day often by panhandling, but now that I manage his cigarettes and his money and his environment which is always calm and peaceful within our house, he is down to about half a pack a day give or take… He has a Paypal card which I load each month with about $30 or so for minor incidentals- a birthday card, pop, taco bell whatever. Everything else he has at home anyway.

As for his druggy friends they still lurk in the city -but it has been so long and we have moved a couple of times out of necessity and every time they have tried to reach him I have had an opportunity to block him getting any messages either online or by phone. They only want to resume drug activities anyway and my son doesn’t have the insight to know a bad person from a friend. They (the druggie “friends”) haven’t been able to contact him for more than 5 years now. I still occasionally hear him mention them as if they are his life long friends but the disease of schizophrenia and the negative symptom of apathy and lack of motivation works in my favor since my son is soon to be 35. He will never take action to try to connect with them so as long as they don’t reach him, I think we’re good. We are due to move again as well, not for any other reason than to try to improve our living arrangement a little more and stay within our budget.

My son also use to give away his cigarettes to these people he thought were friends but now that isn’t a problem anymore. He literally has no friends. I encourage him to go places where decent friends might be found but he has absolutely no desire or motivation whatsoever.

Your daughter is still young, age makes a difference. If you can get into a different money management style and maybe include the cigarettes in the budget (at a moderate limited amount) and then try to find a way to divert contact with those drug type friends…(I know it’s a HUGE ask) but these things will make a dramatic difference in the long haul.
Just my thoughts for what they’re worth, I do understand where you’re at. I wish you the best going forward. As for boundaries. If there are any they are the ones upheld by me.


Thank you for your suggestions and shares
I appreciate them.

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Totally understand how your feeling, it’s awful to feel powerless, and very difficult to get the correct help depending on where you live I believe…