Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Tough love leading to massive guilt trip

Although we’ve known all our lives that my mother had some mental problems, it wasn’t until recently that my siblings and I had our worst fears confirmed.

My mom has been having really bad episodes that have involved the police and her being taken to the hospital. While we haven’t been able to get any information due to privacy laws, we know that she was having hallucinations and was violent/verbally abusive to the police and hospital staff.

She’s refusing treatment and refusing to accept that anything is wrong, but she never has any memory of the episodes after the fact.
Does anyone have any advice on how to get her into treatment, when she’s refusing any help?
She’s currently at a psychiatric hospital, but they are only able to keep her for 7 days. If she passes the evaluation, then she’s free to go.

Each time after she’s gone to the hospital, she’s fine for a few days/weeks and then the next episode is always worse than the previous. This last episode resulted in her setting her house on fire. When the fire dept. arrived they found her sitting on the couch and had to forcibly remove her from the house.

Before this episode, she was trying to talk to us as if nothing had happened. Every time we mentioned the episodes or her seeking treatment, she would quickly change the subject. My siblings and I took a stand and told her that we loved her, but until she’s willing to get treatment, we couldn’t go on pretending that nothing was wrong. We told her how terrified we were of losing her and basically gave her an ultimatum, begging that she get treatment.
Now, I can’t help but feel horribly guilty. From what the fire dept. told us, it sounds like her most recent episode was a suicide attempt.

I feel like a horrible daughter. So many times I wanted to call her to see how she was doing, but the last time she spoke she was hallucinating and the conversation was rather traumatic. I just can’t pretend that everything’s okay, but on the same hand…I’m afraid of pushing her over the edge by bringing up the subject. So I end up not calling her at all.

My brother and I both live across the country from her and our sister, who lives near my mom, has a new baby at home. We’re all at the age where we recently finished college so we don’t have money for lawyers, let alone plane tickets and setting her up in a assisted living facility.
Also, we all don’t feel safe having her in our home. My brother and I both share our apartments with roommates and my sister has her baby to worry about.

So, all this to say: We’re lost. We’re terrified of her getting out and hurting herself, or someone else. If anyone has any advice at all, I’d really appreciate it. So far, we’ve run into nothing but red tape and options that we don’t have money for.

Your family is doing your best in a terrible situation. Even if you had resources, if your mother does not accept treatment, it is profoundly difficult to get involuntary treatment as you are discovering.

Depending on which state you live in, there are laws that can help her be committed for longer than one week. Where we live, anyone can petition even without a lawyer. Try to find out the options from the social worker at the hospital where she is committed. Don’t ask about your mom; just ask about legal options. Call the local Health and Welfare where she lives; ask about options. There is a website called Treatment Advocacy Center that lists laws state by state. NAMI where she lives might be able to point your family in a direction…

Also, send her treatment team a letter with all of her history and your concerns for her safety.

My mother did kill herself by setting a house on fire and staying inside. I hope to God the local authorities take your mother’s treatment into their hands and get her safe. ONLY the court can commit her if she refuses treatment.

You are all doing your best. I hope everything works out.

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You have good reason to be concerned - but you also really have to get her into treatment so you’re doing the right thing. The sooner she gets treatment, the better the outcome.

I recommend you review this page on how to get the best care for your family member:

and also this page:

How to Force the System to Give You or Your Family Member Better Care

My MIL always had mental illness, she self medicated with alcohol, Valium and cigarettes. Later in life she switched to alcohol, cigarettes and Xanax.

Neighbors and nurses at my FIL’s nursing home started calling with reports of her behavior getting even more erratic. At first we kids thought they were just noticing her usual mental issues, until her behaviors began to escalate.

None of us could do anything to help because she would not agree to anything. Judges don’t like to take away the rights of the elderly either.

Finally, police took her in for a psychiatric hold and the evaluation came back that she was suffering from vascular dementia in addition to her mental illness. At that point, the system expects the relatives to jump in a manage things. We obtained guardianship and placed her in a nursing home using her assets to pay for the nursing home. We were still spending down her assets on her nursing home care - which is required before she can apply for medicaid, when she passed away from organ failure caused by her vascular dementia.

It sounds like you did the best you could under the circumstances. It is far kinder treatment than to be ignored or refusing to get involved.

Best to you !

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Sigh. Oh, the guilt trip. It seems never-ending. It isn’t fair. We caregivers do our best, but in the end, often it isn’t enough.

A long time ago, when I worked my way up the levels in swimming classes at the Y, I was finally in a lifesaving class. As a tiny, lightweight young woman, the instructor told me to “never, never, never attempt to save someone else without a lifesaver (ring or jacket)” for myself. As he put it: “You will, for certain, be pulled under by a panicking, drowning person, as you just don’t have the physical capacity to save someone, even though you have the heart”. He warned me, and I heeded the warning, as drowning myself, trying to save another, would be a double tragedy.

I have finally realized that I cannot save my daughter from her schizophrenia, it has been pulling me under to try to save her. I have backed off, and am offering life-rings to her, which mostly she rejects. I feel guilty for not trying more, but I cannot let my own health, mental state and financial condition deteriorate more than has already happened in the last two years.