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Ask Kym Tolson, LCSW, CSAC, NBCCH Your Ow...
Kym Tolson, LCSW, CSAC, NBCCH, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 251
Experience:  Over 15 years of experience as a substance abuse therapist. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker
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How can I help my 75 year old mom who lives 1,000 miles away

Resolved Question:

How can I help my 75 year old mom who lives 1,000 miles away and is trying to cope with a very ill, addicted sister who either refuses or is unable to care for herself. She has a long history of drug addiction, but until last November, held a full time job. Now she is without any means of support. Has fallen off the wagon and is bumming off my mom, but nevertheless is emaciated and mentally ill. Where do we turn for help??? ~monica
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Kym Tolson, LCSW, CSAC, NBCCH replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for using I am sorry to hear your family is going through this. I hate to say it but if your mom isn't even willing to go to Al-Anon there is not much you can do to help her. You could mail her the book "Getting Them Sober" by Toby Rice Drews. There are numerous books in the series and they are very helpful but I'm wondering if she would even read them? Also you can send her Al-anon literature. You can also call and check with the local (near your mom and sis) mental health facility to see what the procedure is for having her involuntarily committed to the hospital if she is not able to care for herself physically but she has to be deemed a harm to herself or someone else to be involuntarily commited to a hospital. I would suggest sharing the above info with your mom. Then I would recommend that you attend Al-anon (if you haven't already). It sounds like your mom might be a bit of an enabler and they are harder to change than the sick person sometimes. Lastly, there is not a lot you can do if the person(s) are unwilling to make changes.

I hope this answer helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions or if you need further clarification about this answer.

I wish you the best with this situation.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thank you Kym for your suggestions.

Would my mother be financially responsible for her initial internment? My sister has no money - it doesn't seem right to bleed my mother's finances.

Also, my sister has three large dogs (2 pitbulls) and some cats. What would we do with those animals?

Any suggestions?

Expert:  Kym Tolson, LCSW, CSAC, NBCCH replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for these additional questions. Your mother would not be financially responsible unless she is her legal guardian. If she chose to pay the bills that would be another situation totally. If someone is committed against their will they will be sent to a hospital where indigent people are taken. Your sister would accrue the bill for the hospitalization more than likely and she would need to be held responsible for it after she is more stable. With that said, most hospitals will write off indigent patients with the proper financial documentation. Some people do end up having to pay very extended plans that are eventually forgiven.

Generally, involuntary hospitalization is not long, just long enough to stabilize and refer the person to an outpatient setting that can help her further. The dogs/cats could be put in a kennel or maybe a neighbor could help? Or they may need to be given away, as this might be what the natural consequence would be if her family were not helping her. This may be enough for her to see real consequences and get help for herself.

I hope these answers help as well.

All the best,
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