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Adult Brother Showing Signs of Emotional Abuse Toward Elderly Mother

by Anonymous

Dear Dr. DeFoore: My adult brother, 51 years old, lives with my elderly mother in her home. My Mother is mentally alert and physically active as she walks independently and still drives her own vehicle. She also grocery shops and carries on with her activities of daily living with independence at the age of 78.

My brother has lived with her and my late father for probably 15 years now as my brother was in financial troubles and had lost driving privileges due to a DWI. He has consistently been employed during this time but never paid a monthly allowance or helped with monthly bills at the house as he had "his own expenses to take care of" due to child support, legal woes due to DWI, credit card bills etc.. So he has poor credit.

Well, my parents have enabled him to be quite dependent through the years, all in the name of "helping him" or taking care of him so he doesn't have to live on the street. Well, my brother was really never very respectful toward either of them, often arguing with them over money, chores, or various reasons. He also had some good times and memories with them. We as siblings have just continued on with our lives and families but were often upset that our brother could never move out of their house as he was the source of so much angst and issues.

Now, Dad has passed away and my brother's anger seems to have escalated. The anger rears up at various times when my Mom hints at maybe having to sell the house or make decisions for her own well-being.

In the latest episode, she sold a second car that was not running and she wanted to get out of the driveway. She sold it and he came home unexpectedly and flew into a rage over a car that did not belong to him, it belonged to my mother. He threatened to break a planter, insulted the buyers with racial slurs, came in the house and ripped pictures off my mother's wall and yelled at her.

To my knowledge, he has not physically harmed her, but I have seen his "tantrums" and they scare me and my Mom. She called a friend to come over, another elderly lady and he said to her, and "yeah, and you too can get the hell out of here!"

I have a terrible relationship with this brother but get along fine with my other siblings. One reason I have conflict with him is his lack of respect and dignity towards my Mom. He emotionally abuses her and threatens to sometimes harm himself or emotionally blackmail her if things don't go his way. He does treat women as "second class" citizens and has very traditional views that they should cook and clean and not "talk back."

I am working out a plan for my Mom to sell her home and move to a senior apartment per her wishes for her future. It still is 10 months away for a move. Yet, we are afraid this brother "will blow a gasket" or do something irrational when he finds out, because he is unpredictable and it threatens his living situation. So she keeps this information from him as she feels threatened by his response.

What resources are available to help this brother and my mother? What is the best way to address his anger issues as he is an adult and does not listen to his sisters or his Mom?

He has a lot of anger but can turn around and be nice to her the next day. He has poor social skills and a low self-esteem with signs of depression. He does not drink anymore to our knowledge and has a valid driver license but poor credit, making moving out difficult for himself.

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Oct 01, 2015
Help Is Available
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hello - Thanks for telling your story here. It's good that your mother has you to help her. As you well know, your parents created this situation, and unfortunately your brother has cooperated by becoming a highly dysfunctional human being.

I suggest that you and your mother both read this page on parenting adult children, especially the stories by other parents, that also include my responses and advice.

You are correct in your thoughts that your mother and brother need to be separated physically. These situations never get better until the adult son/daughter is living separately.

Your brother is on his own re. living and making it on his own. And that is exactly as it should be. You and your mother have to let go of the need to take care of can't, and he has to, one way or another.

I hope this is helpful.

My best,

Dr. DeFoore

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