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Problems with Brother

  • 06-09-2021 1:34pm
    Registered Users Posts: 3

    So here’s the situation:

    My 35 year old brother lives at home with my parents (in their 60’s) and my elderly grandmother (92). He’s never moved out, seems to be a recluse, stays in his room all the time, sleeps all day, plays computer games and gambles all night, no interest in socialising, working, or interacting with anyone. He claims the dole but spends this on gambling, drink and hash. I’m not sure if he contributes to the household at all. My mother still makes him food, buys him cigarettes and drink, cleans his room and washes his clothes.

    Whilst this situation annoys us (his 4 siblings), it hasn’t been a huge issue until recently when my grandmother became pretty ill. My mother is now her full-time carer and is understandably exhausted and very stressed out. 3 of the 5 of us live away from home, my sister who lives in the town helps out when she can and my aunt also helps out but it’s been very tough year on my mother. My grandmother won’t move to a residential care unit and my mother won’t accept home help.

    Whilst home at the weekend my aunt told me that my mother recently had to take a loan of €1000 out to pay off my brother’s debts (I’m assuming drug debts or gambling debts but I’m not actually sure). She also had to ask my aunt for a loan of more money for him and was apparently pretty distressed about the whole thing. She didn’t tell any of us this, not even the sibling that lives in the town who would’ve had no issues helping her out. Apparently when my aunt confronted my brother about this, he said to her “I don’t fcuking care, I’ll do what I like. I’m never going to change, what do you want me to do, kill myself?” He seems to have no empathy for my mother's situation at all and expects her to continue to be his slave on top of all the extra work she's doing to care for my grandmother.

    3 of the 5 of us got together to discuss this but we don’t know what to do. Should we confront him about this and tell him to cop the fcuk on in the knowledge that he’s threatened suicide to my aunt (maybe in a joking manner but I’d rather take any threats like that seriously)? I know that people will say that the bottom line is it’s my mother’s house and she can do what she likes. I’m pretty realistic about the situation. My father is very similar to my brother and takes no interest in the household. He will not help out with any issues so we can't depend on him to address the problem. My mother hasn’t kicked my brother out by now and it’s highly unlikely she ever will. I think her thoughts on the matter are that it’s better for him to be under her roof than out on the streets. It’s also her life and she can choose to wait on him hand and foot if she wants. But we’re all worried that this is going to put her in an early grave. Especially now with the added stress of caring for my grandmother. We could offer her financial support so that she’s not in a position to be having to take out loans but is that just enabling her and my brother? How else can we support her though??

    Any thoughts or advice are appreciated. 


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,774 ✭✭✭mohawk

    It’s a very tough one OP. Realistically if your brother is to change it has to come from him and to do that he has to faces whatever issues he has. Most likely as long as your mother tolerates this behaviour it will continue

    Your right that it’s your mothers decision the way she deals with it. However, she is enabling him so be careful of getting too involved as providing financial help could allow your brother to get into a bigger hole. Is it possible to talk to her about your brother and most especially the future when he won’t have parents around to look after him and bail him out of trouble? Realistically your brother needs to go to a GP to get referred for some help.

    Best of luck OP you seem to really care about your mother and I am sure you are a great support to her at this time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,534 ✭✭✭KKkitty

    He's taking some serious advantage of your mother. I've seen a neighbour's house on fire due to a petrol bomb because a son got into drug debt. I'm hoping it's just gambling debt so. You andyour siblings know him better than we do. He needs to grow up. What's going to happen when your parents are gone? He won't cope because he's been mollycoddled so much. You and your siblings need to gang up on him. Do it away from your parents.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,704 ✭✭✭Xterminator

    Hi Op

    as long as your mother is of sound mind and able to make her own decisions you can do nothing about other adults making choices. you could try to inform her but as a grown woman she probably knows there is a downside to letting him away with the consequences of his own choices, but does not want to try to force him o seek help etc.

    perhaps you can persuade mum to try a different approach, or perhaps your brother can be convinced to make a change. you would be able to decide that better than a stranger.

    But as long as your mum chooses to enable your brothers lifestyle. Why would he change? What motivation does he have to change?

  • Registered Users Posts: 3 Belgal21

    Thanks for the comments guys. It's possible he's depressed or has some serious mental health issues but he doesn't seem willing to face up to any of these. He won't go to the doctor for physical health problems he has so getting him to talk about his mental health I think would be out of the question.

    I've spoken with my mother in the past about the future when they pass away. She's suggested to me that I (as the eldest child) be left the house with the strict proviso that my brother be allowed to live in the house (I assume rent free) for as long as he wishes. I'm not sure how enforceable that would be in reality if the house was mine but it really annoyed me at the time because she seems to just be unwilling to address the problem at all and would rather just push it onto me to deal with when they're gone. I don't know what I'd do but what I would rather do would be to just sell the house and divide the proceeds between all 5 of us. My brother can make his own arrangements at that stage. If I tell my mother that that's what I'd do though, she'd just leave the house to him. And he would 100% burn it to the ground (accidentally) or turn it into a halfway house for every drug dealer in the town.

    What happens if we push too hard and he actually does kill himself? My mother would never forgive us.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,673 ✭✭✭mrslancaster

    Maybe your mother realises he has a problem and needs professional help but if he refuses to go to a GP what can she do? He may well be taking advantage but she is unlikely to throw him out as it could cause her more stress and worry to see her son homeless and living rough - no parent wants that for their child. She is between a rock and a hard place & probably doesn't know what to do to try and change his behaviour. Its a tough situation to be in.

    Caring for your grandmother can't be easy either - why does your mother not want a home help? Would she consider a professional cleaning company or a nursing agency instead of a local home help? Maybe the siblings could pay for those to keep the house tidy, clean bathroom, kitchen, hoover, etc. or to give her a break for a morning or an afternoon from caring for your grandmother. It might be annoying to see your brother still at home rent free with all the benefits of having food cooked, laundry done, and cigarettes and drink provided, but realistically it's not a great way to live and you or your siblings probably wouldn't want to swap places with him. Just for now, if you can help your mother in a practical way ie financially, maybe that's the best you can do, and hopefully things might look a bit brighter for your brother soon.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 221 ✭✭SunnySundays

    Your mother completely enables your brother but in her situation with no support from your father, I can understand why she has let the situation continue for as long as she has.

    I think unfortunately your brother might be a lost cause so I would concentrate fully on helping support your mum.

    Maybe you could bring up the fact that she appears to be stressed and under pressure with the responsibility of minding her mother and the complications of having your brother dependent on her too.

    Maybe offer to join her at her new GP visit with a view to discussion her own stresses, options re home help or even occasional respite for your grandmother and even your brother's situation etc.

  • Administrators Posts: 13,436 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Big Bag of Chips

    Ash. J. Williams I am unsure if this is advice you are offering to the OP.

    Personal Issues is an advice forum. People come looking for advice, and posters offer it. Suggesting violence as an answer to anything is not allowed.

    Please read The Forum Charter before posting again.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,788 ✭✭✭ztoical

    OP is there someone from outside the family that your mother trusts like her GP that could speak to her about enabling behavior? She could view you or your siblings as having an issue with your brother but maybe an outside view telling her she's doing long term harm by enabling him and giving advice on steps to help him. Your right its her home and her life and you can't force the issue but you can offer help and support. As the eldest can you speak to her just the two of you so she doesn't feel pressured and discuss your grandmothers care. I get it can be hard to get family to accept outside help. My own grandmother refused any outside help and expected her daughters to give up their lives to look after her and was quite abrasive when we tired to discuss the issue with her. It came to head when everyone was run ragged and she had to agree to professional carers coming for a few hours everyday. As your grandmothers condition gets worse it will become very hard for your mother. Trying to lift someone just into a sitting position in a bed even an small old lady is actually quite hard but carers are trained to do it. Focus on getting her extra help first then focus on the issue of your brother.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 22,257 CMod ✭✭✭✭Pawwed Rig

    With regards to the house there is a thing called a life interest whereby he may have a right to permanently live in the house until his death. You would need to check the wording of the will.

    If this is the case you may want to consider if you want to be left the house as 1. He may outlive you and 2. If he doesn't outlive you what state will the house be in when he finally dies.

    You have a number of options here which you would need to discuss with a solicitor.

  • Administrators, Politics Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 25,947 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Neyite

    If you inherited the house with him having a lifetime interest in it, you will be effectively a landlord to someone who will expect you to do all the repairs for damage that he inflicts on the house. You might actually be better off to let her name him in her will as the inheritor of the house and let him do with it what he likes - it won't be your problem financially then. I wouldn't go near that deal to be honest - not even with someone who didn't have issues!

    I know someone exactly like this. Different jurisdiction but the mother had a nice council house in a decent area. Her plan was that her waster son would inherit the tenancy so that's what happened when she died. And he never paid a penny in rent so was ultimately evicted. He ended up homeless and as an addict, preferred to not use homeless hostels as it curtailed his drinking. He was dead within 10 years of his mother. If she had owned it, he'd have turned it into a squat anyway.

    In this case, the mother absolutely enabled him. Gave him every spare penny she had for his habit. Clothed him and fed him and insulated him from all and any responsibilities and obligations grown up's have. Family members enrolled him in rehab several times but each time he would return home to his mothers sober, she'd give him some money and insist "he go out and catch up with his friends". And well, you can guess what happened after that, each time. Any time her other children would give her money for her bills (because she would have handed him all her pension to piss away) she promptly handed it over to him. They tried to pay for things directly, like buy her shopping and pay the bills directly, she fell out with them because they weren't giving her the cash and only needed bailed out with those high-interest moneylenders anyway. She thought she was acting out of love for a troubled son but in reality, she was propping him up and there was nobody willing to take up the role when she died.

    I'm sorry I can't give you a solution - the only true solution is at the hands of your mother and your brother. But maybe if she knew that not a single one of you would take on the role of looking after him the way she does including putting a roof over his head, she might think long and hard about what she thinks she's doing for him is actually doing to him in the long run.

    Best of luck.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,609 ✭✭✭Bobtheman

    This sounds the most practical solution. Provide a cleaner or financial help. Is there anybody who has influence over your brother?

  • Administrators Posts: 13,436 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Big Bag of Chips

    Your mother is being a martyr, like many women of her generation think they need to be. And honestly, if that's who she is you can't change her.

    She enables your brother by handing him money. She refuses to get in home help to help with your grandmother. She takes on responsibility for every thing and ignores anyone trying to tell her she's not doing herself any good.

    Unless she changes her mindset nothing is going to change. Your brother has no incentive to change. He does exactly as he likes. Why would he change that?

    You need to all stop enabling your mother. By you offering her financial support you are just encouraging her to continue enabling your brother. Your father is also an adult in this situation and barely gets a mention. It sounds like your mother has spent her life managing everyone else, and it has now ended her up in this situation and she knows no different than to keep doing what she's always done. It's so difficult to stand back and watch your mother being taken advantage of. But if she won't listen to reason then there's nothing you can practically do. Everyone involved are adults. So they will do what they want to do.

    Your mother won't listen to you, and won't accelt outside help. She will keep going for as long as she can sustain it. I predict when your grandmother passes on your mother will hit a wall. She'll have been too busy running on empty to notice she was running on empty. When the full-time job of caring for your grandmother is removed from her, her body will realise it was running on empty.

    I think you can't stop it happening. But you can stay close and be there to help her when it does happen. Because it sounds like your dad and brother are going to he less than useless.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,702 ✭✭✭zoobizoo

    How do you and your siblings usually get on with your brother?

    Is he the youngest?

    Is there any sibling close to him?

    What was he like as a child?

    It could be mental health issues but by the sounds of it, it's just someone who has never transitioned into an adult. So he may never have developed life skills to enable him to get on with normal life.

    He could have been s/mothered too much when younger and he's now in a position where he is comfortable (as he has some money, a roof, he's fed and watered) AND if he was to decide "I'm going to do something with my life", what could he possibly do?

    It's easier to numb yourself with booze and dope and play video games than face up to adult life.

    He's in a terrible rut and your mother is making the bad situation worse as:

    She won't accept home help

    She buys him booze and cigarettes

    She cooks for him

    She has made poor decisions regarding the house/inheritance

    Maybe she's the one to talk to - she is choosing that early grave!

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,272 ✭✭✭qwerty13

    Sadly, it seems like your mother has been conditioned into the role of looking after everyone else, and completely ignoring her own needs. This would (to me anyway) seem to be true given that she gives her own mother, her husband, and her adult son a free pass to treat her like a servant.

    I don’t know if you can ever change your mother’s way of doing things OP. To me, it’s in her being by now. The only thing I can think of is for your siblings to band together and fund a carer for your grandmother, or a cleaner for your mother. Or both. And just ignore any protests.

    I don’t believe that your mother is ever going to do anything about your brother . So I’d just try to make her life easier in ways that won’t be used to fund your brother, by paying for carers for your grandmother or cleaning/housework services for your mother. The added benefit of that is that no one can take it away from her. She sounds like a person who is so deeply conditioned to not saying NO, that there’s a chance that perhaps she might like a positive thing being almost given to her without choice

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,624 ✭✭✭notAMember

    This is so painfully common. I have seen this in both sides of my parents family, and in my husband’s family. Youngest son never grows up.

    Your mother is in an awful position, useless husband, useless son, sick mum. when you’re stressed , it’s impossible to make changes, but my heart breaks that neither of them would cook her some meals while she runs herself into the ground.

    I think talking to him would be a good idea. About helping around the house at least, as he is living there. If your mum won’t let him cook , then let him do repairs, garden work, something else. It is soul destroying to have no purpose in life.

  • Registered Users Posts: 171 ✭✭FoFo1254122

    a neighbour had a similar family dynamic. Mother left house to daughter but gave the son right to live in house for life.

    she only did this to make sure daughter took over minding her brother and she knew the son would end up losing the house and become homeless if she left to him.

    I will suggest if you are willed house and he has a right to live then you should refuse it, he will break your Heart.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,100 ✭✭✭manonboard

    Your mother is the problem.

    In summary, the 3 people she is surrounded by are 3 people that she utterly takes care of?

    She's broken. Many women of her age are made this way as they were taught so through generations of servitude. Like what else could she of done 45 years ago? Serving the men n home caring was thier lot.

    Today alot of it is called codependency n martyrdom. Your mother likely needs broken people around her for a purpose. If she didn't. She'd have forced your brother out long ago because it wouldn't suit her n shed understand it's ruining him.

    My family had this problem too. Took years of teaching my mother better health n education before she finally put the boot down on my 35 yr old baby brother

    The best advice I can give you is to focus on helping your mother understand her own needs n better ways of meeting them. Get her into therapy, n start having conversations with her how her protecting of her little baby boy is completely ruining his ability to learn good behaviour by protecting him from all the negative consequences of his choices. He literally can't improve because there is no negative consequences to his current actions. No person usually changes without negative consequences.

    He can recover too but it's a long road for him. He will likely fight any change until he has no choice. I can only imagine the subtle emotional blackmail going on already in such a toxic dynamic. Borrowing money to pay of his debts? Your mother didnt figure out his debts on her own. She was told it..with a sob story..n now he gets to gamble more because it's not even has money being loss now.

    Quite a toxic dynamic there. Sorry if any of that sounds blunt or uncaring. Would love nothing more for both of them to live happy healthy lives.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3 Belgal21

    Thanks for the comments guys, a few are hitting very close to the bone for me. There was a bereavement in the family last week (not my grandmother) which has just heightened tensions in the wider family. Because of this she's pretty emotionally fragile at the moment (exacerbated by ongoing health issues with my grandmother) so I can't push her too hard. I won't be home for another month anyway so it'll give her some space. But I'm at least going to try tackle the 2 issues.

    1. Immediate problem with my mother enabling my brother. BBOC and manonboard said it best in a way I've never even considered before. My mother is a martyr and almost revels in the role. She absolutely kills herself for everyone in our family and refuses all offers of help. She is a slave to my brother, my father and my grandmother. She clearly believes that that is her job now and it breaks my heart. I don't think she'll ever change. My brother is the second youngest but was quite sickly as a child so was definitely smothered by my mother. Dad was a long distance driver so she was on her own most of the time. I think I'll talk through this with my other siblings but ultimately I dont think the situation will change. I'll strongly suggest the home help to my mother next time I'm home and try to make it clear to her that this isn't sustainable and that we can see she's running on empty. Counselling probably isn't gonna happen. I'll maybe also raise the point that she's not helping my brother by coddling him and supporting him. Which leads into problem 2;
    2. Her long term plans for leaving the house to me. I think I'll just have to tell her that I'm not willing to be a long term babysitter for my adult brother. So if she wants to leave the house to him, that's her choice but I won't be taking responsibility for him and neither will any of the rest of us. I'll double check if there's an actual will in place coz I don't think there is (not sure what happens in that instance?). There's a tiny tiny possibility that this will reboot her into dealing with him but realistically I can't see that happening. So we'll just try to support her as best we can for now and take it as it comes.

    Thanks again everyone for the input.

  • Registered Users Posts: 303 ✭✭.42.

    You say he has 4 siblings.

    What are each of the 4 siblings doing to help their mother?

  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,203 Mod ✭✭✭✭HildaOgdenx

    I echo this, OP. Elderly parents of a friend of mine became unwell and they refused point blank to have outsiders in the house, in the form of carers. She and her sister ran themselves ragged, trying to care for them, having to travel quite a distance to do so, as well as holding down jobs and caring for their own families.

    The parents had no choice in the end. It just wasn't sustainable.

    There's no easy solution unfortunately. I fully agree with you - I would be very resistant in your shoes, to the idea of having the family home bequeathed to you, with him having a right of residence. It really is just foisting him onto you.

    As you, and others, have identified, there's an element of martyrdom albeit very well intentioned on your mother's part. He sounds like a lost cause, and I don't know if talking to him will achieve anything.

    I agree re talking to your other siblings, making sure all are on the same page, and also suggesting home help to your mother. She will most likely reject the idea, but you can only try.

    Post edited by HildaOgdenx on

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  • Registered Users Posts: 21 eatsshootsandleaves

    Hi OP, this sounds somewhat similar to my situation. I'm the eldest of four siblings who are all grown up and financially independent, apart from my youngest brother who is a total man-boy living with my parents, similarly to your brother. He stays up all night, playing videogames, not working and being waited on hand and foot, while being totally disrespectful to my mother. Any talk of changing his behaviour, he threatens suicide so my parents feel like they are held hostage to his whims and mood swings. Like your dad, my father is pretty hands off and leaves everything to my mother to do. She openly admits she'd do anything for an easy life and saying yes to everything makes thing easier for her somehow, including being their housekeeper/PA etc. Codependency as a way of avoiding her own feelings and problems I guess.

    We've tried talking to her and to my brother to no avail. As a parent myself, I can imagine that a mother who loves her son finds the thought of releasing him into the world without being fend for himself as unbearable, but like others have suggested, she is destroying him in another way by depriving him of a future once she passes away, as he has never been trained how to live independently.

    It's an awful co-created dynamic and very hard to get out of without a massive overhaul of the relationship.

    I think someone else mentioned this, but your dad gets off very lightly in the situation as he really should be carrying half this burden without your mum having to ask him. He's as guilty of being a negligent father and husband, as your mother is of martyrdom. It's always the mother who takes the blame but where are the fathers in these cases? Sons learn how to be men from their fathers, not just from their mothers.

    If holding a family intervention is too hard, you could write a letter to each of your parents from the four of you to explain your worries, that you care about your mum (and I imagine deep down you care for your brother too!) and that you want what's best for everyone, and make suggestions like others have mentioned. After that, it's up to them as adults, which is very hard for you to watch.

    I think focusing on caring for her as much as you can might be the only thing you can do, as her husband and son don't seem to care, and she doesn't seem to care much about herself either which is really sad. Offering to help with housework, groceries, taking her out for lunch or afternoon tea, texting or calling regularly, or the bigger suggestions like others have mentioned like paying for a carer and/or housekeeper.

    Best of luck, you have my sympathy. Family dynamics are so tough.