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Question:  I am taking care of my elderly mother who has COPD and hypotension along with anemia. She has had a few strokes. I also have an alcoholic brother living with me. I have a schizoaffective disorder which is poorly managed and is aggravated by the stress. I am feeling overwhelmed by it all. I have no other family that will help. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

Dr. Amy: It's a constant source of wonder to me how people such as yourself, who have challenges of their own, manage to do so much for others. I encourage you to call your local Department of Social Services to have your situation assessed. Given your own issues, it doesn't sound like it's realistic for you to do all the caregiving yourself. I hope that you and/or your mother are eligible for some government assistance if you cannot afford to pay for caregiving support on your own. Can you also reach out to community organizations for support, such as Meals on Wheels? Can local service organizations provide some help through their volunteers? If you do not feel that you can make these requests, perhaps a friend can do so for you.

You mention that your schizoaffective disorder is under poor control. Are you getting the best medical care for yourself?  Can you speak to your doctor about changing your medication to get better control—or get a referral to a specialist?  As I understand it, schizoaffective disorder is best controlled with a mix of medication and therapy. Perhaps your doctor can arrange psychotherapy if he or she has not already done so. And perhaps a support group, either online or in person, may help. The key is for you to continue to assess your stress level and keep your condition under the best control possible, for your own sake and so that you can continue to help your mom. I send you strength.

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