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My brother is Bipolar and lives with my mom. Mom gets upset when he is moody. How can I help her to cope?


Question:  My brother is Bipolar and he lives with my mother, who is 84. Mom gets nervous and upset when my brother is moody and angry. How can I help her to cope?

I am supportive of my mom as well as my brother. I assisted my brother in getting treatment. My mother can be demanding, and when this happens my brother becomes agitated. He is not violent or aggressive. I have suggested that my brother move out, but he can’t due to lack of funds. My brother does volunteer work in the community.

My mother needs more help at home. My brother helps her by grocery shopping and running errands. I visit every month for one week to help and take mom to appointments. We have discussed her living with me. Also we discussed assisted living facilities. Right now she does not want to do this. I want her to have choices.  She can't live alone. I would love to have her live with me. I own my home and work part time. Thank you for suggestions or advice.

Dr. Amy: It sounds like you are a loving family that is pulling together. Your mom and brother are certainly lucky to have such a caring daughter and sister.

I think it might help if your mom and brother went for counselling together. A counsellor who has experience with bi-polar disorder will be able to help your mom better understand her son’s condition and learn new ways to communicate that will minimize his agitation. At the same time, the counsellor can help your brother better understand your mom, and help him with coping techniques.

With respect to living arrangements, I think you’re on the right track, keeping all options open and revisiting them from time to time. While I hope your mom lives many more years in good health, you may want to talk about where your brother will live once your mom is gone.

In terms of getting more help, if you can afford paid help I suggest you call a home care agency; if not, perhaps you can organize friends and neighbors to pitch in. You can also call your local Area Agency on Aging to find out what supports your county offers.

Good luck to you on your journey.

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