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Old 09-09-17, 10:50 AM   #1
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What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

I owned the house my mother lived in. After she died, I told my younger brother he could stay there and I would pay for the property tax and insurance as long as he maintained the house and paid the utilities. He was working part-time as a tour guide. I didn't insist he pay rent to me. Not a good idea. This all began eight years go. Long story short, three years ago, after not hearing from him in a long time (months? over a year?), I went over to the house and found him living in squalor with no heat, no electricity, no water. The glass on the front door was broken so if anyone coming up to knock didn't notice the break, they would have cut themselves and I'd be liable. So I got that fixed right away and told him I was selling the house and the broker would help me find him an apartment and I'd pay his rent for a year and then he was on his own. I sold the house. My brother was a friend of the super of a building across the street and that guy got him an apartment in his building. I paid the first six months rent and then six months later another six months rent.

One thing led to another. He almost got evicted last year and I told him I'd pay the rent till March of this year, but then he was on his own. Two of my sisters contributed money from their share of the house sale to help out. There are seven siblings total, but only three of us in New York: me, the problem brother and our older brother. We tried to get him help via social services, but he had to apply for Medicaid and other things and he never followed up. I consulted various agencies and social workers and they all said the system could help him if he took the necessary steps. My sisters even flew in from out of town to try to guide him through the processes. I took him to a free clinic for a medical exam and he refused to let them examine him. Eventually, he told me he was sending his resume out and going to networking seminars and doing more tours and saving money, so I let it go at that. He told me what I wanted to hear and I left him alone.

I haven't heard from him since January and neither have my siblings. He doesn't pick up his phone or respond to texts. Eviction proceedings started in June so I went over there to visit him (I have the keys) and he wasn't home, but living in absolute squalor. At least the lights were on and water was running. I went twice. Each time I left packets of info and typed notes detailing his options and what he should do, including applying for a "one shot deal" in which the Dept. of Social Services helps you stave off eviction. (This is New York City.) No response.

His landlord called me two days ago and said he was locked out the week before. I got in touch, through Facebook, with a friend of his who says that he's been staying with friends and that he will soon ask me or my older brother to put him up. We will both adamantly refuse. He needs help and needs to enter the system to get it. He has a genius IQ but he thinks he's too good for menial work or accepting social services. He needs mental help and every social worker I've talked to has said that, including a longtime family friend who knows all of us well. I will insist he go to a homeless shelter and try to get counseling. Once he gets diagnosed, the system will hopefully figure out what to do with him. But how to get him to do that?

I hate the idea of him sleeping in the park, especially as cold weather looms, but my apartment is not geared for two people and I don't want him around. He is extremely difficult to deal with. And he'll make a mess of things, as if my apartment isn't messy enough already. And as long as he's here, I wouldn't feel comfortable pursuing any of my interests. I'm retired and I didn't retire to take care of my wayward brother. My older brother has room, but his wife opposes the idea and they're getting ready to move out to another apartment they have and turn it over to my nephew, his girlfriend and their children. The last thing they need is a problem uncle on their hands. And if either of us accepts him, how will we get rid of him? We can try to find him a furnished room somewhere or someone he can room with, but then the onus is on us and he won't lift a finger to search for himself, as long as he's got a couch to sleep on.

Any suggestions from anyone who's been through this with a family member?

I'd been contemplating for months doing a post like this, but it's now reached a critical point, so here I am.

Thanks.
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Last edited by Ash Ketchum; 09-09-17 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 09-09-17, 11:03 AM   #2
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

Are drugs involved or just a mental health issue? If the latter he needs to be medicated. I've seen the right meds work wonders on people with mental health issues. don't let him refuse. I'd suggest you and your siblings ALL pick him up and bring him to a mental health provider. Your brother may not even realize his situation in his current mental state.
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Old 09-09-17, 11:20 AM   #3
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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Are drugs involved or just a mental health issue? If the latter he needs to be medicated. I've seen the right meds work wonders on people with mental health issues. don't let him refuse. I'd suggest you and your siblings ALL pick him up and bring him to a mental health provider. Your brother may not even realize his situation in his current mental state.
He smokes pot but I don't believe that's the source of his problems. Medication may be the solution, but he needs to sit down and go through the process of applying for Medicaid to get help. If we took him in to a mental health provider without that we'd have to pay full cost. At this point, it's just my older brother and me here in the city. I don't quite know how the two of us could pull it off without his cooperation.

Thanks.
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Old 09-09-17, 11:29 AM   #4
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

He's been given many chances. Problem is that he's on his own. He needs someone almost on a daily basis to watch him but no ones has time for that. It's like he's an adult child. Even if he gets medication, who's going to make sure he takes it?

Maybe letting him hit rock bottom might wake him up. Might. No easy answers if he isn't willing to help himself.
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Old 09-09-17, 11:38 AM   #5
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

So basically he's been taken care of for at least eight years. Why would you think he would suddenly try to take care of himself. People who receive financial help have no reason to try to better their situations.
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Old 09-09-17, 11:46 AM   #6
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

Mrs Danger has a brother who's crazy. He's a sweet person and incredibly smart, but he's incapable of living in society. He spent a lot of years living in a shanty in the woods. He's been better the last few years, living in a town and going to church on Sunday, but he'll never be able to hold a steady job. Mrs Danger has had to learn to just let him be.

If your brother would rather be homeless than get a medical evaluation, there isn't a lot you can do.
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Old 09-09-17, 11:48 AM   #7
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

My advice: cut him out of your life.

This sounds similar me. My older brother flunked out of college and spent years wandering around the world, mostly on my parent's dime.

I helped him out with money, and let him stay at my house, where he just watched TV all day.

He landed in prison (I won't go into details), and I decided I was done.

It's painful to cut ties with family, but sometimes you gotta do it.
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Old 09-09-17, 02:23 PM   #8
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

Sorry to hear you're going through this, Ash, thank you for sharing. It's not easy to be open about something so hard. I appreciate your vulnerability.

This sounds like part one to the common stories I hear from people who have experienced homelessness. They had similar situations, hit boundaries and barriers with family, hit rock bottom financially and with housing, gets very hard. Then they finally accept they need help, get evaluated, get meds, build systems, reacclimate, make a new go, and things turn around. It's never like it was, but it's miles from where it go to. That's not every story, but that's how the most successful ones I encounter in my work go.

It sounds like he's close to that rock bottom place in the story. He needs to be evaluated for mental health, get meds, and get a system. If he'll do this before rock bottom, he can avoid himself and his family a lot of pain. If not, it will be hard until he comes around, or even harder if he doesn't, both are possible.

Hope you know the resource network so when he comes to you and your other brother, you know your exact next moves. It may be all you can do.
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Old 09-09-17, 02:36 PM   #9
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

Ash,

Pretty much agree with everyone else.

Time to let him figure things out on his own. If he still has the capability to ask for help and live on other people's money...he's not a mental case. He's just chronically lazy. I'm not sure how that happened or why, but he might eventually open up to you and explain once he knows you're there for support instead of simply to further his behavior. But that will take time, he will need to demonstrate he is capable of being independent, etc.

You've gone well beyond your obligations. Don't feel bad if you have to stand your ground and tell him NO, and request he get his act together.
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Old 09-09-17, 02:43 PM   #10
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum View Post
He has a genius IQ but he thinks he's too good for menial work or accepting social services.
If he has a genius IQ why does he prefer to be a bum? What is holding him back? Depression? Small penis syndrome? What's going on I mean he's the only sibling choosing to be a bum? Did something deep and dramatic happen in his young life that had disabled him mentally and physically from performing work?
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Old 09-09-17, 03:09 PM   #11
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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If he has a genius IQ why does he prefer to be a bum? What is holding him back? Depression? Small penis syndrome? What's going on I mean he's the only sibling choosing to be a bum? Did something deep and dramatic happen in his young life that had disabled him mentally and physically from performing work?
There's something wrong with him. When I would check on him during the moving-out-of-the-house phase, he'd be sitting there in the dark with just a little light from the window meticulously going through every newspaper (and there were tons of them) one by one, as if there weren't more important things to do. And when we moved him into the new apartment, he had 26 milk crates full of newspaper clippings and then complained months later to my sister that he couldn't find an article he wanted and assumed I threw it out during the move.

He's the most like our father of all the siblings yet the two of them hated each other, despite his efforts to prove himself to him. That left him pretty scarred.

He's always tried to live "off the grid." He has no bank account, no credit, no proof of employment--his tours require cash payments-- and no ability to get an apartment on his own. He used to live with the Yippies when he was a teen and in college and adopted them as his role models. He was always demonstrating against something or other and was active in the marijuana legalization movement. I used to run into him at demonstrations when I was of that ilk (a long time ago and a galaxy far far away) and I would cringe when he would start taunting cops. I'd move away as if I didn't know him.

He had a full-time job but lost it after 9/11 when the company's HQ was destroyed. And his girlfriend left him at some point, fed up with his inability to do anything. Then he got evicted from his apartment, after a long legal battle, along with his roommate, and moved in with my mother. And he's never picked himself up after that. My mother kind of enabled him. He lived on her remaining bank account after her death until it ran out.
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Old 09-09-17, 03:20 PM   #12
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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He's always tried to live "off the grid." He has no bank account, no credit, no proof of employment--his tours require cash payments-- and no ability to get an apartment on his own.
Many people who experience homelessness have difficulty obtaining these things, though services can help. Without assistance, they can't get them let alone a place to live. If he won't get them out of his choice, it's going to be extremely difficult for the services to help him fully.

My friend, have you and your siblings contemplated what measures you have to get him evaluated? I don't know anything about how to do that if someone doesn't want to, but that's one of the big next steps.
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Old 09-09-17, 03:25 PM   #13
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

You've done what you can; you've gone far, far above the call of duty already. You and your siblings have enabled him far too long. You can't magically change him. That part is up to him, if he is willing. The problem is, he may be incapable of changing for the better, at this point. He has a mental problem, and the only thing left is an involuntary psyciatric ward admission (for observation). This probably involves great expense in hiring lawyers, etc, which will open up another can of worms.

Sad to say, the only viable, tenable option is that you need to move on and cut him out of your life. He'll bring you down with him if you don't.
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Old 09-09-17, 04:52 PM   #14
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

A very good friend of mine of over 40 years has a brother like this. Everybody in the family has written him off. Watching from the sidelines I've questioned their cold behavior toward him. They tell me, "You don't know what it's like."

Years ago, the friend and I were driving around. It was night, freezing cold outside. The kind of cold where you still feel cold with the car heater full blast.
Suddenly, there was the brother walking down the street with his girlfriend pushing a baby carriage with the baby in it. Probably homeless.
My friend just drove right by. I asked him why he didn't stop to give them a ride. He said, "If I let them in the car I'll never rid of them."

Recently saw the guy(the brother) for the first time in over twenty years. Hasn't changed. Still a total fuck up.
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Old 09-09-17, 05:30 PM   #15
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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Many people who experience homelessness have difficulty obtaining these things, though services can help. Without assistance, they can't get them let alone a place to live. If he won't get them out of his choice, it's going to be extremely difficult for the services to help him fully.

My friend, have you and your siblings contemplated what measures you have to get him evaluated? I don't know anything about how to do that if someone doesn't want to, but that's one of the big next steps.
Yeah, we did the research. We know where to go, but they won't take him without Medicaid unless someone pays full price for a psychiatric evaluation. My sister even went with him to a hospital--in the neighborhood where he was living--and got him started on the application process for Medicaid, the idea being that we would get him to see a counselor and they would refer him to a mental health evaluation on the premises and start getting him help. But my sister flew back home and he never followed up on the application. I tried to get him to follow up, but he never responded. I'm not sure how to get him to that point now. If he goes into a shelter, they often have referral services and can get him some counseling and hopefully see that he needs some mental health help.

I just talked to my sister and she said that everything we've done has failed, so we have to do something different and at this point, it looks like consigning him to the shelter system. In July, before he was locked out, I left a packet of info at his apartment about homeless services in the city. Some sixth sense tells me it's still in the apartment.
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Old 09-09-17, 08:37 PM   #16
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

It may be one of the toughest and saddest things you've ever done Ash, but as most have already said: it's time to step away and let him live his life. Unfortunately it sounds as if mental illness is most certainly the cause. Worse than that is the pathetic -- or rather apathetic -- mental health system we have in this country.

OR ... maybe your brother has it right and we are all wrong. Any given day, man. Any given day.
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Old 09-09-17, 09:13 PM   #17
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

Someone I know went from job, house, marriage and kids to zero in less than four years. He now hangs out at a shelter for the needy. He's smart but has mental issues and whatever money he has he spends on pot and booze. Every effort to help him has failed.
The scary thing is I know quite a few guys who ended up the same. Some were married, some not. At some point they couldn't hold a job anymore, slowly drifting towards rock bottom.

If they refuse help there's nothing you can do about it. I guess it's just best to let go.
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Old 09-09-17, 09:19 PM   #18
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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If he goes into a shelter, they often have referral services and can get him some counseling and hopefully see that he needs some mental health help.
The shelters are based on accountability measures. If he won't show progress on saving money, looking for work, applying for Medicaid, etc., they will not let him stay there and his bed will go back into the system. There are far too many people willing to do the work to get back on their feet with the help of those systems to let people who won't do the work to have the beds. I've seen it happen and it's sad and yet it's how it has to happen. Your brother needs to know this before he ends up in that route. A shelter isn't a bed until you don't want it. It's a bed until you no longer earned it.

Good luck, Ash. I'm sorry.
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Old 09-09-17, 09:51 PM   #19
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

Sorry to hear this. As someone who had a distant relative that had taken advantage of & been enabled by family members for years (until the family members finally got tired of dealing with him), I understand the situation here. He's now in a group home, that I understand is funded by the government (though this type of situation would obviously vary by state/area).

I don't think you should feel guilty for not having your relative stay with you. As you mentioned in your post, your family has already done more than enough for him (and definitely more than most would have done at this point).

I know this may sound harsh, but I actually don't feel much sympathy for people like this. In the case of my distant relative, he was fully capable of working but was basically just lazy & used to having others take care of him. If he hadn't been enabled from a young age, there's a strong possibility he would have gotten his shit together long ago.

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Old 09-09-17, 10:30 PM   #20
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

Out of curiousity, how old is this brother?
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Old 09-10-17, 06:01 AM   #21
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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out of curiousity, how old is this brother?
56
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Old 09-10-17, 07:40 AM   #22
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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He's the most like our father of all the siblings yet the two of them hated each other, despite his efforts to prove himself to him. That left him pretty scarred.
Was your dad super critical? Maybe your brother developed an extreme case of fear of failure which pretty much prevents him from trying to do anything.

The clinical term for that is Atychiphobia. According to the article, he might also have kakorrhaphiophobia (fear of rejection). It's a mental health issue for which you need professional help to diagnose and treat properly. Good luck.

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Old 09-10-17, 01:36 PM   #23
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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He smokes pot but I don't believe that's the source of his problems.
He is spending his rent money on black market items. Yeah, not a problem.
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Old 09-10-17, 01:44 PM   #24
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

Tell us about the tours he does. Could that be turned into something that could earn more money. Or perhaps just give him a reason to get up and get going each day?
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Old 09-10-17, 03:19 PM   #25
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Re: What to do about a sibling who needs help but won't get it?

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Tell us about the tours he does. Could that be turned into something that could earn more money. Or perhaps just give him a reason to get up and get going each day?
He does tours of certain New York neighborhoods. It's a field that's exploded in recent years, but he doesn't have the ability to network, promote himself or make the connections to expand his tours. People have given him suggestions and offered to help him, but he never follows up. He has two hostels that sponsor his tours and they even have job openings at those hostels yet he's never asked them for a job, even to do something like janitorial or maintenance work in exchange for a room.
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