What it's Like to Take Care of Someone Who's Mentally Ill

Unfortunately, I know what it's like to take care of someone who is mentally ill.  My husband and I took care of my mother after my father died.  It's hard to even describe what we went through.

The verbal abuse of me was almost constant up until the day she had her last stroke and she could no longer speak.  I could have abandoned her, but my faith pushed me back to her home on a daily basis.  A "Hail Mary" as I put the key in the door gave me the strength to face what was on the other side.

As my mother, I felt I owed her the basics.  We took care of her house, made sure she had food and her bills were paid.  She was not getting my love.  That was something she stomped on and threw away when I was a little girl.

I kept my children away from her as much as possible and when they were at her house, they were never left alone with her.  That's because after we got home from her house, our phone would be ringing and she would unleash the accusations.  She blamed my sons (ages five and six at the time) for breaking the lawnmower, a soap dish in the bathroom, leaving a window open and a myriad of other things.

Then she did what I thought she would never do.  She called the police and filed a false report against one of her neighbors.  I was horrified.

She called the police and told them her neighbor, a young professional with a family had taken a ladder and climbed up the side of her house and tore the siding off!  The police believed her, and arrested him.  The siding was coming off, but it was due to age and weather.

The day she was to appear in court, she called me in a panic.  She claimed the police officer was going to pick her up and take her to court and he never showed up.  She was furious with me that I wouldn't drive her.  The charges were dropped against my mother's neighbor.

Then my mother got a letter from the neighbor.  He couldn't understand why she had done that to him.  His family and she had been "friends."  That was true.  My mother spoke about the family bringing things to her and sending her cards, which was why I never understood why she lied about the whole incident.

The neighbor asked in the letter if there was a family member of my mother's that he could talk to about what happened.  The neighbor had to spend $1500 to expunge his record.  He gave his contact information.

To be honest, I wanted to pay him out of my own pocket.  I was sick about what she had done.  I called a lawyer friend for advice and then I called the neighbor.  I gave him my contact information and told him if he ever had a problem with my mother again to call me immediately.  I assured him that my mother was under a doctor's care and that the doctor would be informed about the incident.  Amazingly, the neighbor was fine with that.

I did speak with my mother's doctor about that.  He put her on a mild antidepressant, but nothing really curtailed her wrath.

There were other incidents after that one.  She made accusations against home care nurses and all were reported back to the doctor.  Once she told the doctor the home care nurse slapped her across the face.  She left out the part that I was standing a few feet away and that it never happened.

Another time, she called the police and told them the nurse had tried to break into her house.  Another time, she told me the police had stolen her bank book and emptied it. When I showed her the bank book with the balance, she still didn't believe me.  It went on and on.  Until she died.

I don't know how Adam Lanza's mother was trying to take care of him.  But I know that even with the resources I had, my mother could have easily destroyed lives and she didn't need an arsenal to do it.

There's nothing cut and dried about the mentally ill.  No situation fits neatly into a diagnosis.  No family is typical in how they take care of a relative who is mentally ill.

My husband and I did the best we could.  Our faith held us together.  I thank God my mother didn't do more damage.  I thank God it's over.

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