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Questions regarding helping people who basically are family (but technically aren’t), after the jump. (Well, maybe not questions, just...helplessness.)




So I have an honorary aunt, in her late 50s/early 60s who has been living with her elderly mother (late 90s), taking care of her, taking care of the house, etc. She’s been doing this for about 8 years now, and they’ve been living off the mother’s pension. Well, the mother’s decline is speeding up, and the end is probably near.


In this situation, though, the caretaker is in far worse shape. My aunt has always struggled with clinical depression. It’s gone in waves, but isolation, helplessness, financial problems, and a fairly bleak future would cause anyone mental and emotional distress; for her, it’s gotten to the point where she literally could not gather the energy to find clothes so she could visit her mother in the hospital after the mother had a heart attack.

I want to help. My mom, her best friend, wants to help. They live a few hours away from us, and my mom is making the drive today to do some cleaning, cooking, and to try to get a better grasp on the situation. (We’re very, very concerned about sanitation issues.) My aunt makes it very difficult to help her. She’s gotten significantly nastier, more racist (accusing the hospital of being lazy and incompetent because the doctors were foreign/not white), more fatalistic, and even when she’s been “better” she hasn’t ever wanted to try anything anyone has ever suggested.

When her mother dies, my aunt will have nearly no savings and will have been out of the work force for years. She’s brash and confrontational. (Before all this, she was the sophisticated, worldly aunt who smoked and had lived in NYC and was much cooler than my parents.) She’s extraordinarily depressed. While we’re not her only “family”, we’re the only family that isn’t semi-estranged and/or mutually abusive.

I don’t necessarily expect anyone to have any advice, but if you do, any and all suggestions are welcome. We’re trying to look into government and regional resources, but if you’re not a minor or retired they seem to be fairly scarce (she’s in Pennsylvania if that helps). It’s just so hard witnessing the decline of someone you love.

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