Bipolar Illness

Bipolar Illness

Question:
 
I am desperate to find some help for my brother, who I believe has bipolar disease. 

He has, for the last nine years, had periods of depression followed by highs of feeling that he can do anything and that he’s not going to take any crap from anyone.  He can’t hold a job for very long, for one reason or another.  He has just turned 40 years old this year and has lived with my parents (mother is 78 and father is 75) for the past nine years in a three bedroom apartment.  My brother is over six feet tall and can be very intimidating, especially when he is manic.  He swears a lot and does not respect my parents.  He is seeing a psychologist, I believe once a month, but I don’t know if he is taking any medication.

My parents live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  I recently moved from Victoria to London, Ontario, Canada with my husband and daughter.  I guess what I am asking you is, what can my parents do to get help for my brother?  I have told them to kick him out of the house, but they are afraid of what he will do to them or what will happen to him because he has very little money.

I would appreciate any information you can give me.

J.N.
 
Answer: 
 
If your brother is seeing a psychologist, I would write him or her a letter documenting exactly what you have told me.  The psychologist will not be able to respond to you directly (because of issues of therapist-patient confidentiality).  But it will put your concerns in the record, and the psychologist is bound to respond to any concerns raised about the possibility of elder abuse, or the chance that your brother is being under-treated.
 
If your brother has bipolar illness and has not been evaluated and treated medically by a psychiatrist, this will be the absolute first step.  Sometimes these things can be missed by a therapist (who, after all, just sees the patient on a weekly basis, and often first hears about the severity of the symptoms from a concerned relative like you.)
 
And know that it won’t be as simple as telling your parents to kick your brother out.  If they are intimidated, the situation will have to be handled delicately by a psychiatrist and/or a marriage and family therapist who has knowledge of these things.  The bottom line, though, is that if your parents are legally competent, they are the ones responsible for making the decision about setting their own boundaries with your brother.  Your role (and your power) is very limited here.
 
Good luck.  It sounds like an excruciating situation for you, and I hope you’re getting the support you need as you walk through this.
 
Daphne Stevens

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