It has recently come to our attention that our mother is hiding—what seem to be very serious—health issues from us. We want to help her, but we're unsure how to proceed. I am seeking advice on two fronts: (1) help us navigate the current healthcare bureaucracy, and (2) help us care for someone who is probably going to try to refuse our help. All of the details inside.
I live on the west coast. My sibling lives in the middle of the country in a major metropolitan area. Our mother lives approx. 2hrs away from said major metropolitan area in a very secluded, rural area. She lives with her Boyfriend of over a decade.
This weekend our mother is visiting my sibling for a birthday party. While she is on her way into town, Boyfriend calls my sibling to inform her of the following:
a) Our mother has significant health issues that she is unwilling or unable to address. These are: (i) lumps in the breast, (ii) rectal bleeding accompanied by extended periods "in the bathroom" in the mornings, the implication being using the toilet, (iii) low body weight, to the point where an old friend bumped into her and failed to recognizer her, (iv) increased lethargy; "she just sits around all day, doesn't want to do anything."
b) Our mother is consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, to the point of having a beer gut (despite (a)(iii)); consumption is beer from a can, starting around 1pm and continuing until she goes to sleep, between 9pm and midnight, depending. Our mother is also smoking excessively; multiple packs a day. Additionally she drinks about a pot of coffee a day. (Boyfriend smokes but does not drink.)
c) Our mother has no health insurance, no primary physician, and has not done anything toward signing up for an ACA Health Plan or Medicare. I think she had a physical a decade ago during a brief period of having health insurance via Boyfriend.
Most of (b) is already known to us. It was the primary cause of our parent's divorce. Previous attempts at confronting these issues, especially the alcoholism, have failed. Ever after jail time due to a fourth DUI (she no longer drives), we were unable to prevent her from drinking and taking up smoking again. However, now, it seems, it is a daily routine with extended hours.
After the phone call where the above is revealed, my sibling calls me, relays the information. I am told our mother is staying with her sister and niece while in major metropolitan area. This is bad news because her sister is also an alcoholic and an enabler, and the niece is a straight up junkie. We both agree that she should not stay there, and my sibling is willing to house her, but my sibling is unwilling to stay up all night getting drunk with our mother so the offer is basically a non-starter.
We have a discussion about what to do now. Here is the plan we settle on:
My sibling is to meet with our mother, asses the veracity of the claims made by Boyfriend. If, in my siblings opinion, the claims are true and the health issues are significant and immediate, my sibling will take her to the ER, where she may or may not be admitted, but either way we can hopefully get a diagnosis. We agree to split any costs that this may incur. We recognize that our mother will not want to do this, but we agree that we will both present this (me via skype) as non-negotiable and we are both going to require this step as a prelude to basically any further interaction. At the same time we agree that we will need to get health coverage for her asap, one way or another. We agree to start requiring and helping her to pursue this as well, with escalating responses up to and including both of us going to her house and making her sign up. We are unsure of how to get this done immediately as our mother is in major metropolitan area without any of the supporting documents one needs to apply for such things.
I pointed out that we are going to need boyfriend on board and telling her the same things, not sneaking around getting us to take care of everything. We both agree that may or may not actually happen. My sibling tells me the impression boyfriend gave was one of not necessarily in love, not wanting to deal with the issues, but stuck with our mother. He is a great, caring guy we both have a good relationship with. We consider him a family member, we consider his family part of our family. But he is the sort of guy who doesn't confront these sorts of things, doesn't deal with emotions these sorts of things cause, etc. He's about the same age, a little younger than our mother, with his own set of health issues (not as serious).
Other things my sibling has investigated include taking our mother to various doctors or even planned parenthood, but they all said if it's serious they're just going to be able to give a referral. We realize we may only get one chance to force action, so we want to maximize the diagnostic information we get from the first battle, since it may be the only one.
Lastly I tell my sibling that in the end our mother may very well decide to do nothing and to change nothing, and that we have to decide at what point we let her live her life and accept the consequences. My sibling does not like this, but agrees. We are murky on this point, both hoping it won't come to that.
So my questions from the front page, restated:
(1) Are we doing these things in the right order, paperwork wise? We want to minimize, obviously, the financial impact to our mother (who has no money to speak of, no income, only a modest (<100k) 401k, and is eligible for social security now (or within months of now)), and minimize the financial impact to ourselves (we each have families, jobs, mortgages, debts and only modest savings). Is the ER the right move? Should we be taking a different route?
(2) How the hell do we help our mother when she refuses to take responsibility or action for any of this? We have always had a great relationship with both our parents, our mother is the easiest person in the world to get along with. She's not going to fight us by yelling or threatening or anything like that. She's going to hand wave it, "I'm just getting old," "my drinking doesn't hurt anyone," etc, and try to just not talk about it. How do we separate the voluntary damage in (b) from the potential diseases in (a)? Can they even be addressed separately? And lastly I will take any advice on how to accept that in the end we may not be able to do anything (or reasons for not accepting that).
Thanks for reading.