Laziness, fleas and urine, oh my!!
July 20, 2015 7:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to bitch myself up and put my foot down...but I don't know what to say or do in this situation. Please help me, MeFites...apologies for the dissertation....

I'm 43 years old. My sister is 39. I'm divorced and remarried and, for the most part, have a stable household. My little sister has never really been a responsible adult. She got married to the first guy who asked her 16 years ago. Over the years, I've been to her house a handful of times. Only a handful because she isn't a very good housekeeper (understatement)...and her house ALWAYS SMELLS HORRIBLE. (urine, dog excrement, cat, etc.) Until she married, she still lived at home with our mom. 3 weeks ago, my sister found out that her husband was having an affair with the crack ho across the street from them. This is the 3rd time he's cheated on her in 16 years. When she confronted him, he told her he wanted a divorce. She lives paycheck to paycheck and can't make it on her own, in her current situation, with what she makes. (She doesn't have a post secondary education and has worked mainly in call centers her entire adult life...getting fired from her last 3 jobs for attendance...) To top it off, she's had some health issues recently and has been on medical leave from work for the last month and a half. She had no where for her and her 7 year old daughter to I offered to let her stay with us (for a few months) until she can get on her feet- because that's what family does...and no one else will help her. My husband is a financial counselor and has offered to help her make a budget that she can live with to assist her in her new single parent life. We drew up a contract, even including what she was allowed to bring to our house and what needed to go to storage. Her daughter still wets the bed and I insisted that the mattress be in a vinyl mattress cover before coming in the house. All, she agreed to. (In her home, if her daughter peed in the bed, they just covered it with a towel...)
Yesterday was move in day. They showed up with the loaded truck around 4. I had even arranged for her to have lifting help when she got here. As soon as they got here, my sister immediately bailed, with the excuse that she had to take her daughter to my mom so that she could get moved in. Her soon to be ex didn't lift a finger to help unload the truck, but kept insisting that we hurry because he had to get it back before 6. My husband and his oldest step son unloaded her stuff in the driveway and left it. She finally came in about 9 last night. I told her that this was her responsibility, and that I didn't mind to help, but we were not doing it for her. The mattress showed up WITHOUT a cover and reeks of does her 3 pieces of living room furniture she brought. She says there is a mattress cover in one of her boxes, but it was too dark to find it last night. I explained that the furniture will have to sit outside and air for a few days and that mattress cover better be found asap. This morning, she went back to work. Our house already has a faint urine smell...from the mattress I'm sure. This morning, my husband and I were sitting outside having coffee...looking at all of my sister's shit still littering the driveway...when my husband noticed the fleas. There were 2 on his leg. I have since seen 1 in the house. She had a dog that was flea ridden, but the dog went elsewhere.
How do I, number 1, talk to her about her hygienic practices without coming off like a bitch and number 2, how do I prevent an impending flea infestation? I want to be supportive...but I won't have my house turned into a flea infested, urine reeking abode. Again, I don't want feelings hurt...but I don't want this either. My husband is on my side, but keeping his mouth shut because it's my sister and I need to deal with her.
posted by Amalie-Suzette to Human Relations (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This may be a situation where you donate a new vinyl mattress cover to the cause of protecting your own sanity. I realize you do not want to go down a slippery slope, and this is one well-oiled slope, but the only way to not add more urine to a mattress is to cover said mattress and it is probably weellll worth the $15-20 it will cost you to get that mattress covered. That will buy you time to put your foot down about other things.

It's not the kid's fault she wets the bed - no 7 year old would choose that - but I fully support your position of not letting it make the whole house smell.

To be perfectly honest, I don't know how much success you're going to have talking to your sister about her hygienic practices if she has a 7 year old bedwetter without a plastic mattress cover. That's pretty basic level kid-wrangling. It'll be a tough balance between laying down very specific house rules while also trying not to be too shaming about it because ashamed people get defensive and double down and really don't absorb new information.

I hope someone else can help with the fleas.
posted by telepanda at 8:03 AM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

You don't mention your own finances. Would it be possible for you to scrape up the money to pay 2-3 months rent on a cheap 1 bedroom apartment for her and her daughter somewhere? With her name on the lease, not yours. Having her live with you sound like a nightmare and it's likely to be almost impossible to get her to move out when the time comes anyway without a financial incentive.

Then move her out and get a flea bomb and bomb the house.
posted by hazyjane at 8:07 AM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

I'm on my phone and can't do a lot of linking at the moment, but while everything is still outside, spray the hell out of it with flea spray. I use Adams (in a blue bottle) with good results...find at a pet store or sometimes WalMart. Spray every nook and cranny of the furniture, let it dry, then vacuum the hell out of it. Wash everything thats washable in hot water if possible, and use vinegar in the rinse like you would fabric softener. I think vinegar kills urine smell too (it helps when I clean up after my cats) maybe spray the mattress with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water? Then get a plastic mattress cover.
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:11 AM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: No, we can't financially help her out. I'm a nurse, but I've been really sick for over a year and not been able to work since December. My husband has a degree in he makes near nothing. We actually were kind of banking on her portion to help us through the next few months instead of borrowing money. Otherwise, I would have done that from the beginning...just not an option right now.
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 8:11 AM on July 20, 2015

The other option is to buy her some new furniture. Something relatively cheap like a futon for a couch, but would be new and clean.

Edited to add: Nevermind! We were both posting at the same time!
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:12 AM on July 20, 2015

Honestly, I'd probably end up throwing some of my own money at the problem.

At a bare minimum I would throw out the mattress and buy a new one and a cover. A basic single mattress will not set you back too much. I would just feel too sorry for the little girl who has to sleep on that every night to let her continue sleeping on it, cover or not.

In regards to the flea problem: diatomaceous earth?
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:12 AM on July 20, 2015 [9 favorites]

My sister showed up at my house in a state of crisis about six months ago. I won't go into the details, but for the first month the tactic I took of dealing with her and her enormous problems was to identify three things a day that she/we had to get done. "Today we are dealing with X, Y and Z," I'd repeat like a mantra, over and over again. When all the other problems reared their heads, I'd just say it again, "Today we are dealing with X, Y and Z." This got us through the biggest, most pressing crises, which then gave her/us the breathing room to deal with the bigger stuff.

So, maybe today it's: purchase or find a mattress cover, putting that driveway stuff in your garage and doing a flea bomb inside the garage. Maybe tomorrow it's find some larger-size pull-ups so the bedwetter no longer wets the mattress at all, ask around for referrals to a divorce lawyer, check Craigslist to get an idea of local prices for small rentals for them.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:13 AM on July 20, 2015 [24 favorites]

For flea infestations, Knockout is the product we recommend at the veterinary hospital where I work. Follow the directions carefully, and it works very well.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:15 AM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Put all her furniture back in a van, send it to storage. Pay one month of it. Only keep clothes, toiletries, and niece's favorite stuffed animal or blanket or toy.
Go to ikea and buy a twin matress and a matress cover and some sheets for your niece.
Google flea + something and make sure all their clothes and niece's favorite stuffed animal are cleaned from fleas.
Before they really move in, have a plan. Is this for 6 months for her to get on her feet? Sign an agreement.
posted by k8t at 8:16 AM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is a link between fleas and tapeworms. The kid needs a doctor visit to make sure she isn't wetting the bed because of illness. She is a neglected and possibly abused child. Be careful, get the kid to the doctor first.
posted by Oyéah at 8:17 AM on July 20, 2015 [18 favorites]

Are you near a college town? I've seen several twin mattresses available for free around here lately.
Alternately, are you in an area with a freecycle network? Again, around here, a request for a mattress and a couple of basic pieces of furniture would be likely to net something that's probably better than what they have now.
posted by telepanda at 8:20 AM on July 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your sister broke her contract with you...on her first day! She said whatever she needed to get you to agree to take her in. Also, if she lost her call center job how is she going to help you with your bills?

Look, throw out the mattress. Get the kid an air mattress for twenty bucks at target. They're vinyl anyway and she's a little kid. She'll be fine with that. Make it seem like fun, camping or whatnot. She really needs an adult to be in control of this situation, and you can't worry too much about your sister's reactions, since they're irrational anyway.

If she asks to be reimbursed for the mattress say she can have the nice clean air mattress when she moves out.
posted by charlielxxv at 8:22 AM on July 20, 2015 [35 favorites]

We bought my daughter a mattress for about $150, and I think they had some cheaper than that. For sure there were some cheaper at ikea, if that's an option. You can get mattress covers also quite inexpensively. That would cut through the immediate problem. Her other furniture doesn't need to come into your house.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:24 AM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you literally meant Crack ho and this child has been living in a neighborhood with drugs and prostitution, I'd focus as much energy as possible into helping this child.
posted by k8t at 8:30 AM on July 20, 2015 [32 favorites]

$20 for an air mattress. The other goes in the trash.

Your first mistake was/is depending on your sister for income. Your second was letting her bring any furniture.

Your niece is in crisis, so start there. Everything furniture stays in the driveway until your sister treats it for fleas. Wash their clothes, blankets, toys. Just start putting clothes and heat/wash sturdy items in the wash machine and dishwasher, if appropriate for the item and if you have one. Don't worry about whose responsibility it is. Wash your niece's clothes and be glad you can do something kind for her.

Your sister sounds like she has some sort of cognitive or mental illness issues, and your niece IS neglected, so, she is an abused child. Your niece is an abused child. Neglect is abuse. Absolutely.

This mother and daughter require crisis intervention. I'm not sure where you are or what is available, but after washing stuff and setting the niece up with an air mattress (keep the receipt in case it deflates, at Target you can endlessly exchange for a new one) they need some kind of serious intervention.

I don't know how you talk to your sister about this. I'm pretty sure she'll be unemployed or will balk at paying her share when the time comes. Maybe what they need is a women's shelter or halfway house?

Your sister is barely functional. She's about to capsize your life. Withdraw your agreement and IMMEDIATELY make other plans. Plans that include intervention and professional help.
posted by jbenben at 8:51 AM on July 20, 2015 [30 favorites]

Nthing first priority is the child. I was initially kind of shocked that her welfare featured so little in your post compared to the smell in your house, but I've had that feeling too, when it feels like someone is wrecking your nest, I get it and there's no way I can or will judge you for it.

This sounds like it's been a shock to the system for you. What a lot of change to happen, and relatively quickly. But once the first shock has worn off, and now you've had your (much needed by the sounds of it) rant to us, you need to make sure you keep things in perspective and remember what's important.

First and foremost, there is a young child in the middle of all this, who is probably feeling abandoned, unwanted, and disregarded. And she's been sleeping on a stinky and sometimes wet mattress. Like others have said, get rid of the wretched thing, get her whatever you can afford to sleep on, and think of it as an important, much-needed gift. This is an opportunity for her to witness what it is like to live in a household that isn't completely dysfunctional, please please give her that window, give her a safe place to turn to, give her a safe ear to talk to.

Secondly, the health of everyone in the household. So, get on those fleas and yeah get rid of or store as much of their stuff as you can which you suspect might be harbouring infestations of any kind.

Then plan for the future, set targets for progress and set firm boundaries for house etiquette and protocols. They are contributing to the rent as I understand it, so you need to remember that it's not all about you anymore. But every landlord has ground rules, so get them in place asap.

Lastly, I don't think I need to say this, but please remember not to penalise the child for her mother's shortcomings and bad behaviour. She may not be the perfect child herself but it doesn't sound like she's had a ton of good role models to grow up around. Please help her to realise that that isn't all there is. You may have an opportunity to, completely seriously, change a still-growing little life for the better, and that is the most precious gift in the world.
posted by greenish at 8:53 AM on July 20, 2015 [24 favorites]

I wanted to add that you and your husband did a good job by talking to her about money, negotiating the amount of furniture she could bring, and also being there for her and her daughter. You've just been thrown for a loop by the reality of the chaos she brings with her.

But you can see clearly now. Prioritize the cleanliness of your household and a good setup for the child and you'll be ok.
posted by charlielxxv at 9:06 AM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Nth'ing that this is way more about your niece. Bedwetting late is usually (albeit not always) a symptom of stress from other factors, in this case it sounds like the instability alone would do it.

Do what you need to do to make your home stable, for yourselves and for her. Get the cheap air mattress, making it clear it's not a bad thing, just an orderly household (else your niece will feel further ashamed about her bedwetting causing this.) Set whatever rules you need in order to not be too destabilized by your sister living with you.

Looking ahead and planning for the worst: your sister may not be in a very stable place when she will supposedly be moving out. If at all possible from your end, consider whether your niece could continue living with you if she wants to by then.

Sorry you're going through this, but you sound like great people and a loving family. Best of luck.
posted by pahalial at 9:38 AM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

"Prioritize the cleanliness of your household and a good setup for the child and you'll be ok."

The sister did not stay to help unload her stuff. She broke the signed agreement in multiple ways before even moving in.

The next thing to happen is the sister will not be able to pay bills or contribute financially. Everything is not "OK." This situation is following a common and predictable trajectory. It's very sad. Pretending things might work out won't help. Being proactive will help everyone involved. That's guaranteed.

OP, come up with a new plan. You've just been notified (in a clear manner) that your sister is 100% not capable of functioning appropriately or following the agreement.

I wish you all the best. This can still turn out well, but not if you focus on the smaller picture, the fleas and filth. Focus on adjusting plans around what you now know about your sister and your niece. Again, good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:41 AM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

Nthing that the first priority should be your niece. For a girl child to still wet the bed at seven is a strong indicator of psychological and/or physical problems. It sounds as if both she and your sister need professional help.

I don't know where you are located, but try googling your area's (city or county) social services. Contacting a domestic abuse shelter might also give you some leads.

Start lining up what professional help is available now before things get way out of hand. And, don't worry that professional help means that someone is going to swoop in and cart your niece off to foster care - the emphasis these days is on keeping families together and getting help for parents.

For right now, I agree that an air mattress is a good idea. Have the stinky mattress hauled away and replace it with a nice air mattress from Target or someplace, along with a waterproof cover and some pretty (and washable!) sheets.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:53 AM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

What state are you in? I can send you an air mattress from amazon for the niece. You can memail me.

Even if the niece doesn't end up staying with you, she'll have the air mattress around. Nthing that care for the niece is the priority.
posted by leemleem at 9:55 AM on July 20, 2015 [30 favorites]

Throw out the matress and the upholstered furniture. It is not worth keeping and is likely contributing to their poor health. It is not worth also ruining your own health over. You can get better quality furniture than that at a yard sale without causing the high medical bills this stuff will cause.

Do not fight with her about this or be ugly. Let her know the furniture and mattress cannot stay because it is a health hazard. She can either find another place to stay or get rid of it, her choice. If she whines about how she has no place else to go so you are being unfair, just repeat her options and insist she make a choice and just do not engage the inevitable emotional drama. It is okay for her to cry or whatever, but do not focus on the emotional fallout. Just focus on the actual decisions and practical matters.

Then look into whether or not she qualifies for food stamps, low income housing, etc. See if you can help her cobble together enough support to make her life work. And try to get the girl healthier. Step one: throw out the goddamn mattress right fucking now. Sleeping on it is damaging her health.
posted by Michele in California at 10:20 AM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

Your sister seems to have a lifelong practice of agreeing to whatever is required, and then ignoring it, as she ignores her responsibility to her child. I would accept the generous air mattress offer, and let the rest of it stay in the driveway until hauling it to the dump. Nothing stinky comes into the house.

One approach to urinary incontinence is to remove artificial dyes, flavors and excess sugar from the child's diet. Make sure the child has a supply of clean nightclothes, even if it's just oversize tshirts, clean bed linens, and knows how to run the washing machine. That way, she can deal with it, which reduces drama and blaming.

Fleas. yechhh. I sprinkle flea powder, wait 20 minutes, then vacuum. daily if necessary. All clothes she brought in get washed and dried.

Start checking out any social services that might help your sister. Maybe ask her for some rent, and save it to help with move-in costs.

I can't agree enough that your niece will benefit from your help.

Build boundaries to protect your health. Be really firm about your rules and don't tolerate her messing with them. If she says you're mean and not sympathetic enough, blah, blah, just keep telling her you love her, want to help her, but also have to take care of yourself. You are being incredibly kind and generous. Your sister sounds kind of sad and weak, and you are being a good big sister.
posted by theora55 at 10:25 AM on July 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

"We agreed that there needs to be a cover on the mattress. All of these things have fleas. They are not coming into my house. I have bought an inflatable mattress for your daughter to sleep on. Nothing is coming into this house until it has been treated and deodorized."

Frankly, I'm pretty sure that she agreed to everything just so she'd have a place to live. Priority 1: look after your niece--your sister is an adult and anything that is her problem is her problem. 2: work with your sister to find financial and mental health support. 3: set a religiously immovable date that she has to be out of the house.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:28 AM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Whether a 7 year old can reasonably run the washer depends on the 7 year old, and your niece may not be ready, given her living circumstances til now. But I would walk her through the house, explaining the house rules ("You can have snacks in the kitchen, but in this house we don't take food in the bedrooms"), and then matter-of-factly explain what she should do if she has an accident. I suggest double-sheeting the bed (mattress, waterproof pad, sheets, waterproof pad, sheets), because then she can probably handle things herself:
"OK, Niece, if you have an accident, it's no big deal. Here's what you do. You can get a clean sleeping shirt here (adult large t-shirts are fine for this - that's what I slept in for most of my childhood), then you pull off the top sheets and mattress cover like this, then you put the sheets and your clothes into this laundry basket, and in the morning tell me that you need do some laundry and we'll go wash it together. Make sense?

She'll probably need to be walked through it in a lot of detail, but she should be able to learn this protocol pretty quickly, and it'll be really good for her to learn how to take care of herself. The more she can participate, the less you'll have to get mad at her mom for not handling it, and the better you and Niece will feel.

Kids aren't dumb, and if you're constantly having it out with her mom over her pee, she's liable to feel responsible for the whole situation.
posted by telepanda at 10:55 AM on July 20, 2015 [18 favorites]

I will also suggest that this may not be due to laziness per se. It may be due to being overwhelmed by events. There may be some undiagnosed disability underlying it. It may be that she is too ill to be energetic enough to cope. Keep in mind that being ill and tired can negatively impact cognitive function as well, so her saying yes and failing may not be intentional deceit.

That doesn't mean you should put up with it. It does mean you should look for solutions that aren't some variation of "yelling at a deaf person."
posted by Michele in California at 12:10 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm sure some Mefite more knowledgable than I can explain better but OP, you need to start talking to a family lawyer because your sister is unable to take care of your niece.

This isn't just the bedwetting and lack of financial resources, this is the fact that your niece was living in deplorable conditions and your sister was so unaware of how bad they were that she brought the furniture with her. What the actual fuck? CPS should have already been involved. Your sister is grossly negligent with her daughter and until she can get her act together, your niece needs to be in a more stable environment. You and your husband need to think about whether you can provide that to her in the immediate future and long-term. If money is tight, start looking into resources and seeing what you could qualify for when it comes to income assistance if you take custody. And if you decide to take custody, you'll probably need a lawyer unless your sister is more self-aware than I am giving her credit for.

I mean maybe your sister will have that come to Jesus moment she needs and start taking care of her kid. But what if she doesn't?
posted by bgal81 at 12:27 PM on July 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

Her daughter still wets the bed and I insisted that the mattress be in a vinyl mattress cover before coming in the house. All, she agreed to. (In her home, if her daughter peed in the bed, they just covered it with a towel...)

That mattress is going to make any room you put it in stink of old piss, whether you put a vinyl cover over it or not. Even without fleas, it needs to not come in your house.

Whatever you end up replacing it with: dealing with bedwetting is a whole lot less trouble if you have some Brolly Sheets. Also, something as simple as making sure your niece always has a very-last-minute wee before going to sleep can give her the best chance of having a dry night or at the very least cut puddle size back a great deal.

How do I, number 1, talk to her about her hygienic practices without coming off like a bitch

You don't. You talk to her about your hygienic practices, make sure she understands that staying with you is conditional on compliance with those, and get yourself internally prepared to follow through in case of non-compliance.

That last part may well involve coming off like a bitch in your sister's eyes but that sounds like a very difficult thing to avoid in any case. From your own viewpoint, it needs to be thought of in the same category as putting on your own oxygen mask before trying to help other passengers fit theirs; you're of no use to your niece if trying not to offend your sister is allowed to become your first priority.
posted by flabdablet at 1:13 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Why did you let her bring the mattress and furniture in the first place? You, me and everyone who read the post knows that it was seriously unsanitary. Also, I don't think you're being realistic about your sisters ability to provide income and would caution you against it.

I can see the tension between familial duty that you're battling. It's difficult to deal with but I think you really have to enforce house rules despite the fact that she may be offended. It's your house, your rules. As someone with little to know options she has to respect that.

Nothing that everyone else said about the niece. Buy her a new mattress and say no to furniture, it's flea ridden and if money's tight an exterminator is only going to excrebate that problem.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 2:29 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

You NEED to read up on tenant law in your state and/or talk to a lawyer (legal aid?) versed in tenant law. I don't know what is in the "contract" (which should be a "lease") y'all signed. But even if it's not really a lease: depending on laws in your state, after living with you for a given period of time, your sister may automatically be considered your legal tenant—whether you have a lease or she's paying you rent or not—and you will have to go through the eviction process to legally get her out.

Do NOT let your state's "default period of time for legal tenancy" pass for your sister living with you before you have an actual real lease in place! The "contract" you have may already make her a tenant, which is why a lawyer would be helpful.
posted by nicebookrack at 3:03 PM on July 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

I admire and respect what you are doing. Huge props to your husband as well. You guys sound like gems. In dealing with your sister: see if you can treat her like a child (she is clearly immature) without speaking to her like one. Sort of like if your teenage daughter brought home a friend to stay for a week. "oh no, we don't do X here", and "here is the J cloth. We use it to wipe the table after every meal". To help prevent pee accidents, can you take the daughter to pee, in her sleep, whenever you are heading to bed. Eg maybe she goes to bed at 9, having peed once or twice before bed. Then you take her to pee at 11. Just to prevent issues? I love the idea above of setting 3 goals per day ton focus on . Or even 1 if she is an underachieving person. Also 1 resume per day. Best of luck to you.
posted by leslievictoria at 6:29 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Amalie-Suzette, please check your mefi-mail.
posted by leemleem at 7:24 AM on July 21, 2015

Response by poster: Wow! What great responses!!! I knew you all wouldn't disappoint. ;)
For now, all of the stuff is still in the driveway. We had a torrential downpour yesterday afternoon, so now it's all wet. Our mother purchase a large, weatherproof tarp to cover her things until we make final decisions. Our mom also bought a cheap vinyl mattress cover for $13.87 at Walmart yesterday and put it on. (We only have 1 room here for them, so they are sharing...although after reading, I think I'd just rather save and get air mattresses for now and then look for them either twin beds or a full/queen bed on yard sale pages/etc.) I have informed her that ALL clothing items will be washed in hot water and vinegar before coming into this house and that I don't care to help her when I am able. She started her laundry last night.
I am not going to let her bring the furniture in the house. I'm going to tell her today that she can either take it to her storage building or get rid of it and start new when she gets her own place.
My niece has been a bedwetter her whole life. She's been to the doctor, they just say that she will grow out of it eventually. I talked, ad nauseum with my sister last night about making sure my niece not only stop drinking liquids by 7pm, but that she be required to pee when she brushes her teeth before bed and I asked my sister to please set an alarm for 11, 12, 1, whatever to get my niece up and go to the bathroom. Funny thing, when she spends the night with either me or my mom, she NEVER wets the bed because we do these things. My sister is a lazy pig and to me, she will be perpetually 12. She also has borderline personality disorder and the best way to deal with borderlines is boundaries. She's not had them her entire adult life. The bottom line for me is this; she needs help. I am her sister. I also feel certain that if the tables were turned, she'd do the same for me. We might disagree on things and live our lives differently, but I love my sister and I want her and her daughter to have the best possible chance...just not at the cost of my sanity. We had a come to jesus last night. She cried a lot but understands. I also explained that if ONE MORE THING is broken from the contract we all 3 signed, she is out. I don't care where she goes, she can figure it out on her own. Her daughter would stay with me unless her dead beat father wanted her...which I SERIOUSLY doubt. (and FWIW, my sister and I just call the "lady" across the street from her a crack ho. I do not know if she does drugs or not, she just gives the appearance of meth head...if YKWIM.)
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 8:06 AM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

You should call CPS on your sister. Keeping a child in a house full of feces and urine is abuse and neglect. allowing a child to sleep in their own urine is abuse and neglect. Your sister may have a medical issue or she may be an asshole parent, but thats not for you to untangle. This is not a housekeeping issue. Your sister is an unfit parent right now.

Tell your sister that she needs to either remove the contaminated furniture or it will be thrown out on (date). call CPS about your niece right now. Allow your sister to crash on the couch for x weeks.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:08 AM on July 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

She also has borderline personality disorder and the best way to deal with borderlines is boundaries

Speaking as a person with BPD, two things:

1) Please do not refer to us as 'borderlines.' Person-first: she is a person who has borderline personality disorder. Thank you.

2) No, actually. The best way to deal with people who have BPD is actually clarity and validation. We have a desperate, burning need to be validated and criticism can hit us really, really hard. Moving forward, one of the most effective ways you can communicate with your sister is to validate who she is as a person while maintaining your own integrity.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:25 AM on July 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

I willsuggest again that you drop your opinion that sis is a lazy pig. She has a disability. Things will work a whole lot better if you really come to grips with that fact.

I say this as someone who was called "lazy" my whole life and then got a life-changing diagnosis at age 35. Knowing what was wrong helped me start accomplishing things that had just never been possible before, no matter how hard I tried. And I tried like hell but couldn't get my act together until I had a proper diagnosis.

Also, I will suggest that setting this higher standard of cleanliness will eventually help both your sister and your niece function better. I think people vastly underestimate how much cleanliness impacts health and ability to function. It is possible your niece doesn't wet the bed when staying with relatives because their homes are cleaner, not because she is made to go pee before bedtime. When exposed to enough awfulness, people can just piss themselves as the body tries desperately to cope with how overwhelmed it is.

I am glad to see your update. Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 11:04 AM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Re: the daughter: just want to reiterate that pull-ups are available in her size. I know two kids who had the same issue—were completely healthy but had ongoing night-dryness issues. They did indeed both grow out of it, just as the docs said. Pull-ups can help the kid in a bunch of ways, including removing the shame associated with waking to a wet bed, and also giving her the power to deal with getting ready for bed and waking up on her own without parental oversight that might lead her to feel she's under a state of constant surveillance.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:13 AM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

Regardless of whatever else you do, make it a priority to get your sister in contact with nearby domestic violence help. There's a decent chance that some or all of the problems stem from depression due to what sounds like quite a few years of emotional abuse.
posted by stormyteal at 8:16 PM on July 21, 2015

Your sister has issues that won't be helped by either 1) enabling her, or 2) berating her and calling her names. I'll reiterate that she, and your niece, need professional help. I suggest making it a condition of living with you that both Sister and Niece go to therapy, medical appointments, job placement (if your sister is capable of working), comply with necessary prescription medication regimens, and live as contributing family members at your house.

If your niece only wets the bed at home, I wonder what kind of abuse she might have been enduring. How is she doing in school? Have her teachers raised any concerns? Pull-ups are a great suggestion, and you can get disposable incontinence-protection sheets like these.

Contact a domestic violence shelter or advocacy center - they can give you leads on where you might find this professional help, as well as things like food stamps, disability if necessary, WIC, free or low-cost after-school programs for your niece, etc.

Your boundaries and clear expectations for your sister can be something like "You can live here as long as you go to therapy and medical appointments, actively seek work, make sure Niece goes to therapy and after-school care, help around the house, and keep your personal area clean." (You can get more detailed than that but you get the idea.) Be a safety net but don't enable her or coddle her - but don't write her off as hopeless, either.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:55 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

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