Dick: Becoming a Caregiver

During the economic recession, Stuart’s real estate business grew tremendously because he handled foreclosed property. However, the stress of the business resulted in escalating symptoms.

It got to be too much for him. That triggered another crisis. For the next three or four years he was hospitalized four times. At that point I became his primary caregiver. My mother was in her 80s and it was just too much. She made some bad decisions. I stepped up. It’s not something I wanted to do, but I had to do.

For the last five years, Dick has attended every one of Stuart’s visits to his psychiatrist. He noted, “I never wanted to learn all this.”

For many years, Dick worked for a large company and then jumped on an opportunity for a transfer to another state during a time when his brother was stable. He recalled his ambivalence about making the move.

I knew at the time that I was running away from problems with my brother. I knew this was good for me personally because I’d get away from that situation. If my brother was child, I would never have made that move. But my mother was taking care of him. My sister was 150 miles away. I was going to be 1500 miles away. I was down there for about six months. It didn’t work out. I came back and still worked for the company. I had tried to run away from it.

When Stuart worked in the real estate business, Dick saw him regularly, three to five times a week, while helping his brother with the business. Stuart was the owner and supervised a small group of people who worked for him. Dick kept an eye on this brother to help keep the business going.

I interacted with those people [Stuart’s employees] and to a large part, they were my eyes and ears. I would ask them how their interactions were going. I would ask them about signs of mania. My question was, any goofy thoughts from my brother this week? Any changes in his behavior? I’d ask for that constant feedback. It was somewhat frustrating. When he was going manic, I don’t think I got feedback from them quick enough. It’s not their fault. The frustration is in my lap, not their problem.

Stuart recently retired. He made money during good business years and now owns a duplex and lives in a cabin in a rural area. Although Stuart is stable, Dick describes him as heavily medicated, depressed, and sleeping 10 to 11 hours at night. Dick observed, “His quality of life just sucks.” Stuart lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident and is now extremely sedentary. He is unable to walk upstairs and is a chronic smoker. A high school friend lives with him periodically “until they get tired of each other.”

Dick is grateful for his brother’s cooperation with treatment recommendations, observing, “In that regard, we’ve been very lucky with my brother. He has always taken his meds. Always.” During one hospitalization, the mental health providers were convinced Stuart had stopped taking his medications, but he insisted he was taking his medications. Dick convinced his brother to use a pillbox.

I said, Stuart, “You don’t need the pillbox, but I need it.” He looked at me and I said, “I need to know that you’re taking your meds. This is how I’m going to tell. I can’t tell that you’re taking them.” My brother grumbled but again he acquiesced. He cut back on his alcohol consumption. He takes doctors’ orders.