Dilemma: my sister is becoming confused and irrational

Katharine Whitehorn / 20 January 2016

Agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn hears from a reader concerned about her sister's heavy drinking and increasingly confused and irrational behaviour.



Dilemma: my sister is becoming confused

My sister, aged 80, and my brother, 60, are both single and live together in our old family home. About eight years ago my sister started to become confused and later began to drink heavily.

Her condition has steadily worsened, which is making life for my brother extremely difficult. She visited her doctor for minor ailments and was prescribed tablets for high blood pressure – and the doctor also observed her extreme confusion. 

He recommended that she see another doctor for a check-up (actually for an assessment), but she refused. 

My brother is kind, sensitive and tolerant but is finding the situation quite dreadful and becoming depressed. 

He needs a break but cannot get away as my sister becomes irrational and doesn’t like to be left alone.

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

This situation cannot go on. Obviously if she had severe mental health issues she could be assessed without her consent, so you might appeal again to her doctor. 

Having your sister “sectioned” – declared ill enough to be dealt with against her will – would be an extreme step, but it may be that the time has come for her to be treated for her condition and possibly moved into a nursing home. 

You could also stay with her for a short time to give your brother a break, but I fear that’s not a long-term solution. 

I suggest you get in touch with Dementia UK, who will know how you might proceed.

Read our tips for communicating with people with Alzheimer's.

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