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Can I save my pill popping sister?

answered 06:33 PM EST, Thu February 16, 2012
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My sister is a 46 year old type 2 diabetic who is also addicted to whatever opiate pills she can get her hands on. She used to be an alcoholic, which is why I think she got the diabetes but she stopped drinking about 6 years ago. Unfortunately, she has recently moved on to something much more dangerous. She moved in with me after her husband passed away last year.
If she were not living with me and if was not taking care of her I am convinced that she would be dead right now. I check her blood sugar levels for her all the time because when she gets high enough she just forgest too or doesn’t seem to care enough. There have been times when she was close to death and I have had to slap her awake to try to get her to take some juice in.

I don’t know what to do. She will not get help for her addiction and I do not want to see her die so I cannot just kick her out of my house. I feel like I am a prisoner and there is nothing I can do but watch her get so high everyday in my house and worry about her every second.

That she is a danger to herself there is no question. Is her inability to manage her own serious diabetes enough to get her committed to the hospital for some treatment?

Dr. Ari Hahn Says...

Dr. Ari Hahn A. Hahn

I woke up this morning and saw your question. I was stunned because part of the answer I had just seen in a dream. I was dreaming that I was visiting somebody who wanted to do something good for the world, and since he and his wife lived in a place where many poor merchants came to sell their goods, they decided to convert their basement to a place to house 30 guests. But my son (who is ill) moved in and they were forced to help him and because of their efforts he was being kept alive. But they were angry because that was not their plans. But they were appeased when they were told that keeping one person alive for a few years is a much greater good that helping even hundreds of people save money on lodging over many years. 

While she may not consider help for her addiction, she might, with the proper coaxing, agree to get help for other issues. How does she feel about being so dependent at 46 years old? Most people would not be happy about that. What about the loss of her husband? Is she still in pain from that loss? If you "accept" the idea that you cannot do anything about her pill popping, and she knows that you will not bug her about it, she might be willing to address those issues. With a competent therapist, the serious issues will be addressed pretty quickly. But you need to use a "handle" that will help her agree to get help.

I cannot answer about having her committed since those laws are different in each state. I would ask a competent social worker about those issues. If she needs to be in the hospital for any reason at all, that can be addressed with the hospital staff. Next time you think she is "close to death" call an ambulance so that she (and you) can be involved with the government sponsored systems that can offer help. Also, you need to talk to a lawyer if she really cannot care for herself you might be able to have a PIN (Person in Need) petition issued which can give the power of an official caregiver and make decisions for her. 

I do hope this has been helpful. It is, by necessity, very general and does not take into account the many myriad of factors that define you and your sister. If I can be of further assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.

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Page last updated Feb 16, 2012

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