Family's levitating heads stare angrily at each other while symbols of their father's money and house fade away

Being the Bad Guy: We All Have to Be It Now

My brother got accepted into the University of Southern California. He didn’t expect it to happen and frankly, I couldn’t believe it did.

He beat out 70,000 other applicants and got accepted into the film program - the number 1 film school in the country.

He has worked so hard these past few years to make sure he was at the top of his class while also managing multiple extracurriculars and dealing with our father who has been rapidly getting worse. We officially received my father’s dementia diagnosis - it cemented what we all already knew.

Feeling angry at our dad

Part of committing to USC meant my brother needed to put down a $500 deposit. He had the money in his bank account. Somehow, my father got a hold of his debit card and spent the $500 on stuff from eBay.

My brother’s initial reaction was anger. Anger towards our dad. Despite our father being sick, and us having to be constantly aware of his dementia, we all have our moments, especially my 18 year old brother.

He’s angry my dad is sick. He’s angry my dad didn’t think before he spent it all. He’s angry his money was spent on random stuff when it had an intended purpose.

No longer in charge of finances

This incident brought up an issue in our family we regularly struggle with, especially now that my father does things without thinking or has the ability to be reasoned with.

Taxes for my parents are about to be filed and when they are filed, there will be a sizable tax return. In the past, that tax return would hit my father’s account and he and my mother would decide together what to sensibly do with that money.

However, this year, I fear that won’t happen. Months of patterned behavior have shown us he can no longer be trusted with the finances, something he was always in charge of before.

This means that we need to change the bank account where the return is deposited into and ensure that he does not have access to that money. A decision we know we have to make, but are struggling with.

Changing roles in their marriage

By doing this, my sister and my mother and our whole family will effectively be saying to our father “You are unfit to be the head of this family anymore” - something he is not ready to hear. What man would be?

He will feel anger, hurt and most of all betrayed. He will undoubtedly accuse us of trying to control him and his life and we will have to listen to it.

What I think is the hardest part for my mother is accepting the new truth of her role and the dynamic of their marriage.

Now that he is unable to make sound decisions, she will have to accept not only the role of the decision maker, but to also set boundaries with him and become “the bad guy”.

Setting new boundaries

She is not ready to see that he is not the same person he once was and the best way to come out of this situation without financial ruin is to be okay with being the bad guy. Rules will have to be followed, boundaries will have to be drawn and he is going to hate us all for it.

For a while, we decided - let him spend his money. He gets a few hundred bucks a month from social security and it doesn’t make much a difference with the bills.

But as his dementia progresses, so does his willingness to recklessly spend anyone’s money - including his 18 year old son’s.

And while my brother will figure a way out to get the money back, we still have to come to terms with the bigger picture here. Our father might die hating us, feeling like we didn’t let him live like a man or be in control of his life. A possibility we aren’t ready to accept yet.

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