Dear Annie: My father recently passed away. Dad was helping to support my 43-year-old brother, "Ben," who suffers from depression and is on disability. Ben doesn't work and spends a great deal of time in bed or buying liquor and lottery tickets. He's always just a little bit out of it, and I think his antidepressants, along with his alcohol and drug use, have exacerbated the problem. He's been under psychiatric care for 20 years, but he is still drowning in his depression. He recently completed his second college degree and is sending out resumes, but we aren't too optimistic. He has never held a real job.
Ben does not pay any bills, nor does he do much around the house to make up for it. My sisters occasionally clean the house, and my sister-in-law cuts his grass. Afterward, they scream at the rest of us about all the work they do without our help.
There are six siblings. The house is in four of our names, but no one wants it. There is a life insurance policy and a will that divides everything equally, but Ben's share is controlled by one sister who oversees his expenditures.
Are we supposed to use the money from the will to keep Ben in the house? Is this our moral responsibility? Would it be better to sell the house and move Ben into an apartment that's more manageable? None of us wants to pay out of our own pockets for repairs. Do we support Ben until the money runs out and the house falls apart? I don't want to be greedy, but I also don't want to be foolish. All we do is argue about this. Any suggestions? — Ben's Brother
Dear Brother: You do have a moral obligation to help your brother so he doesn't end up on the street. But it also seems that his current medication and therapy are not helping, and it may be time to get a second opinion about his medical care. Also, it could be more practical to sell the house and move Ben into a place that is less expensive to maintain so that his share of the money lasts longer. This will become a bigger issue as the house becomes more dilapidated.
Since you and your siblings are arguing about this, we urge you to speak to an experienced estate lawyer, who can discuss the various ways to deal with Ben and mediate whatever decisions you make. You all seem like caring siblings. Please don't let this create an estrangement.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from "A Concerned Daughter and Mom-to-Be." You could be very helpful in reducing stigmas about brain disorders by gently reminding readers that her mother isn't bipolar, but has bipolar disorder — just as we wouldn't say that someone is cancer, but has cancer.
My neuro-psychiatrist friends are now using the term "brain disorder" instead of "mental illness" because the latter perpetuates the notion that it's not a physical illness. But the brain is also part of the body. Thank you. — M.
Dear M.: You make some excellent points. Often, we can change perception by changing terminology. We will try to keep your suggestions in mind for future columns.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.