what to do when you're a prisoner in your own home?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by ironysfavor, Jul 1, 2009.

  1. ironysfavor

    ironysfavor New Member

    I've just found this forum, read the stickies, and made a signature. Please advise me if I've made a newbie error.

    My name is Andrea and I have been caring for my 16 yo half-brother (difficult child) for 2 years. After several incidences of running away and one declared wish to commit suicide, he has been diagnosed with ODD. Every written symptom that I have found fits him to a T. It is nice to finally find out a name for what is wrong.

    difficult child is lost both parents by 13, mom by suicide and our dad by cancer. Before Dad was diagnosed, he sent difficult child to live with my sister because he couldn't handle him. After the funeral, sister sent difficult child across the country to a military school because she couldn't handle him. I don't want to abandon this kid, too.

    We have been to many counselors. One told me after the second session that she never wants to be in a room alone with him ever again and advised me to purchase locks for our bedroom doors. Mental health services are sort of hit-and-miss here and it takes a while to get in somewhere. We currently have an appointment on July 9 for an intake for his suicide declaration a few days ago. I take his declaration seriously because in addition to his mother, his brother and his maternal uncle both died by suicide.

    I am a high school teacher and am strict. At first, I set rules for his continued well-being and to help him mature into a responsible citizen. Now, my only concern is safety -- both his own and that of my family. It is quickly escalating out of control.

    Luckily, I am off for the summer. I can sleep on opposite shifts from husband on weekends (when my husband is home) beacuse difficult child requires practically constant guard. husband works nights in a 12 hour shift, so sometimes I can get in two hours of sleep and even a shower while he is home and awake. If we don't watch him, he steals things, destroys our property, takes off, or may attempt to hurt one of us or himself. I keep a fully-charged cell phone and a can of pepper spray on me at all times. We have installed a series of motion-sensor lights around the house so that we can know if he is leaving or sneaking up behind us.

    I know you can hire a sitter for a small child and medically trained personnel for the sick...but what can we do if we want to get out of the house and have a teen like this? Hire an armed guard? I can not do this long term.

    Do any of you know of any kind of services offered to help parents get a little respite? It would be so nice to be able to take my son to a movie or for me to go out to lunch with husband or a girlfriend once in a while.

    We went to his PCP today and have been through the local police more times than I can count. Their answers are: corporal punishment, counseling (outpatient is all that anyone will do for us), or just turning him over to the state and putting him in foster care. We have opted to do the counseling route, but I'm not sure well be able to get him to go to regular sessions and I'm sure that medication compliance will be non-existant.

    husband and I have seriously considered those boot camp places where they come grab your kids in the midde of the night...though I've never actually known anyone who used them and I don't know if they would help or possibly even make the situation worse.

    I am open to any ideas or suggestions, even flames if you disagree with my methods.
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome. Gosh...you have your hands full. I seriously think your brother has more than ODD. With all the talk of suicide and the family history, I am betting on some form of mood disorder. When did he say something about suicide or injury to another person? Personally if it was me, I would be calling someone...911 or crisis line to get him into the ER for an emergency psychiatric admit. That should speed up a better diagnosis.

    Not knowing where you are located I dont know what kind of services you may be eligible for. Some places you can get what is known as wrap around services. Those would be great. They actually may have respite or even an aide that could come and be with him.
  3. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    What a heart breaking story- for both you and your bro. My gut tells me intensive therapy is needed more than anything. Of course, safety comes first and he might need to be in a hospital (psychiatric hospital) right now, temporarily, but I tend to think that relinquishing custody should be a last resort. Most (if not all) locations have funds available to pay for special services, such as intensive in-home therapy. It's just a matter of accessing the services and funds. If you get comfortable enough to tell us the state you are in, someone on the board might be able to give some pointers in this area.

    I would not recommend MST services, but that's just based on my experience. They work primarily on behavior modification but in my layman's opinion, this boy needs a lot more therapy than just behavior modification. I think you are right in him being a very high risk for suicide and beh mod alone won't "fix" that.

    I'm glad you found the board- Welcome! There are many here who can offer more experienced advice and this is a great place to "unload" some of the emotional toil you have been dealing with.
  4. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I just read Janet's response and she has a good idea. If he even mentions suicide again or starts acting differently in any way, calling 911 or your county/city crisis center and asking for a TDO is a great idea. Going thru your local jurisdiction will get his name in their system, which is the first step for accessing funding and additional services.
  5. Mandy

    Mandy Parent In Training

    I agree this sounds like more than ODD. I would try to get him in for a psychiatric evaluation asap. I am thinking with all the suicide talk you should definitly get him in to a hospital to have him evaluated and treated. After that I would go online to find out what services are available in your state.
  6. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    First of all, welcome. We're always sorry newbies have to find us but glad you did. You've gotten some good advice so far. This poor kid....he definately needs more than counseling. I would agree about calling 911 for transport to the ER for a psychiatric admit.

    As for the ODD, it rarely if ever is a stand alone diagnosis. It usually comes with another diagnosis but is overused/misdiagnosed by people who don't know or don't want to take the time to dig deeper. With the family history of suicide, I would bet the farm that there is some sort of undiagnosed mental illness in the family.

    Also, if you haven't done so already (and as a teacher you already know this), start documenting EVERYTHING. Appointments and the results, test results, issues at home, issues at school, any problems your brother has ANYWHERE. Keep a log of every "professional" you speak with (in every area) and make note of who you spoke with, when, what was said, what they said and any results from the call. Somewhere on the site (I think you could look in the FAQ pages) there are links to various forms or reports that you, as a parent, can use to keep track of things or gather your thoughts for doctor appointments. Also on the FAQ page, you will find a post about our abbreviations. We have developed our own type of shorthand language here. Partly because of the various doctors, professionals and diagnosis's involved and partly because of the censoring feature on the site. (Censoring ex: Instead of saying something "the opposite of blow", we say hoover because the site censors the "real" word).

    I really don't know what else to say. You definately have your hands full and my heart goes out to you, your husband and your difficult child. I'm sure though, that others will be along soon with more/better advice.
  7. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Hi Andrea and welcome.

    Wow... your family has certainly been through it. I absolutely agree with- Janet about calling 911 for transport to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation for suicidal ideation or for any violence towards another member of the family. I would be sure that if you do call 911 to emphasize that you are requesting transport of a severely mentally ill teen to a hospital for evaluation. You will almost certainly still get some officers at your home, but hopefully the focus will be on transport and evaluation, not arrest. Calling 911 for transport was always successful for my family.

    I also agree that given the family history, on top of his multiple losses, I would be suspicious of a mood disorder. But - we're not physicians here. ;) Just families who are struggling with- similar issues. We do bring our biases to the table, so take what you can use and skip the rest.

    In terms of respite, services, etc., I would suggest you start off with- your local mental health agency. Some states have more services available than others, and sometimes finding those services is like the old needle in the haystack, so the best advice I can give you is start making calls and see what turns up. I would *not* downplay the seriousness of the situation. I've found that hysterical mom/guardian can be far more effective in getting people to help you search out resources than competent mom. ;)

    Again - welcome! Glad you found us.
  8. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    If I could elaborate just a little more, while documenting, include any change in characteristic moods and behavior that you see in him and any medications like antibiotics, allergy medications, etc, even if they are OTC.

    What worked for me when calling 911: Right off the batt, I told them as soon as they answered the phone that my son has a mental illness and that he's cutting himself or whatever. In your case, you could say that he recently threatened suicide, his mother committed suicide, and now he's doing "XYZ" and you need help getting him into a hospital right away. In our state, the police come but not to arrest the kid- it is just the steps they have to take for a TDO. The parent is not allowed to call in requesting a TDO from the court, so police come and call crisis mental health and they evaluation the situation over the phone, then tell the police to bring him to mental health crisis center. The kid is TDO (transported and automatically admitted) from there. If you can transport the child, that is fine, but usually by the time the kids are teens, we guardians can no longer do that safely. If you can get him to an ER, they will transport him by ambulance to a facility that has a psychiatric ward if they don't have one. However, if it is a private facility, it won't get his name in the "system" connected to funding.

    This all probably sounds startling and frightening, but many of us here have had to take this route with our kids. The psychiatric hospital won't keep him a real long time and you can visit and it will be fine. It is certainly preferable to the possible alternatives when you see clear signs of danger to himself or others.
  9. ironysfavor

    ironysfavor New Member

    Thanks for all of the quick replies! I will try to fill in the holes and answer the questions as best I can:

    We live in NH. On Monday, he ran away for the fifth time. I called the police. husband and I went to take the door off his room (part of the progressive discipline system we have) and found a marijuna pipe on his desk. By this time, the police came, so I also gave them the pipe. I went out looking for him and found in the woods of town, but he wouldn't come with me so I had the police pick him up. We spent the whole evening at the police station. They are going to put him in the system if he does anything else wrong and may or may not charge him for the pipe. They told me they would back us up if we try corporal punishment.

    We got home at midnight, and five minutes later, he threw a lamp and told me he wanted to kill himself. I called the police again and they took him to the local hospital. They made the diagnosis of the ODD and said I had to take him home (at 3AM, no less). I asked for him to be admitted for a psychiatric evaluation and told them that I thought he HAD to be because of what he said. They said that they don't think he is a danger to himself. I know him better and I do not agree.

    The next morning, I started calling every mental health facility I could find. I also contacted his doctor (because he had been in the ER the night before) and our insurance. We took difficult child to the doctor today, who gave him a drug test (at my insistance) and a referral to another ER. We have the intake scheduled for July 9, and I figure I'll have to bribe him HUGELY to get him to go.

    Last night, I figured I could try to get a little sleep (it had been over 40 hours at that point), so I brought my son into my room, locked the door, and knocked out. My reasoning was that if all of these doctors thought difficult child was safe to himself, maybe I could let my guard down for a few hours. I also figured that if he broke or destroyed my belongings, they could be replaced -- but my son and I would be safe. husband came home at 5AM to find every door to the outside WIDE open. difficult child later said that if he didn't get a the security of a door, neither do we.

    Please keep the ideas and suggestions coming. We are at our wit's end here. If you have any other questions, please let me know and I'll do my best to answer them.
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    First of all, Welcome! I am so glad you found us and truly sorry you need us. You are an amazing sister. There are a lot of parents who cannot handle what you are handling.

    military school or wilderness camp or the boot camp type places are not going to help him much. Few of them administer medications, many use fear to make the child compliant, and any changes are very short lived.

    Is he using drugs? With his behavior I would suspect it. If possible you need to either do a home drug test that you get at the pharmacy or have the doctor do one. I just today learned from my pain doctor that hospitals that do the test in-house have a HUGE rate of false positives. He would not trust any result given in a hospital. He mails them out and the company does the standard identification test but then they do other tests to confirm the different things that show up. I was relieved because our hospital here admitted me with a seizure and thought I was on crystal meth. I have never touched an illegal drug. they used the even MORE reliabel "rapid test" and it is useless. (back on topic - sorry, I get rambly)

    Until you know he is drug free you will not be able to figure out what is really going on. Substance abuse treatment (including alcohol) can be found if he needs it.

    Now. ODD. Yup, it is a diagnosis. It will describe exactly what your brother and may other kids are like. Tells you what he is doing. But.

    ODD as a diagnosis will NOT EVER tell you WHY he is like that. It won't tell you how to help it. It just describes. Many other diagnosis's come with treatment recommendations. I have 3 kids. Each of them has different diagnosis's though at times they have the same actions. The younger two never take them as far as Wiz (my difficult child). But there are times ODD would fit them. The middle school here INSISTED my Jessie was ODD. She missed school. She wasn't paying attention. She always had to go get a drink. Then she had to pee. Then she wanted the nurse. Then she missed school because a migraine. Or because a doctor appointment.

    She has NEVER had ODD. She wasn't paying attention because she was having seizures every minute or so. They were not visible, just looked like she was daydreaming. She was adjusting to medications for that - hence the dry mouth and restroom breaks. She has migraines and back and knee problems. We are in a small town. Specialists are over 90 minutes away. So she would be gone all day.

    does that show how ODD doesn't really help? I beleive ODD has been diagnosis'd or suggested for every single difficult child here. You need to find a neuropsychologist. It may take going to a bigger city. They will do 6-12 hours of testing in several sessions. If they are good. NPs who only do 1-2 hours of testing miss a LOT of things. I don't know what state you are in, but you may need to use the online yellow pages or google or your insurance co to find one.

    i would hazard a guess and bipolar (used to be manic depression). It could be many other things. I am sure grief is a huge part of it. And possibly some kind of abuse. NOT saying that any of your family members would abuse him!!! If he is on the streets overnight when he runs away, or when he was in the military school, or maybe someone he lived near, could be anyone, MIGHT have abused him. It will take a really good therapist to navigate these waters to see if any abuse happened. (Do NOT hand him this as an excuse. Wait and let a therapist get into it with him. You do NOT want to hand him ammunition!!)

    Above all, keep reading and posting here. You may want to create a Parent Report. There should be a thread on it in the FAQ section. It may be called "Parent Input". It is a format that some moms here worked to create to keep all the many many bits of info we have and know and will get that help describe our difficult child and situation.

    Calling 911 for transport to a psychiatric hospital is an excellent thing to do. Do not EVER drive while he is raging unless there is another adult in the BACK seat with him. If he is in front he can grab the steering wheel, put his foot on the gas, all sorts of things. If he is in back he could grab YOU or hurt you. He could also jump out. With another adult who can physically handle him, you could prevent those things. MAybe.

    Be SURE - 100% TOTALLY SURE - that your daughter has a sturdy lock on her bedroom door AND a cell phone to call you if she is around him and he tries to hurt her. If for some reason you are not there, then she could run outside and hide to call for help if she needs it.

    You may need to file a child in need of services petition with the court (CHINS). You also need to call the behavioral health number on your insurance. If he has medicaid, call them. Surprisingly when we had medicaid for the kids while husband was in grad school they got us a bed at a long term hospital in 4 days. It wasn't the fanciest of places, but they sure did a good job. He was there for 4 months and we dealt with a whole ton of stuff.

    You can get alarms to put on the outside of his door, or on the inside of your daughter's door so that she can turn it off to go use the restroom. Use them at night (or your daughter's whenever she is in her room). If the door is opened it will shriek and everyone will hear it. They are around ten or twenty dollars for a set of several.

    i will write another book tomorrow. Feel free to not take anything I suggest, on this post or any post. Only take what works for you and your family. We support you no matter what!

    Hugs for your entire family!
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there. Sorry you have to be here, but welcome.

    Without reading anyone else's responses, off the bat, it sounds like this kid has way more going on than ODD, which is normally a little kid diagnosis. Is he doing drugs?

    Frankly, if you have younger kids in particular, I wouldn't want him in the house, whether or not he has been rejected before. He's very sick and needs in my opinion out-of-care help. I don't think a boot camp is going to do any good--I don't think he's as much bad as mentally ill, and I think an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) (residential treatment center) may be a better bet.

    He's definitely had a hard life, but with the suicide in the family, that's a big red flag that Mom may have had bipolar disorder--that is the mental illness with the highest suicide rate, even superseding schizophrenia or depression. I would want him out of the house to get him diagnosed correctly and stabilized. ODD frankly applies to any out-of-control child and isn't a very useful label. I really do think there's more to it--and at his age you can't discount drinking and drug use making everything even worse. My personal opinion is that in home therapy, especially at his age, isn't enough. I'd want him watched more closely and myself and my family protected from his behavior, even if it's because he is sick.

    I wish you luck. Stick around and update us.
  12. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I'm thinking that even if it isn't Bipolar, there has to be depression (a mood disorder) and the trauma that this young man has experienced might very well be exhibiting itself this way. Our "specialist" that evaluation'd my son said the proper ssteps are 1) safety 2) get rid of any drug or alcohol abuse, 3) deal with any specific issues, such as trauma or self-esteem problems, etc, then 4) see if there is any indication left of mood cycling. That is really the only way to know for sure if it's bipolar, and I agree with her. However, that is often much easier said than done.
  13. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    What a tough road you have chosen to walk. I agree that any threat of violence to others or self needs immediate attention. How long has your brother been with you? How is his school performance? Has he ever had a pysch evaluation or has he just seen a therapist? There are ways to help a kid be medication compliant. But, you've got to see if there is diagnosis warranting medications before. I see you're a high school teacher. I'm a high school teacher too. Could you place him in a summer school program? Are you in a town with a lot of resources. My small town had few and I had to dig to find the right resources for my difficult child.
  14. ironysfavor

    ironysfavor New Member

    I am learning how to quote here, and I apologize if I am not doing it properly. Also, my responses seem to take a while to show up because I think they have to be evaluated by a moderator first.

    difficult child is extremely intelligent, but will not do any homework. Consequently, his report cards show As and Bs for test grades, but Fs for homework or projects. We set up long-term goals (like getting a driver's license with Cs) and short-term goals (I used to allow him 30 minutes of computer time for every 60 minutes of homework completed). Nothing works for long.

    We have difficulty getting him to do much. He steadfastly refuses to do chores, even taking his own dog out (he seems to take a perverse pleasure when his dog goes in the house). It is too late for summer school and I can't imagine any way we'd be able to "make" him go, anyway.

    I am not trying to sound negative or shoot down your suggestions...in fact, I want to encourage as many suggestions as I can get. I am just feeling so trapped right now, and I'm having difficulty seeing any light in my situation.

    If medications are a possibility, how do you force compliance? And do you have any ideas for making him go to counseling? I don't know about my town's resources, but we do not have a mental health facility and I must go to one two towns over. Any suggestions for digging out assistance would be gratefully accepted. Money is no object.

    He has had evaluations by individual therapists, and all of them say his anger is off the charts. I'm embarrassed to say I don't know if he has had a full psychiatric evaluation yet, aside from the one at the ER yesterday.

    Someone else mentioned alarms. husband just put some on the outside doors today. I'll ask him to get more for the bedrooms, though difficult child will need to leave his room to use the restroom.

    I welcome any other questions or suggestions. Thanks again for the support and kind words.
  15. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    The first thing you need to do is get a full pyschological evaluation. That can be forced through a Chins or a PINS petition to the court. He is 16, so you still have a few years to force his hand to get the treatment he needs. If you can get in front of a judge with a PINS/CHINS, the courts can force him to attend counseling and/or comply with medications if they are ordered. Sometimes the threat of being locked up can make a difference. With mine, he had to be locked up and that didn't really help much.

    Check your surrounding towns for Adolescent Behavioral Centers. They will sometimes take them without a referral from an ER---my local ER is not equipped to handle any pysch issues. We do have a local mental health office, and i have used them for admittance as well.

    Many of us here have lived with alarms on all doors and windows for years. It is a very stressful way to live, but sometimes you have to do whatever it take to keep the rest of your family safe.
  16. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    If money is not a problem, then go online and find an educational consultant to help you find the right Residential Treatment Center (RTC) or EGBS. Residential Treatment Center (RTC) is residential treatment center and EGBS is emotional growth boarding school.

    What he can do is help assess your situation and then find a program that will meet his specific needs. It isn't cheap to use a consultant, not when you first look at it. However, using a consultant you greatly increase the chances you will find someplace to truly help difficult child's specific needs. Choosing a placement because it is cheaper or more expensive, or because of the location, is usually not the right way to get a program that will fit his needs. And no matter how much money you spend, if the program isn't meeting his needs he won't be helped. He could even get WORSE.

    I think you need to get him into a locked facility where they can figure out what is going on and really HELP him. Not throw medications at him until he can't stay awake, or treat him like he is in boot camp, or whatever. With the family history he really NEEDS specialized treatment.

    I hope this helps. If not, we can find other things that could help.

    The alarms for the doors should be INSIDE her door so she can get out and OUTSIDE his door so that after a certain time he will not be able to get out to do whatever. It will go off if he opens it, and it will wake the entire family.

    But he will NOT be able to sneak into one of your rooms to hurt you, or to attack the kids. Have him use the restroom right before you close the door, then when you are up he can be out again.

    Oh - your quotes were just right!
  17. graceupongrace

    graceupongrace New Member


    So sorry you are going through this. He is fortunate to have someone who cares so much.

    I have found that goal setting and incentives do not work for my 15-year-old difficult child -- and I've tried some very creative ideas. The psychiatrist told me that many kids with these issues will never respond to incentives because they're just not wired that way. They live for immediate gratification, and cannot see ahead even to a reward for a week of good behavior.

    We are in a similar situation with grades & homework. I have learned to encourage my difficult child to do his homework, and then let it go. He has to own it. I cannot make him care. However, I will not let him use the computer for fun and games if I know he has assignments due. I won't provide him with the means to avoid his homework. (This is after years of struggling over schoolwork. At this age, he knows what's at stake.)

    I realize you have bigger issues going on, and the others have given you better advice than I can offer. But I hope that my experience with the small things is helpful.

    I'm still pretty new here, but I have found there are many wise parents who are ready to jump in and help you and support you.
  18. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    My difficult child 1 has had similar issues though not quite what you are going through.

    I don't have much to add here, so first of all - {{{{{{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}}}} - you are a very brave and strong person!

    Aside from that, a word about the alarms. We picked up one at Wal-Mart for about $24 that has a motion sensor. Placed properly, this would allow your brother to leave his room and go to the bathroom and back - but nowhere else. Of course, this depends on the layout of your home!

    Also many alarms have a "chime" or "alarm" switch, and the chime wouldn't wake up anyone. We've Krazy Glued the switches in the "alarm" position and then broken off the tabs.

    We have ours set up so that difficult child 1 cannot leave the house. Our windows are older, and double hung, so she won't fit through them - except in our bedroom (kept locked when we are not in it), difficult child 2's, and hers. However the drop to the ground out of hers, ours and difficult child 2's would result in broken legs and she's not that stupid. The only windows she can get out of are in the basement (more about that in a second). So, the front door, deck door and front windows are alarmed. Then we have a motion sensor at the top of the stairs, meaning she cannot get out to the garage (which is kept deadbolted at night) or downstairs at all. The cats fit under the sensor area and the dog has learned that if it's dark, to stay in our or difficult child 2's room.

    You can't force compliance on the medications. You can only try.

    Our police release difficult child 1 to us a lot as well, and the psychiatric hospital won't keep her either. We're looking into an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for her. But - call crisis, 911 every time - this will help you in documenting, then you have lots of backup when you can petition for CHINS.

    I've learned a lot here... I'm glad you found us though I wish you didn't have to!

    More hugs. You're doing great!
  19. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Welcome. Like most everyone else I strongly suggest that you get on the phone and find the best resource for a neuropsychological examination. As a teacher you probably can do that quite easily by calling the head of your school districts special needs department. I have dealt with issues at schools for years and the only truly positive I can say is that almost always there is ONE experienced, educated, knowledgeable compassionate person in a leadership role for Special Education. (by the way, as you know, gifted is also Special Education.) You need to be able to talk freely with that person and find out "which person does the best evaluations". You want to make sure you are not referred to the "cheapest" or "quickest".

    You can't plan a future course of action until you know exactly what goals make sense for him. I have had two gifted sons who veered off the course as teenagers (one in the 70's and gson in the 90's). Although we had no violence or threat of violence it was tough. Does your nephew
    express "dislike" or "respect" or ??? emotion toward any family member? Having someone they can chill with does help defuse the situation.

    Good luck to you. It is a rough situation for all of you. He has got to be frightened, heartbroken, angry and heartbroken. I'm sending cyber hugs to you all. DDD
  20. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    The others have given great advice. I just wanted to add my welcome and support.