Being the Bad Cop


Being the Bad Cop

policeman-23796_640My brother with Down syndrome has been in rehab for a week and a half with a broken femur. Starting physical and occupational therapy was slow, but, finally he is catching on and showing progress. Of course, the progress is nowhere near what it needs to be for him to come home. Now the conflict arises.

As his older brother and conservator, it seems I have become the "bad cop," meaning he sees me as the obstacle for returning home. I am there every therapy session watching from a distance. He loves the therapist (they seem to enjoy him too) and is richly rewarded with their complements. Once the physical therapy session is completed, I return with him to the room. It seems that I'm the last person he wants to see because I cannot grant him the wish to come home. "I want to go home," he asks. I reply: "Not yet. You have to get stronger."

While I know that my brother has an intellectual disability, it's darn hard to deal with being the "bad cop." My encouragement is met with anger and resistance, while other friends and family visitors are welcomed with his laughter. I've cut back my visits so as not to deter him from complying with the therapist (It appears he's very cooperative when I'm not there, so I am told.) Of course, I know that he loves me as I do him, but it does take away a lot to be met with such contrary behavior.

In my opinion, my brother has transferred the "parental" figure from our deceased mother to me. After her passing, he became a very independent person. Living on his own in the family house with 24/7 caregivers (I live across country) my brother blossomed. However with this recent fall and surgery, I had to return to set things up for rehabilitation. I know that I have to do more of "letting go" but I still have the ultimate responsibility for his care. When I see that his rehab has reached a point for him to safely return home with caregiving, I'll leave, but return for Christmas.

I know that my brother is frustrated with this interruption in his life and routine, so I can't take it personally, but nevertheless, it does bother me. I'm curious to know how other siblings have handled this issue.

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Ray, my situation is different from yours (I am the caregiver for my spouse) but I have definitely played my share of bad cop roles in the year since my husband's diagnosis. As others have suggested, advice is often better received when given by those in the medical profession, so I try to go that route whenever possible. In other cases...well, for instance since my husband's colostomy was reversed he has to be very careful about how much food he eats at one sitting. If he eats too much, he gets very uncomfortable. Well, old habits die hard and it's not uncommon for me to see him eating too much. He hates it when I point this out to him, so I just stopped doing it and let the chips fall where they may. He'll have to learn that lesson the hard way. It's not worth getting into an argument with him.


Just a thought:\r\n\r\nI wonder if your brother feels like he must be positive and upbeat with everyone else but he can only be real with you? Perhaps you are the one he truly feels that he can express his worry that he won't be able to go home.\r\n\r\nPerhaps you could continue the conversation with him by saying something like: It must feel frustrating to work so hard and still have to keep up the hard work. Or, It must be frustrating that you still have some work to do before you get home. \r\n\r\nI'm phrasing this a bit awkwardly but you get the idea. \r\n\r\nHe may just need to express his fears and worries and feels you are the one who will understand. :)


As they say on tv, Ray, that's \"priceless\".


Ray, I am the \"bad cop\" to my mother with dementia, so my experience is not quite like yours. Regardless of who the recipient of our unpleasant rules and regulations may be, many of our feelings about it are the same. You know exactly what kind of sacrifice you're making, exactly how you are following what is the best course for your brother, all the head-stuff. Thank you for being honest about your journey and your concerns about the other-stuff.


Oh the roles we get thrust into that we don't want or feel comfortable in… being the bad guy that is.\r\n\r\nI can't say I've been in that exact same place, but rather \"therapist\" to my one sister. She has psychiatric issues and because I used to work as a mental health councilor she thinks I can be her counselor. I resist that role and sometimes she doesn't like what I say to her either… as she typically wants coddling. I set boundaries but I feel guilty because I avoid her calls at times and dread talking to her. She can \"suck the life\" out of me. When I have patience, and remind myself that she doesn't choose to be this way, I do better. But for me I alternate between empathy to wanting to choke her! \r\n\r\nYou've probably already tried deflecting saying the doctor says your not well enough yet. I think frequently just writing down, giving voice to the feelings is the answer.