Seeking Advice on How to Handle Retarded Cousin


I have a cousin, she’s 22 years old, and her disability is, well, I think the closest name for it would be retardation, but, honestly, that’s not even an accurate assessment. Physically, aside from morbid obesity and the health problems which accompany that, she is able-bodied. Mentally and emotionally, though, that is where she has trouble. She reads at maybe a 2nd grade level, and her ability to complete simple tasks is pretty limited. Her emotional maturity level is probably somewhere around that of a tween.
Here’s where I come in. I am 32 years old. I have twin daughters, just turned 3, and am pregnant, with a boy. I am due in 7 weeks. I work 3 days a week, and the other two days of the week I am off with the kids, and I am also off weekends. The trouble is, my cousins wants to spend ALL of that with me. She texts, emails or calls me at least three times a day, every day. She is desperate for social interaction and begs to come over to the house. The problem is, I have a hard enough time handling my two children, particularly at this stage of my pregnancy. I’m tired all the time. Also, getting ready for baby - the setting up the crib, getting the clothes, painting the room and all that - falls on me, and me alone. She offers to help, but, when she tries to ‘help’ she just makes things more difficult, and it’s more work for me, and I’m already tired. But she wants to come over, and ‘help’. Except that, what that ACTUALLY translates to, is that I have to make her lunch and snacks, and entertain her, and basically spend my time babysitting her. At the end of the day, I’m SO very exhausted, and still, the things I needed to get done for baby aren’t done.
I have tried giving her simple tasks to do, to keep her occupied and help me out, but things like folding towels, or counting pennies, or whatever, she can’t do. She can sit and watch tv but that’s about it.
So, the simple math is, when she comes over, I am watching my own children, and her. It’s exhausting, and I’m starting to freak out about getting stuff done before the baby gets here.
Additionally, frankly I don’t WANT to spend every free day with her. Sometimes I want to spend it with my friends and their kids, or running errands, or just, alone (well, alone with the kids).

So, tell me, what’s a Catholic to do? What is the proper charitable response? Let her come over all the time, and don’t bother getting done what I need to get done? Get done what I need to get done, and sideline her? Try to strike a deal? The problem with the happy medium is that it’s not really that happy of a place. I mean, she wants to come over every day, and I want her to come over NO days. So, happy medium really means we’re both STILL unhappy with the outcome. I have to be honest, being her only friend, as she puts it, is absolutely draining. And I don’t have the energy left to drain. Every time I look at my phone and see ‘6 new text messages’ I just want to CRY!!! I’m SO tired, and being the entire social network of my cousin is so very difficult. HELP!!


'Does her Mom or Dad live with her? If so, maybe you could talk to them about how you really need some time to yourself to get some things done, run errands and even nap if possible to rest up before the baby comes. Surely they will understand and be able to help explain this to her. If not, you need to set some boundaries. Just tell her that you really need to spend some time alone with your daughters before the new baby arrives to prepare them for having a new brother and to give them lots of special attention as well as getting other things done, but that on say, Fridays, you could pick her up fr lunch and maybe go shopping for an hour or 2. That way, you are no longer spending time with her at your home, so she won’t just be sitting around there. YOU pick her up, YOU take her out and YOU drop her off when you’re done. Try to make it fun, quality time doing something you both enjoy instead of just her sitting around the house getting on your nerves. Also, encourage her to do some other activities here she might meet some new friends?


Sorry to hear you are going through this at this stage of your pregnancy. As a Catholic your priority are your children. She needs to understand that even best friends don’t talk and see each other everyday.


There are resources for the mentally and physically challenged in almost every city or town where your cousin could have structure to her day and interaction with others. Have you spoken to your aunt and uncle or to your cousin's primary caregiver? I don't want to draw conclusions as to why you have taken on the responsibility to fill your cousin's days, but it falls to the legally responsible party to make other arrangements. I hope this doesn't sound harsh because I really feel for you.


[quote="PattiDay, post:4, topic:217791"]
There are resources for the mentally and physically challenged in almost every city or town where your cousin could have structure to her day and interaction with others.


I agree with this. One person CANNOT take care of a disabled person on their own, especially with their own children to take care of. Have her caregivers look into a program like Special Olympics. These types of programs will not only give her a social outlet, but they also provide a support system for the family, and it may help with her weight problem as well.

My grandmother (87) struggles with a similar problem with her daughter, who is now 60. My grandmother has refused to get my aunt into these types of programs and now, as my grandmother ages, we worry about who will care for my aunt. The more self sufficient your niece can be, the better off everyone will be.


My cousin is at about an 8 year old level but she is in Special Olympics and she also works at a Salvation Army store that hires the mentally challenged. Chances are your cousin needs some activities and a schedule and this could do wonders for her. I would suggest getting her involved in some local programs for the mentally challenged and also looking to see if there are jobs in the area that she could do. Goodwill and Salvation Army do hire them for tasks within their stores.


Thanks so much!! I am going to look into the special olympics stuff. I’m not sure if she could work or not, but I actually think it would do wonders for her. She needs to be needed, and I think getting out would do her good. Thanks everyone for your input.


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