December 29, 2010
Since you moved hundreds of miles from home for a great job, your sister has assumed the care of your parents. But you feel left out. Every time you ask, she says not to worry, she has it covered. How do you react?
There are few things worse than feeling left out. First, identify what you really want from this situation. Would more contact with your parents help? Have you made an effort to reach out to your parents first? If they are capable of speaking to you, consider making regular contact by telephone—once a week, for instance—to touch base about what is going on in your life and theirs. If dementia or hearing problems get in the way, why not consider mailing something every week. If your mother likes to read newspaper clippings or your dad collects stamps, send them items regularly to show them that you are thinking of them. This will help you feel more involved.
Caring for a parent is a different issue. If you are not home very often, the day-to-day life events are not a part of your relationship with your parents or your sister. It may not be fair to impose your preferences on the sister who is meeting your parents' regular needs. Perhaps your feelings of frustration have more to do with childhood rivalries. But it's important to be honest with your sister.
Speak openly with your sister about your feelings and let her know you want to be more involved in your parents' lives. "I just feel so out-of-touch here. Would it be O.K. if I called you after Mom and Dad's doctor appointments to find out how they are? Or, if you wouldn't mind, could I talk with the doctor myself?" Also find out what your sister might need. You may be surprised when she actually tells you she could use an extra hand. Things you could offer to help with from a distance include ordering items your parents might need online and having these things shipped to your parents' house, setting up automatic bill paying for your mom and dad, and helping your sister keep track of their appointments.
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