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My father is in the hospital and I'm trying to support my mother. However my siblings have become distant from my mother over the years and are not visiting or calling my parents. What can I do?


Question:  I moved away over 30 years ago and became detached from the family. Over the past several years, my mother and I have become close and I notice that my siblings have become more distant from her. My father has been hospitalized for weeks. I flew in from out of state, rented a car, drove my aunt to and from the hospital, handled some business for mother and spent hours at the hospital keeping her company and comforting my father. I could only stay a week. I've talked to my siblings calmly about visiting or calling my parents—to little avail. Is there anything else I can do?

Dr. Amy:  It sounds like you are doing a great job as a caregiver! And I know it is frustrating when siblings don't jump in and help. I think it is important to remember that everyone has a different set of experiences with the person who needs care and a unique relationship, as a result. At the same time, everyone is coping with a different set of issues in his or her life, which affect their outlook and behavior.

It's not always easy, and we often don't always understand why people act the way they do or make the decisions they make. And the truth is that we are only responsible for our own behavior. We can make requests of others and then have to find other ways to cope – both practically and emotionally – if they choose not to help out. I do think you might think about writing an email or letter to your siblings talking about what the situation is with your parents and what specific actions that might be helpful. At the end of the day, it's up to them to decide what they will do. If your parents need support over and above what you and your siblings are able to provide, you might consider recruiting assistance from local resources such as a home care agency. There are also wonderful support groups in many communities for caregivers that might be helpful in working through some of the emotional aspects of caregiving that you may be experiencing; such as frustration with family members!

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 19, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Posted by Cindy

    You can only be the daughter for them that loves them. U cant force siblings to feel responsibility for parents. Dont destroy yourself over this issue. I had serious issues with my own sister for not wanting to help out more with responsibility of care for my mom. Lucky for me my other sister helped the most. You can only do what u can do. Finances are so tough for everyone right now. Who can afford a caregiver to come into the house? The best thing for you to do is call mom frequently, talk to siblings and let them know mom could use some help, you can use some help. My husband and brother-in law put the gilt trip on my sister-in law about doing her share of responsibility. It only made the wedge get wider between all. When siblings dont pitch in on their own accord and are forced to do it, it only causes dissention and fighting. Please be prepared since you are the responsible one and get Power of Attorney's for healthcare and a Durable Power of Attorney on both your parents. Good luck no rosy picture painted here.


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