Instead of just saying “Mom would love to see you,” he needs to be more direct and say: “After 12 years of this, the caregiver badly needs care. Please schedule visits to come help me.”
I am the youngest of five brothers and have cared for my mother for 12 years. I live with Mom and my siblings live out of state.
At 88, Mom needs care that is overwhelming for me. I juggle work, home and Mom, with no time for anything else. I am very thankful and blessed to have Mom with me, but it is very emotionally draining.
My older siblings call sporadically and make even less time to visit — some only twice in 12 years. I’m so frustrated and, frankly, sad that they can’t make it a priority to visit more often, or even talk to me frankly about Mom.
I believe they all love her, but just take her for granted.
I have told them she and I would love to see them, but there are always excuses. They go on living, traveling and everything else, while I feel trapped.
I have found myself drained, overwhelmed, depressed and simply angry with the situation. I need them to understand the urgency of visiting more often than every couple of years. Help.
— Desperate Son/Brother
Anyone reading your letter — probably even your siblings, if they don’t realize it’s about them — will understand that “Mom would love to see you” really means, “Help, somebody, come visit.”
Do you know what it says, though, to people avoiding the hard work and even harder emotions of an infirm parent near the end of her life? It says just, “Mom would love to see you.” So you need to say out loud to each sibling: “After 12 years of this, the caregiver badly needs care. Please schedule visits to come help me.”
Don’t hedge. Caregiver burnout is real and terrible and bad for the health of both parties.
And don’t stop there, either: Propose a plan where each sibling stays with you and your mom — let’s say once a year, spread out so it’s one sib per quarter, for one week each, to give you a break. And for them to spend precious time with Mom.
Unless there’s a backstory here, they have no moral standing to say no. They may say no to you anyway. They probably will say no to you. And you can’t stop them. But it’s still important for you to stop making it so easy for them to opt out.
Start making them say yes or no. Be strong.
Do it not just for your own well-being, though that is justification enough. Do it also as a kindness to them, in case even one of them is just passively avoiding the whole Mom issue and therefore will feel guilty after she’s gone.
It’s unlikely you’ll get all the help you ask for — though I sincerely hope you do — and even a week per quarter still wouldn’t be enough if all the siblings came to your aid. You need respite care; you need a plan for when your mother’s care becomes more than you (or any person) is able to provide; you need financial help toward this care; you need people to talk to.
Start with your local council on aging to find a geriatric care manager or social worker. We’re not meant to do these things alone.
— Write to Carolyn Hax in care of The Providence Journal Features Department, 75 Fountain St., Providence, RI 02902, or email email@example.com.