Counting to Ten... and Breathing Out


Counting to Ten... and Breathing Out

number-437928_640I love my siblings. I really do. I also know my siblings.

When my parents first started having major challenges and it was obvious they needed help, I worried about how we kids would handle it all and whether we could get through it and remain civil. This worry intensified when I got phone calls from my sibs. Since I'm the only one living in the same state as our parents, my phone became the hub. What I heard was, "I'm not really sure about (brother) and (sister or brother), but I'm glad I can talk to you." I heard this same sentence from all three of my sibs - fill in the blanks with the other two names. I was really uncomfortable being the "good" sister, not to mention wondering what they said to each other about me!

I watched my husband's family go through these challenges and end up with one sibling cutting herself off from the family and blaming her sibs for this. I never would have anticipated this happening, but it did and things got pretty nasty at times. I know I can't control what will happen with my sibs, but I wanted to be proactive and prevent problems.

The direct approach seemed best. I emailed all of them and told them my concerns. I told them I wanted to acknowledge how each of us are different and how we will each process and cope with our parents' aging issues in our own ways. Then I got specific: Oldest sister works in a nursing home. She copes by helping us know what to watch out for and giving us advice based on her experience. She cannot fly out often as their finances are stretched to the max. Oldest brother will help with finances because he needs something practical to do for mom and dad. He will fly in when possible and cope by saying, "what do they need and what's it going to cost?" Youngest brother will call Mom and Dad every day, sometimes twice, and cope by worrying. He will more often see them as doing better than they really are, mostly because he is so good with them that they tend to do better with him. Me? I'll be the one who complains the most (I'm here doing the work) and will be the one attempting to put out all the fires and be the peacemaker.

They took this, not only with good humor, but with love and acceptance.

Right at the moment, my resolve is being tested. I'm counting to ten and trying to breathe out, reminding myself daily I cannot dictate what my siblings are going to do, even when it makes my life a little more complicated. And, really, is my life more complicated because of what one sib is doing or is it because I'm the one here and, damn, I know what should and shouldn't be done?

My youngest brother was in town over Thanksgiving. He took my parents to their storage unit, which allowed Mom to go through stuff and take a bunch of shtuff back to the apartment. He took them there in September when he came, too. I have talked with him numerous times about the challenge of having way, way too much stuff in the apartment and the safety hazards of tripping over piles of magazines and trying to get around yet another piece of furniture. Also how I now have to go in and check their bedroom regularly because Mom's got about 3 times the amount of clothing that could be smashed and forced into drawers and closets. So there are piles of clothes everywhere. When Mom looks for what she wants to wear, things fall and get scattered on the floor to be tripped on later.

I feel very angry with my brother, but then.. I also know Mom well. She has always, or nearly always, gotten her own way. Dad is a push over. Younger brother is a pushover. If you cross Mom, she can be vicious. If you waffle, she's very persuasive and manipulative. My youngest brother married a woman 24 years older than he is. He became a step grandpa right away, but he doesn't have the experience of having his own kids - or even step kids, not really. They aren't children if they are almost as old as you are and already married. He and his wife have always spent holidays apart, with their respective families. Mom and Dad are his family.

Breathe. If I let myself stay angry with him, I'll be miserable. He's not going to change. He'll still pick up things at thrift shops to send to Mom and he'll still take her to the storage unit and let her bring a box of treasures back home. It'll be their secret - at least until he leaves town again. He'll still get Tylenol or other over the counter medicines for them because Mom complains the nurses don't come when she calls and asks for these meds. It's their secret, too, except I know about it and so do the nurses now.

It's not my job to control what my sibs do.

Breathe and relax.


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Goldie, I've been caregiving since mid-July along with an older brother and eldest sister. I wish we were nearly as communicative as you (that email was genius)! I'm the youngest and the closest geographically as well as single and self-employed. Sounds like a set-up, doesn't it? Not that you asked :o) but my advice: Ask for help! Create and propose a schedule. Don't be a hero! Tell them when you need them to pitch in, whether it's paying for aides so you can have respite or physically being there. I'm working on being more vocal as well. I hope things work out for you and your family! Bless you!


Goldie, I really like the way you reacted to your sibs. It is so valuable to have that perspective but like you showed, it doesn't come easy. You have reminded me to really think creatively after I react! You are such a kind and considerate caregiver! You will be blessed!