Unrealistic expectations from family.

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I am the oldest of 4 sisters and I have taken care of our mother in her home for 10 years. She has multiple health issues, including dementia, diabetes, incontinence, seizure disorder, heart valve replacement, and strokes. Her safety awareness is absolutely zero and since she is stubborn, she goes ahead and gets up from her wheelchair to walk around without letting me know. Sometimes she falls and 3 years ago broke her hip. I have rails up all around the house for her to grab onto just in case. Recently mom went into the hospital due to stroke-like symptoms and now is in a rehab facility. My youngest sister called two mornings ago and said "there is absolutely no reason why mom should EVER fall", and she said that I should be sitting next to mom every minute of the day that she is awake, and use a baby monitor at night in case mom should get up to use her commode (I have it next to her bed). I am blown away by that phone call. I am stunned. She sees mom about 2x a year and has flatly refused to take care of her for even an afternoon or overnight, so that I may get some time off, because "she has to work". I could go on and on, but I really need some ideas as to how to respond to her idea of perfect caregiving.

36 Comments

Wow, your sister needs a reality check! perhaps suggest she go visit a nursing home in her area and speak to the staff, or talk to her doctor, and find out that unfortunately, old people with health issues are prone to falls. Its just a fact of again, and not always preventable. You cannot bubble wrap people, honey, sorry about that.

We call that the "Daughter from (insert name of distant city here) Syndrome". They know EVERYTHING you should do, and will tell you, from a distance. The only time they are ever *smarter* is when they parachute into your life for a few days once every few months/years, in which case they can be even more bossy.

There is no such thing as perfect caregiving for the elderly/infirm, since the dynamics change continually. And, I am sorry to point this out, but the fact of the matter is that unlike child-rearing, where they grow up and flourish, in this case, the situation is not going to get better (until it is over, that is). There is no happy ending. We are just doing the best we can, with quick sand under our feet.

Tell your sister that if she wants your mom under constant supervision, and totally safe, that she will have to be sedated 24/7 and kept in bed. If you want Mom to be as mobile as she wants to be, it would cost thousands of dollars to hire enough staff to have someone on either side of her at all times to catch her if she falls. Its a tough thing to wrap your brain around, but you cant protect them from everything, and bad stuff happens.
LindaMS is absolutely on target! Old people fall. Old people with impairments fall more often. It is what they do.

I'll bet you'd love to sit by your mother's side all day. All you need is a staff to run the household while you are doing that. Someone to cook, clean, set up medical appointments, pay bills, etc. Oh, and someone to take over the sitting job when you go to the bathroom or take a shower.

If Youngest Sister really wants to learn about caregiving the elderly and the common risk factors, there are many ways she can get educated. If she just wants to criticize you, I think you should gently and firmly disengage from that conversation.
Your comments here have already helped me feel alot better about my so-called inadequacies. Two years ago Mom signed over her house to me in exchange for my long-term caregiving, and I was afraid this sister might go to court to contest that since she doesn't feel I am "doing my job". Ugh!! I will definitely stand my ground now, knowing it isn't "just me". Sometimes it's hard to have perspective when you're in the middle of the storm... and my friends on here contribute a much-clearer perspective.
Isn't it amazing that some people have all the answers but no hands on experience! You are doing a wonderful job caring for mom. My response would be, "I would be more than happy to sit by mom's side all day if you hire and pay for a staff to do the cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping." Then send her literature on a business that provides these services along with literature on all the responsibilities involved in elder care.
I am going through sibling troubles myself. My sister... wow, makes your seem like a support group! She says I should be in jail (I have cared for both my parents for almost 2 years now... not ONE hour during that time have my siblings cared for them... NEVER.) Said she was coming to do an 'intervention' on me... ??? As she says I am just taking advantage of them. (Trust me, having a regular job with regular hours would be far easier than this!!) My mom has severe dementia, that I supposedly caused. She is on O2, diabetes, diverticulitis, sleep apnea, sleeping disorders, etc etc. My dad is 87, but mentally he is ok, just slower now and not as quick to process things, etc. He LOVES having me here as he KNOWS he can't handle my mom for more than an hour at a time and that is pushing it. He gets stressed out FAST! My sister says my mom should just be taken off ALL meds and she would be fine. That all nurses and doctors should go to prison (I worked for many years as a charge nurse in nursing homes.) She HATES me now.... I don't know why. She lives in Alaska, we are in Iowa. She came to Iowa last Wed... is still here. During the last week and has been staying at my brothers house 15 minutes away... and has been here 2 times for a total of 2 hours. That is an improvement over last year when she left her husband for over 6 months and was at my brothers (15 minutes away) for over a MONTH before she even came to see them... and then for about 45 minutes and left again. During the 6 months she spent a total of 3 hours with them in 3 visits... one of those was for 15 minutes while she used my dad's computer to check her itinerary online and shampoo'd her hair!

I am the youngest of 5 kids.... NO ONE helps. NO one. Yet I am the bad guy. I have put my entire life on hold, gave up all social activities, job/career, etc for this, but I should be in prison?? I don't get paid to do this. I do this out of love. That is all. I just don't get siblings!
Anyone in need of using a soft padded belt to ~temporarily~ keep their loved one from trying to get up and falling from out of a chair should do an eBay search for "NEW SKIL CARE CUSHION BELT 301200 size UNIVERSAL". There are times (such as bathroom breaks) where we simply cannot be with them every single second. A padded belt can come in handy during those times.
... and that is the short version... I could go on and on about the horrible things she says about me to other family members. I think they feel guilty about NOT doing anything and make themselves feel better by criticizing us. This is not new and we are not the first to go through it. Unfortunately this is a fairly common experience. We just do the best we can in a situation that NO ONE ELSE GETS unless they have lived through it themselves. :( We do our best. What else can we do. I get it from both my sisters, but the one is FAR worse! I answer to God. He is my witness and defender. As long as I am ok with that.... I try to ignore what I can.
Your youngest sister lashes out because, subconsciously, she knows SHE should be doing more; it's purely a defense mechanism. Don't pay her any mind.
My younger sister took care of my mom after her stroke for a year. My sister was exhausted and would call and tell me about it as I went on with my life and my family. I called and tried to comfort as much as I could. I begged my mom to come live with me to no avail. Finally my mom agreed to live with me. She has been with me for four years and I can't express how difficult it is to care for my mom. I have no life. She just wants to sleep. I am so deeply sorry for not stepping up when my sister was crying for help. My mom is now going back to my sister because we live in high altitude and she can't seem to get acclamated here. She has COPD and it is very difficult for her to breath. I have told my sister that I will come out and stay with my mom for weeks at a time so she can get some rest. You just don't know what it's like until you've walked in the caregivers shoes. Maybe your sister should take care of your mom for a month and then I'm sure she would back you up with what you do. Be strong. I know it is hard and I too can't tell you it will get better. Get support where you can and take care of yourself for without your health you are no good to anyone else. Hugs and prayers.

Before using any kind of restraints check your laws. They are illegal in most places!! Only SAFETY belts like a 'seat belt' that the PERSON can remove themselves is permitted in most cases to prevent accidental falling 'out' of the chair.... anything else that they can not remove themselves is considered restraining and if it is considered illegal where you live you could get into BIG trouble for it....

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