How can I handle my sister's harsh criticism of me for the way I care for our parents?

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My three children and I moved into my parents home in late 2007. I have been widowed since 2005 and had been finding it increasingly difficult to pay a mortgate and raise three children on my own. My late husband did not have life insurance and there were many bills to take care of.


When we first moved in, my sister who is 11 years younger than I and who is married with no children, sent me a very hurtful email asking if I was going to influence my parents to leave me their home in their will. She said that because I work at a law firm I know how to "fix these things". Our relationship has steadily declined since I moved in with my parents and I find it hard to be around her sometimes.


Fast forward to now, my father (age 80) had a massive stroke in April. He was not expected to survive, but not only did he survive but is making amazing progress in a skilled nursing facility. My mother (also age 80) has diabetic neuropathy and walks with the aid of a walker. I have been the one who communicates with the doctors, nursing home, lawyers, etc. because my sister literally fell apart when my father became ill. My father did a lot around the house, drove my mother to appointments, etc., he and I split the cooking and some chores around the house. Now that he is ill, the day to day running of the house has fallen to me. I realize that since I am living there it is my obligation and I certainly do not mind that, but what I do mind is that my sister likes to make comments such as "you don't take very good care of mom", "are you going to make sure mom eats", "you're not a very warm person", etc. The thing is my mother is perfectly capable of doing small tasks such as making herself lunch, taking her medication, starting dinner preparation, etc. My sister tends to "baby" her and my mother seems to be eating this up! Prior to my dad's illness, my parents were lucky if my sister even called them once in awhile.


I know some others have situations far worse than mine, but I feel very hurt and don't quite know how to react when my sister makes these digs at me and sometimes my children (who are pretty good kids by the way). I have my own issues to deal with -- one daughter in college, a son starting college in September, and a daughter with learning disabilities going into the 10th grade. I help my children out with tuition, books, travel expenses, etc. so moving out is not an option right now.


Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I am on the verge of tears right now.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Expert Answer
3930 helpful answers
Suhara, your sister is mired in guilt and this is her way of handling it. She criticizes you. It's so sad and so common. Cat, as always, has good advice. You are doing well with this, but you need to do your best to detach from your sister's hurtful remarks and do what is best along the way. Know that you aren't alone in this ugly situation. You are taking good care of your parents and juggling and amazing amount of work. Keep checking in. We can't fix it for you but you'll know your aren't alone.
Carol
Best is to be honest and talk to mum and dad about how you feel..No doubt they know. SHE IS A MALICIOUS / JEALOUS PERSON that does not have any ones interest at heart than herselfs..Honesty is the best way to treat this issue as she is not happy unless you are miserable...Also talk to a life coach about your concerns. They are one sided people and help out in these situations. Things will escalate if left.
Suhara,
you sound like you are managing a heavy emotional burden admirably. The only advice I can give is to not allow your sister to play games with you. I don't know what your relationship was when you were younger - but it would seem that you will have to be the mature one and ask her to work together with you for your mom & dad's benefit. ALthough human nature can be a mystery, it might be possible to turn the current situation into better communication.

An 11 year difference and all sorts of family baggage - mom eating up the attention from the baby who falls apart when problems happen. Families are so complex, however once patterns are formed, the problems don't go away unless you change the patterns. That means you first have to decide what is and is not acceptable in your relationship. Break it down and then start asking what can you want to change for you first. She may not adapt very quickly, but maybe if she is competative she might be motivated to compete in an area that would help you rather than just hurt your feelings.

Is she really helpless, or is it easier to let someone else do the heavy lifting. What would happen if you paid more attention to your mom, and your mom began praising you to her? Is your mom aware of how you feel - would she help you?

I have to confess, I am the one who always did everything in my family. Its a hard habit to break. I don't know if you can pull off 'a fainting spell & helplessness', but if you practice letting go & not caring a little every day, maybe your sister can be incented to swoop in to prove how much better mom likes her cooking, or driving, or anything. And while she is doing it, sneak out the back door for a well deserved walk.

Or at the very least, know that many of us here on this board are the "doers" - and vent to an understanding group who have all been there.

take care.
Thank you so much Cat and Carol. I had a feeling guilt was involved as well. I do realize that I need to learn how to detach from hurtful remarks, but for me it's easier said than done! Does anyone have any advice on detachment, or are there any articles or books anyone has found to be of help.

As to Cat's question, when we were younger, I was the one who did a lot for the family. My mother doesn't drive, so I was the one picking everyone up and dropping them off, etc. There are three of us, I am the oldest. My brother is 6 years younger and my sister is 11 years younger. I'm not sure if my mother would be of any help in the situation. She seems to not realize what's going on, or is enjoying the attention.

I didn't mention in my previous post, but my brother has been in Kazahkstan for the past two months with his wife and are in the process of adopting two children, a boy and girl, and they left the day before Dad's stroke. I had the pleasant task of informing them of my father's stroke, because no one else could. My brother came home for a week last month, and was able to come and spend some time with Dad, then he had to go back. They will all be home in about three weeks, so there is some happy news!

Thanks again for the advice and I look forward to keeping in touch.
Suhara,
If a sibling is not helping you with your parents care, then they have nothing to say about the care. Here is what I say:" If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem" Tell your sister that you could charge so much a day for care, so any monies that are left ,home , or assets, are yours. So, if she is so concerned about her inheritance, tell her to roll up her sleeves and help. Give her a schedule and make her work for it.!!!! She can even take mom for the weekends! That might change he tune. Get it in writing. I know it sounds harsh, but I have a brother who does nothing and he is getting nothing. I am spending it all on mom, and anything that is left over will be used to fix our home, take down ramps, re tile bathroom since we drilled holes in the tile for her bars. I will make sure he gets some, since he is her son, but the bulk goes to me. Unless you have been in our shoes, our brothers and sisters have no idea what it is like to be a caregiver. You are the one who is truly blessed.

Linda
Hi Linda,

Thanks for your comments. My sister helps out by taking my mother to visit my father one day a week. She has occasionally cooked meals for us and brought them over, but the day to day running of the household falls to me. Since she has not complained or commented on the way I handle things for my father such as talking to the doctors, the nursing home, and being the contact person, I have a feeling she is trying to "win my mother" or something like that. As far as any inheritance, since I work in a law firm as a legal assistant, I spoke to my boss about my parents' situation. He arranged for my mother and I to see an elder care attorney who advised them to apply for Medicaid. My mother cannot do any of this on her own, so I was the one who accompanied her to the appointments and did most of the talking (while she was there of course). Since they own a house jointly, my boss prepared a deed giving my father's share to my mother, to protect the house for my mother, and eventually us. He even prepared new estate planning documents for my mother and came to the nursing home to see my father to explain what is being done and to have my father sign the deed!

Everything is split equally three ways and my sister's biggest fear is that I will somehow influence my parents to leave the house to me. I also think she is nervous that I now know all of my parents' assets, etc. because I took care of the legal issues as well. I am getting the same share as everyone else which I have no problem with since my parents helped me out financially for awhile when I was going through a difficult time after my husband died. My sister feels that I am somehow favored. I told her once that I hope she never has to go through what I went through.
You sounds as if you are on top of things. We have a trust for mom, but dad died 4 years ago this August. My only regret is that my brother does nothing. At least your sister helps out. My mother is going to my brother's house for 6 hours on the 4th. He had a fit and tried to get out of it. I talked to my SIL, and she is much better about than he is. My only saving grace is that he is getting his MIL soon!! Now he will see how it is on a full time basis. Good luck with your mom and keep writing. This site and the people involved are just wonderful.

Linda
Thank you so much. It helps to have a place to come to.
o my, here i was thinking how bad my siblings are. keep careing for your folks,you're a blessing to them and that blessing is being watch by your kids. we ALL ,hopefully,will grow old and will need help.to some degree,and your kids will be there 4 u,Being loving & careing like YOU !
as for sister,pray pray PRAY !

cj
Suhara,

I can relate to your problem (sort of). I too moved in to my mother's home after my father passed away to assist her, both emotionally, and financially. In the beginning (11 years ago), it was actually mutually beneficial since I recently divorced myself and pretty much gave everything to my wife rather than battle things out in our divorce and end up giving everything we had to lawyers rather than to our only child (who will one day get all that we would have fought over).

Anyway in the past 3-4 years my mother's health has deteriorated drastically. She has diabetes, asthma and COPD, and most recently kidney failure and is on dialysis. She also is in early stages of dementia. I have an older brother (widowed) and a younger brother (single, never married). My mother informed my brothers that she is leaving me her house in her will since for the past 11 years I basically paid all the property taxes, maintenace/repairs and home owners insurance out of my pocket (the mortgage, utilities and food we split 50/50 on the cost).

Anyway, my older brother believes it's fair. However, the younger one claims I manipulated our mother into leaving the her house, etc etc ... Similar to the kind of things you're hearing from that sister of yours. My mother has no other savings or valuables - Just the house (there are approximately 4 more years of mortgage payments left).

I handled my younger sibling in two ways. First, I said if he thinks he should be entitled to any portion of the house, then he should get himself off his lazy butt, and assist in the care of our mother. She doesn't drive. I take her to every doctor appointment (which is many), do all the grocery shopping, take her shopping for her clothes and toiletries. I do all the cleaning, cooking. laundry, etc. I even had to quit my 55-60 hour a week job, and take a lesser paying job that gave me more flexibility so that I could take care of my mother properly.

Needless to say, my brother has yet to lift a finger to help our mother in any way whatsoever. So I basically have learned to ignore him, and not worry about his opinion or thoughts. He's single. He could help if he wanted to, but chooses not to. So I just learned to ignore him, and let him think or say whatever tickles his fancy. I no longer let it bother me. I know in my heart I'm doing right by my mother, and I do feel I'm entitled to inherit the house 100%. I'm sure one day he'll probably take me to court to fight for part of the house. But Im not going to let that bother me now. I'll deal with it when it happens.

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