2yng2btired Asked July 2012

What do you do when your siblings do not help with the caregiving, when your mother is emotionally dependent on you & when you need a break?

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So I am 34 and married with no children. My mom is 60 and divorced from my alcoholic, drug addicted father. I have 2 sisters, one lives 10 hours away, the other lives 17 hours away. I also have a brother who lives 5 hours away. I am the only one who lives in the same city as our mom. In fact I live 15 mins from her. She suffers from major depression with psychotic features, she has been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder. At least twice a year she is hospitalized for a week at a time due to her depression or times when she goes days without sleeping. She is also showing minor symptoms of dementia. She is very forgetful, many times calling me 2-3 times a day to tell me the same thing. Manytimes if I hold a conversation long enough with her, she will repeat the conversation while on the same call! My older sister has not been to visit my mom in 2 years, she is supposed to be visiting in 2 weeks. But she seems more entertained by my mothers behavior and changing personality rather than concerned about her decline in health. She frequently ignores moms calls and has even instructed me to do the same "if I expect to have a break from time to time". She doesn't even encourage her 16 year old daughter to write or call her Grandmother regularly. My younger sister moved out of the state last year and so we agreed to have my mom come to visit her back in March of this year. Mom was to stay for 10 days with her. It would have been a great break for me. Well after 2 days she called me to complain that "mom was flipping out" and she didn't know how to handle her. Eventually she sent mom back home to me only 4 days into her trip...so no break for me. My brother lived 14 hours away for about 8 years, he recently moved 5 hours away last year...but he has not made a trip here to see mom yet! He has his own vices and is too busy focused on trying to get custody of his own kids again.
I am tired! I am drained. My mom calls me multiple times every day. Sometimes just to talk. She does not call my siblings as often because they often times will not pick up their phones. I don't expect them to relocate back home but they could at least call her often, or write her or even better call me and ask me from time to time HOW I AM DOING!? Especially my younger sister who will go months at a time without even speaking to family. What am I to do? Plus my mom is super needy emotionally. Even though she has friends in her apartment building she demands my attention. The problem is I do so much for her as far as keeping in touch with her doctors, going to appointments, filling up her 30 day supply of medicine, etc that it leaves me with no energy to spend any social time with her. What should I do????

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EXPERT Cindy Laverty Jul 2012
Dear 2yng2betired,
You clearly have quite a difficult situation on your hands and I hesitate to say this, but there is nothing you can do about the behavior of your siblings. You can only control what you do going forward. I take it your mom is able to live on her own, but needs your help with things like doctors and medications. You are going to have to change some things that you are currently doing in order to have a life. I would suggest that you limit the time you spend answering all the calls from your mother. You can talk to her, perhaps, once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening and not answer your phone every time it rings. If possible, try to find some social activities for your mom to do without you. Is there a senior center close by where she could go a couple of times a week - meet new people and participate in activities? You need to set some boundaries for yourself it begins by being okay NOT taking every single call. You can certainly listen to the message to see if it's an emergency or not. Then decide to call back when you are prepared to talk. I would also purchase a large calendar and plan it out for every month with your mom. This is when you set the social time. Show your mother that there is a calendar and give her the comfort of knowing that she has a schedule.

Sixty is very young to start showing signs of dementia. I would definitely take her to the doctor and have her checked out. If she does have early onset dementia, then you have other issues to deal with.

Regarding your siblings: You can request their help and support, but you have to engage with them like it's a business meeting - leave the emotion out of the conversation. I would strongly recommend that you have a list of things that they can do to help your Mom, which would ultimately help you. There are many reasons why siblings choose not to help or support you, but I can't begin to figure out their "whys" here. What I can tell you is no amount of pleading, begging, crying or yelling at them is going to get you the desired result. Try engaging them in a business conversation. Tell them exactly how they can help. Then ask if they can do what you have requested. If the answer is no, then you have to let it go. I know it's frustrating and disappointing and can make you really angry, but you need to start using your energy to take better care of you. Start with setting some boundaries and making the decision that you will stick to them. Best of luck to you.
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I am sorry that your siblings lack teamwork and integrity that you obviously have. I am 57 years old and have taken care of my Mother all my life. She too has bi-polar with psychotic break with reality. She was suicidal for most of my life. Since psychotropic pills she is better. She is a great lady. I have taken care of her financially, emotionally and everyway that I can.
And yes I cried and begged for help from my two brothers. But it never came. They would love to inherit money. One thing I finally learned: they will never help. Their wives help to insure that they don't. NONE OF THEM UNDERSTAND MENTAL ILLNESS. And it is not conveinient for them to understand it, because then they would know they should help.
The thing I learned is that I was wasting my time being angry with their lack of assistance. They have to answer to God for being so selfish with their lives.
I get great joy knowing that I am helping my Mom. She has a quality life with my assitance. It is not your Mom's fault that she has a mental illness. And you will be glad that you helped her through her life.
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aberry Jul 2012
You are not alone. We are having the same problem with my mom in law. She is in assisted living, but we take her to all dr appts/dental/..she also has dementia, diabetes, parkinsons, and arthritis. We get NO help at all from the family. They will not even call her on the phone, much less visit...but she is so mean when they did, I can't really blame them. She has gotten so she is very ugly to us as well, and even the staff are saying they are being cussed out. We have been her sole caregivers now for 12 years, and she depends on us for everything. She calls day and night, asking the same questions over and over and gets mad when the answers are not what she wants to hear. It is so sad to see her like this...she was in charge of everything, always been demanding...and now she has nothing to be in charge of...we pay her bills, make all her appts etc....we have had to set boundries with her, and it has helped some. As far as the family helping out, it will never happen...they will have regrets when she passes...but we will know we did our best. Praying you can set some boundries and start living your life....as my mom says, death has no age limit and who is to say she may out live you.....you have to take time for you....and that is so hard to do (we have post ponned our vacation again this year...last one was 11 yrs ago and we had to rush home early then. You are not alone in this, if that helps you any
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wjjlyj Jul 2012
I am sorry to hear of your troubles. You are not alone. I would first suggest that you get some help for your mom in her own home, perhaps an aide/companion. This person could do some light housekeeping, cooking, organize meds, take mom shopping and to md appts and just plain keep her company. Familywise...I have learned that you cannot count on anyone but yourself. Often asking other family members to get more involved leads to further frustration, complications and anger. Easier said than done...I know!!! It is so important to take time for yourself. You will be better off personally and more able to help care for your mom. Perhaps set aside one day a week where you do something a bit more enjoyable with your mom for a couple of hours. I wish you well...
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lillylilly Jul 2012
I ended up in the same situation. Siblings all decided I was a great excuse to not do anything and not feel guilty about it. It finally hit the point where my life was falling apart so I put my foot down. My mom had become very over dependent on me and wanted me to be both the solution for every problem or the excuse to not independent herself.
I finally dropped it all on my siblings. Most of them do not live nearby, some live in the same city. I decided that my life was just as important as theirs and told them I was done doing this and had to put some limits on what was expected of me and how many hours a day I could dedicate to dealing with my mom's issues. I also needed to break my mothers over dependence on me as it was causing her to not bother with her post stroke rehab.
If you do this don't expect it to be easy. Maybe you could gradually set some boundaries? Get some caretaker help? The fact that your mom flipped out in the opinion of your sibling that isn't around them very often. Maybe your mom isn't as capable as you think she is and she is using you to get around that admission?
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2young: I'm sorry all of this has been dumped on you. Unfortunately, I agree that spending time trying to get the sibs involved is a wasted effort. It happens so often and you can talk to them til you are blue in the face, but it won't change who they are or how the see it.

Maybe there is family history here that creates distance between the sibs and mom. Maybe your dad played a role when she was married to him. Regardless, at this point it is what it is.

I really loved the calendar idea that Cindy suggested. A large calendar that she can keep at her home, one you plan together. I also liked the suggestion about in home help that could visit with your mom and run errands for her.

I'm not sure how your mom's mental state is about being out of her home without you. Visiting you sis might be too much for her. And going out with an care giver might be scary too. But someone to run errands and watch a tv program with her or do some light housekeeping might occupy her time a little.

Do limit phone calls. It might be best to tell her that you will talk to her every morning, but then will be busy until the afternoon. Could you plan a get together with her neighbor friends every two weeks or so for cards or a pot luck lunch.

I'm just trying to think of activities she might enjoy and could look forward too without wearing you out.

My heart goes out to you. Try some of the suggestions and see if any work.

Hugs, Cattails
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kimmie1968 Jul 2012
I was glad to see your question, and couldnt' wait to read the answers. I, too, am in the same situation. The only difference is that my sibling lives 10 minutes from me and doesn't help at all. Well, I take that back, he does if dad is in the hospital. Then he tries to be the big hero, but once he gets home...nothing. It makes me very very angry because I am a newly wed, and my father at the moment is with us 24 hrs a day. I only asked for a 12 hr break on the weekends where my brother can take him somewhere, preferably to dads own house so that he can do what he does. What I get is a 2 hour break twice in 5 weeks. I NEED to clean the carpet!!!! I have tried the activities thing with my dad, and he doesnt' want to do anything at all, except for stare at the ceiling and call my name....Good Luck to you...and I will keep you in my prayers....
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Micheal Jul 2012
You are definitely going through a very hard time and very difficult situation..... For me i do really believe that we must all try to help and take care of our mothers or elders but if the game is out of your hands what could u do.... Before 2 to 3 months one of my friend was also suffering from the same situation but i gave him an opinion that why not u shift your mom to a assisted living center or ahttp://fairwayssupportedliving.com.au/everyday-support supported living center where she will be provided proper care and proper attention and u can also meet her when u are free from home, your family or your work .............
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I think you might need to get her into an assisted living facility where others could be there to keep watch over her and you could have some relief. A combination of dementia and this sort of mental illness can be deadly to her if she is living alone. Early onset dementia seems to move faster than the regular sort. I know this is so hard for you and you are a lovely person to care for your mother this way. I too have dealt with idiot relatives who didn't want to be there for the pain and the work but showed up just in time for the reading of the will. My heart goes out to you. In an assisted living facility, she would have others to talk to and be with. Frankly, your mom sounds lonely.
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mystiquemay Jul 2012
I am 26 and already dealing with a very similar situation. You're not alone. There's 8 kids total and for some reason, I was "the best option" for our mom who's 54, severely depressed (ever since I can remember) and an amputee due to diabetes. It isn't easy just having to deal with the emotional roller coasters but siblings don't seem to understand that. When you beg, plead, and cry for their help because it's mentally and emotionally taking a toll on you, you're the bad guy. At least in my case. My siblings don't answer my mom's calls (she lives with me now) and a lot of them don't visit her. When they do, however, it's only for a very short time and then I have to deal with my mom's emotional outbursts about her kids who don't even visit and/or answer her calls. It gets tough having to deal w/ this alone. The doctor appointments, etc., adds onto the stress and yet, no one wants to face the realities of this. As much as I wish siblings weren't such je*ks, they are. : / You're not alone.
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