When the non caregiving sibling 'notices' things and comments...

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I am not the care giving child, that falls on my brother for our father. I live a minimum 5 hours (including a ferry ride) away. It is a good situation, my brother lives in a major Canadian city with quick access to specialized facilities. I only visit a few times a year. I try to help with detailed paper work and other things from afar to the best of my ability. My brother also has $ and health POA, again I am ok with that. Over and over I read here how the primary caregiver is 'told' when a non caregiving sibling visits, what to do with Mum/Dad. It generally seems to create friction and resentment between the siblings. I thought I would share the point of view from the other side. Coming in after being away, I see things that my brother does not see while he is in the day to day care giving mode. So of course I mention them. I am the first to admit I am not very diplomatic, when I see that Dad's fingernails are much too long. So long that they lead to a staph infection, when he scratched his hands. Brother got dad the medical treatment he needed, but did not get his nails cut. I took care of his finger nails. Above is the most recent thing, there have been others in the past. I am not criticizing my brother, his plate is full, but sometimes when we are in the midst of something we do not notice some of the details. They may be small things, but as Dad's long nails did, can lead to life threatening problems. It had been no less than 3 months since they had been cut, likely closer to 4/5 months. He would not let me look at his toes, so I did ask my brother to get a foot care nurse into care for his feet. I guess I just want to give a quiet reminder that those of use who swoop in and criticize, care for the parent too and do not mean to denigrate the great work and sacrifice being made by the caregiver. We are just seeing things from a different perspective. No, we do not deal with the late night trips to ER, the various appointments and day to day grind. Our concern for one minor detail may seem out of proportion to the totality of the caregiver's dedication, but it comes from a place of love and caring.

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Dear Moecam, don't worry, some of us live in the same real world as you. 'I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair and send him on his way'!
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Moecam, I think your sexist stereotyping has no basis in fact. Especially given the example you are citing about angles of objects on walls. Since traditional studies indicate that men are better at spatial tasks than women. But as in most studies proclaiming differences between men and women, recently those studies have been shown to be erroneous. The indications are, contrary to popular misconception, that there is not much difference between men and women at all. The differences that are found tend to be cultural than innate. They are learned. Also, within the population of men and women, the differences are so wide ranging that it renders the differences between the populations as a whole to be inconsequential. Remember, the homogametic sex for mammals is female. Everyone starts out the same.
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Twenty years after our mother’s death, I can see things a bit more clearly. I was the daughter at home, my two sisters were each a long plane journey away. Mum was in an independent living unit, but was usually fairly OK, with a 10 year on-and-off cancer death. I did all the socialising, hospital visits, medical stuff, general support etc. When the sisters visited every year or two, they were focussed on Mum, not me. They really couldn’t see that things that would make life easier for me would also improve her own quality of life eg moving her to another unit two streets away where my children could call in on the way home from school, it wouldn’t take a half a day to visit etc. ‘She’s happy there, I’m just being selfish for my own convenience’. Neither of them were ever involved in caring for their parents-in-law or any other older people. They didn’t hear about problems until they were over. When they went home after one medical emergency, I sat in the airport when the second one left, weeping about how they were going home and leaving it all to me. Ears flapping all around, and I didn’t care!

In the last years, I think they understand a bit more, and I do too. There really wasn’t much they could have done (although actually turning up on the day she was dying would have been nice), and I coped OK. I think what would have helped would have been more cards to Mum, and more thanks to me. An occasional present ‘for all you are doing’ would have smoothed over a lot of little nicks. I know that I sent a card every week to MIL in a nursing home that was difficult to visit, and it was one of ‘the nicest things’! Lots for the staff to read and talk to her about. It sometimes doesn’t take much to make a difference.
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The caregiving sibling NEEDS help...Why is this so difficult to grasp when “pointing” out problems is so easy?? You need a wake up call -it’s kinds like “thought&prayers” which actually means a big zero-“I don’t really care” is what that phrase means....
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2 things to be mindful of:
- 1 - women see more than men do in the same circumstance 9 times out of 10 - we see more details & tend to be a bit more careful about cleanliness - sorry guys but that's a fact [joke: men know 12 colours but women know 500!] - generally we wash our hands more often in a day & see the wall pix on an angle earlier - this fact underlies & is responsible for about 1/3 of comedians' routines if you check it out [enjoy the much needed relaxation while you are at it]
- 2 - the constant caregiver won't see gradual change - just like you never see your own kids growing but see your nieces & nephews who live out of town grow in jumps - you also won't see your hair, nails etc change/grow because that is seen daily - we all should ask the occational visitors/out of towners to look, spot & report anything change that we can miss due to regular contact - this is important & quite frankly I ask this as a standing instruction, so when my sister sees my mom she will email me a summary of the visit with any noticable changes - FYI .. this takes the resentment away & put them into the 'team' mode
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Your statement "I am the first to admit I am not very diplomatic," says a lot. Many times it's not what is said but how it's said. I'm not caring for a patent but a spouse, I have here siblings and children to deal with (my step children). I had to call her daughter and ask her to call het mom Thanksgiving. She said she was too busy but would call later. She finally called her on Christmas. Nothing in between but texts to me about where i should be moving her mom, how I needed to not spend her money (inheritance, I'm guessing). Her sister just told me I should be taking care of her at home, not a SNF or LTCF.
It's a hard, thankless job, but it's part of marriage.
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Rethinking what I wrote, the brother essentially was raising his hand because perhaps he couldn't do it all. No caregiver is perfection; it's a difficult job at best.
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Three x three cheers for orphanA - that's the very essence of constructive criticism, having a positive suggestion to make.

And, I agree again, it must be a positive suggestion that does not simply add to the primary caregiver's workload.

I would add, if you do have success with something don't assume it's only because you noticed it and bothered to deal with it. Similarly to the toes incident, we had a hair washing incident. My SIL disappeared with mother during one visit, and when they reappeared mother's hair was dripping wet. SIL, credit where it's due, did not crow about having noticed that mother's hair needed washing, she just looked pleased with herself; but what she didn't know, of course, was how many times mother had refused to allow me to do it.

Many and varied are the frustrations of caregiving, whether on the spot or from afar.
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My advice to non-constant caregiver is to have a solution before you mention a problem. Being a full time caregiver causes one to give up so much of themselves there is absolutely nothing to spare. Anything not being done should be handled by the sometime "visitors" you call siblings. Although you do more than most from afar you can't imagine how draining it is day after day, detail after detail. Take over for two months and you will see. Keep up the help and arrange solutions.
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Tothill. If you cannot help your brother, it sounds like he might need some help. He is doing the best he can or knows how, but obviously, some things need to be addressed and he might just not see them or is overwhelmed. Offer to get him some help.
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