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I live halfway across the U.S. from my mother and my brother who is her POA for financials. As one of the faraway siblings, ---who I am hearing so often referred to on this site as the siblings who "do nothing to help"--- I am asking for your kind suggestions as to what I can do to help. I feel helpless and useless here, no doubt about it.

I have offered numerous times to come and help, come and stay so brother can get away awhile, come and help them move her to her new place (she is in Memory Care facility now), or to sort through her clothes, or take things to the Goodwill. Brother and his wife always say, no, it would be easier to just do it ourselves.... and then I hear long complaints about how we never help. I don't know how to help.

The one thing that would be a real help is if I or another sibling moved back to Mom's area of the country. Unfortunately that is the one thing that is virtually impossible, due to careers, our own families, and cost. So here we sit. I and several other siblings have offered to take Mom to our part of the country and take over responsibility, but all offers of that have been turned down.

So I call Mom regularly and send cards and gifts. (Big deal, huh..) I've offered to do daily calls if that would relieve brother of daily checking in. I've offered to call on specific days, if that would help. I get back to see Mom as I can afford--- two or three trips a year, which is pricey. Brother and his wife don't even offer me a sofa to sleep on, so add hotel room on to plane ticket. So, again, I ask, what can I do to really help?

I am looking for sincere suggestions, please. It hurts me every time I hear myself referred to as "doing nothing" when I care about my mom as much as my brother does, but I seem unable to find a meaningful way to help.

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My brothers tell me they appreciate what I do and are sorry they can't help more. Their acknowledgement and understanding means a lot to me.
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The suggestions are great. To improve things with your brother, is he a bit of a martyr? One way to "help" him would be to load him up with sympathy and admiration. Let him be the noble, self-sacrificing son. You are still a good daughter.
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Mom doesn't live with them; she is in a Memory Care unit. She has never lived with brother and his wife, except for a little over two weeks when they decided to try that. Nonetheless, there has still been a lot of work and watching and errand-running, etc., for them to do, but not quite the same scenario many of you on here have. I like the advice to send thank-yous, which I will do; I have verbally thanked them many times, but a written note and small gift would be much nicer. Also thank you for reminding me that I have a relationship with my mom apart from my brother, I don't have to wait on his invitation to get involved in whatever way I can and see fit, even if I am told otherwise. Today I had a nice visit with Mom's nurse and will keep in touch with that facility on my own. And I will continue to call Mom and send her gifts and cards. And pictures of her new great-grandson. A trip to see her again is in the works. Thanks for the chat.
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What wonderful suggestions from everyone! If you truly do the things you do and offer to help as you have stated, you are basically doing about all you can do. The one thing I did like was to send notes or gifts to your brother and SIL and tell them how much you appreciate all the work they are doing to care for Mom. Do this often and each time offer to come and stay and let them go away for a vacation.

Most of the deadbeat siblings we have complained about do absolutely nothing and offer to do absolutely nothing, ever, ever, ever!!! They are ticked off that sometimes we have POA and therefore they want to make us suffer by allowing everything to fall on our heads in hopes that we will fail. Many of them just don't care and are relieved that they don't have to lift a finger and will stay at arms length or further so they are never asked to do anything. I happen to have a sibling in the house with us, who for the most part never lifts a finger to help with anything. They work outside the house but stay gone 3-4 hours after they are off work so they won't have to help. Now they have told me that I am NOT ALLOWED to leave the house on the weekends, without consulting with them first and getting their approval!!!! It seems that I have become an unpaid servant of sorts!!! Needless to say I told them to kiss my ____!

Your brother and SIL do feel "put upon" and you do need to show them and your mother any and all kindnesses that you can. Kill them with kindness.... tell them you love them and appreciate them. If they continue to complain, keep doing it if you can. You will at least know within your heart that you offered and tried your best!

If you were my sister, I would ask you when you could come and I would head out for a vacation.
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I love the idea of a spa gift certificate especially if my siblings would think of such a thing. But not at all likely to happen. I did receive one though from my moms audiologist soon after I started caring for mom. What a treat that was, from someone I barely knew!

Magazines are a great idea. We have a couple of National Geographics that mom has enjoyed for about a year now, she doesn't remember looking at them before, they are always new to her. Another magazine she enjoys is Birds and Blooms, many pictures of many different varieties of birds and some gardens also. Very short articles for the most part. Another to try might be Reminisce, pictures from the times when they were younger.

The idea of sending flowers is nice, but additional work. What about a dry or silk arrangement that would last a long time, would brighten the place up and no watering needed. Or would they water anyway? LOL.
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Butter,
You are not the uninvolved sibling people complain about, you are honestly trying.
I think a sit down with your brother may help, if you are the type of family that can talk things out. Tell him you appreciate all they do, that you want to help and have offered what you can do.

Perhaps the next time you visit, you can offer to take care of Mom, at their house, while you put them up at a hotel. Financially it is the same cost, but they get respite. I would think that is a hard offer to turn down.
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move closer
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Talk to the facility about what extra services they can provide and you can afford. Old ladies love to get their hair done. Develop a rapport via phone with her nurses and call them often for updates. Call mom often, and your brother. Let him vent his emotions and keep offering to help, send him some cookies, send his wife flowers. Remember birthdays, send a card.
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One additional thought, on my birthday, my out of town sib gave me a generous gift card to a local spa (massages and facials). It was worth a geat deal more than our typical birthday remembrances. In a note, she said she wanted me to have some relaxing time with thanks for all I was doing for our Mom. It was wonderful. If finances allow, you might do the same (spa/restaurant/theater tix) this holiday season for your brother and SIL with a similar message.
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Butter, it sounds to me that you have made a sincere effort to help your brother with his care of your mother. I too would welcome you as a sister. There are some of us that have absolutely no help from any of our siblings, no calls, no letters, no offers, so bless you for offering.

The suggestions that countrymouse are excellent. I like the idea of a memory book. Some sort of photo album that she can flip through periodically to give her some comfort.
I also liked the suggestion of a monthly magazine subscription. My mother stares at the newspaper sometimes for hours. I think a magazine subscription is a fantastic idea. Now, I'm racking my brain to figure out which would be best for my mom.

It sounds like your brother did a lot for your mom before going into the memory care facility. It's a tough job and he is probably still in complaining mode. I am currently entering that mode, because I have siblings who really do do nothing at all to help. Hopefully over time this will lessen.

But, it would be good for you to visit whether he wants you to or not. Do it for your mom and do it for yourself. Reach out and spend a few days in her facility going through her schedule with the caregivers there. Maybe developing a relationship with those who are caring for her on a daily basis would be more beneficial for your connection with your mom rather than getting information second hand through your brother.

I am currently going through the Medicaid process for my mom. My sister said she would help whatever way she could. I was tempted to say, "oh I'll take care of it", because I am the POA (she is also) and I am primary caregiver. But, then I thought about it. There are things like converting her life insurance to cash, figuring out irrevocable pre-paid funeral arrangements, selling some stuff off, etc. that she can certainly do. I let go of some of the work and it felt good. Maybe you brother has a few things like that that you can help with. Just a thought.

Bless you for offering.
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Butter, I will take you for a sister any day. Your brother can have my sister. Then he would have a real problem.
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I think these are all great ideas (not sure if the visits to you would work, if your mother's in a Memory clinic, but it's worth asking?).

I would add that, whether your brother accepts your help or not, you still have a relationship with your mother independently of him. The mail and calls and gifts she gets from you are not "big deal" to her; I should think they make her day. Nothing to stop you calling the care home on your own account to ask how she's doing and send your love, every day if you like. Tell your brother you're doing this (just mention it in passing) so that he doesn't start getting paranoid ideas about your going behind his back. Other than that, it sounds as if you're doing everything you can - no, we're definitely not talking about you when we go off on our absent sibling hate fests!

Hm. Quite apart from its impracticality, I'd be sceptical about this notion that it would change everything if you or another "absent" sib upped sticks and moved back to near your mother… I bet it wouldn't. Sounds like background grumbling to me, not based on anything in the real world. People who find it "easier" to do it all themselves generally like it done their way. Take that complaint with a grain of salt, I should.

Bit of navel-gazing for me to do there: is that me? Do I not let my siblings help? Could be they see it like that; but then the last offer of help was to put my mother in a respite care home near them, with the grand plan that then they'd be able to drop in nearly every day, or nearly nearly every day… An improvement on my other brother, whose USP was that he'd be able to get to his nearest care home in a couple of hours, in an emergency. My mother's already scared stiff of respite care: I'm not convinced a week spent mostly with total strangers would exactly reassure her.

Forgive them for grumbling; it goes with the worry and the fraying temper. And when you're writing your hand-written letter, don't forget to include in terms the simple question of: "What Would You Like Me To Help You With?" They might at least spend a few minutes thinking about it and come up with some ideas of their own.

And in the spirit of genuine ideas, but bearing in mind that my mother's dementia is early onset, I would like them to:
• take her shopping - fun shopping including tea and cake, that is, not groceries
• although groceries might be fun for her, too
• take her to the seaside
• take her to a pantomime at Christmas
• take her to a cathedral evensong service
• buy her useful clothes, rather than faux fur ear muffs
• stop sending her heavily scented hand and body lotions that she loves but that her skin can't take any more. And she hasn't worn L'Heure Bleue since the '70s, for heaven's sake…
• but she does still like Clinique eye creams - pricey!
• send her regular family update photos, with captions
• get some training in tasks of daily living so that I don't get a panic call if she needs to go to the loo
• engage with her as a person, instead of as their sadly diminished mother (as they see it) who sometimes I don't think they understand at all
• send her articles and cuttings on the subjects she likes
• get her an extravagant magazine subscription - the New Yorker would be a good US equivalent - and don't think it's a waste just because she won't necessarily read them all, only admire the covers and dip in occasionally
• don't send her whizzy technology that sits sadly on the shelf - electronic photo displays may be great space savers, but who's going to load the images? And for an Alzheimers patient… Sorry, that's just not funny.
• read up on her ailments so that when they ask me a health question and I answer them fully they don't just think I'm trying to show off or blind them with science, or am being patronising
• keep me up to date with their own news so that if there are problems or major events going on in their lives I'm not sitting here wondering how to explain to mother why they haven't been in touch
• spend companionable time with other very elderly people - neighbours, friends' parents, e.g. - to get used to what's normal in extreme age
• take her to a safari park

So have I given my siblings a list like that? No. Why not? Because a) my "regular email" idea petered out after three weeks of dwindling enthusiasm; and b) all I ever hear from them is how they haven't got time… Butter, bless you, you are a genius for asking. I will send them a suggestions list this very week, just as soon as I figure out how to make sure it doesn't read like criticism. Thank you, really, and good luck with getting hired by your bro! xxx
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Thank you all for the very helpful answers! Great suggestions. There are some things I hadn't thought about.

Oh, and re the plants and such; you might want to mention to your siblings how those are not realistic for your parent and give alternative suggestions for gifts. I doubt they realize they become more work for you (I am guilty of sending those. Mom has always loved her garden..).
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Wow, I'll take you as my sister any day!! I'd ask your brother what you can do to help. Give him a chance to put up or shut up.

It sounds like you're already doing 10X more than most of our "do nothing" siblings. I wish my brother would ask me what he could do. He doesn't. So he and his wife will send my mom a big flower arrangement that is too big and too heavy for her to handle. It just means more work for her and for me. And his wife always sends me an email telling me I can "enjoy" the candy they send with the flowers. I've taken care of mom and dad together and now mom for the past 12 years by myself. I don't even rate my own box of candy. I just get to eat some of mom's. They have no f'ing clue.

I wish he'd call enough so he knew what was going on in her life, so they could have meaningful conversations about her aches and pains and her trips outside and her doctor's visits and results. I wish he'd ask me what would be helpful to me. I wish he'd acknowledge my caregiving with a thank-you card or a gift certificate or my own box of candy (hahaha) once a year. I wish he'd say thank you more often than once every five years. If you do any of those things, you're doing more than my brother.
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Send your brother a hand written letter. Tell him how much you wish to contribute and ask for specific tasks you can do from afar. I was always grateful for my sister's visits. They were planned ahead of time and I went away. And yes, my Mom was in assisted living. There is still much to do.

When you visit, go through her clothing and see what needs mending (and do it). What needs to be replaced (and do it). What needs to be cleaned up in her room (and do it). Some peope think that Assisted living does everything for you. My brother would bring flowers. It gave me more work to water them and ultimatley toss them when they were done. If there is any gift giving to be done for caregivers, perhaps you can purchase, wrap and mail them to the facility. (One less task for brother and SIL). If your Mom can be taken out, do so when you visit her. It will give you a new appreciation for what it involves.

Can you offer to send out holiday greetings in your Mom's name with an update to family and friends. That can be done from afar. last year, I included a photo my niece took of my Mom and incorporated it in a typed letter to everyone. They loved it. If your Mom practiced a faith, can you make a call to the clergy and ask them to visit her.

Does she need supplies such as disposable underwear, soaps, handcreams? You can order online and have it shipped to the facility. (Costs a lot less than what the facility charges - check with brother on this. One less thing for him to do).

Typically there is a service for haircuts and manicures. ALways more expensive than taking her out for this. I would do simple manicures for my Mom but then when My sister came more regularly, she would do that as part of her visits. AND, I was always grateful for one less task or call I had to do!
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I agree with the others have said. You are doing your best. It sounds like your brother just likes to complain. Believe me, I have been there, done that. My sister complains that I am not cooperative. Please don't let your brother's hurtful words, hurt you. Let them roll off your back. I know its difficult to do. Take care and just know you are doing the best you can.
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You're a good daughter. Like Jeanne said she living in the care facility and his responsibilities have lessened. All you can do I continue to offer help, if he refuses then ask him why he's complaining?
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Contact your mother regularly; send her cards and little gifts. Oh, you are already doing that!

Offer to give your brother some respite time. Oh, you do that and get turned down.

Instead of going to visit her, spend that money once a year to invite her to come see you for a couple of weeks, if she is able to travel and if you can work out the logistics.

Send cards and little gift surprises to your brother and his wife, thanking them for their care for Mother.

Butter, some siblings really do nothing -- no cards, letters, phone calls, offers of help -- nothing. You do not fall into that category. Your brother sounds like he just likes to complain and maybe get a little sympathy. Each time he says that he gets no help ask him what help he would like from you.

Mom is in a care center. No family member has day-to-day responsibility for hands-on care. Certain advocating and seeing to the interests of a person in a care center can be a lot of work. I'm sure your brother does a lot. But it is not as if he is tied down 24/7 caring for her in his own home without any help. If he can't/isn't willing to do the tasks that make sense with him being local, then he should accept your offers of moving Mom so that someone else is her local advocate.

Your brother's attitude is his problem. If he comes up with specific things you could reasonably do, try to do them. If he just enjoys complaining, don't let it get you down. You are not a do-nothing daughter.
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