How to handle a brother that won't be there for Mom even though he lives next door?


My brother lives next door to my 86 year old Mom (who lives alone). He is 51, single, and has his own HVAC business so many times can set his own hours. I am continually frustrated by his disinterest (for lack of a better word) in helping her. As an example, I called to ask him if he could bring her some coffee filters so she would be able to make her coffee today and he mentioned that she had called him "again" to say the furnace was making a funny noise. It was probably OK but she had just witnessed her neighbor's house burn down and was understandably anxious. He said he would bring the filters down and "check" on the furnace although he sounded annoyed by having to do this. Remember, he's the HVAC guy! Also, during this conversation, he said he would have to borrow money again from Mom. Borrow, to me, means paying it back at some point? That has never happened as I take care of the checkbook so I know what he's borrowed and what has not been paid back ($25,000 so far). I've worked with him on his finances, a business plan, etc. to get him out of debt but, again, he doesn't follow through. In the past, I've suggested that he be paid for some of the things he does like mowing the lawn, working on some house repairs, etc. This has worked out when he actually does do what he says he's going to and my Mom is happy to pay him but it is like pulling teeth to get him to commit. Back to the furnace/coffee filter issue...when I talked to Mom this morning, I found out he never did show up yesterday which has me pulling out my hair! Even after he said he would go - he didn't. This goes on all the time and he will go days without stopping in which, of course, hurts her since he lives right next door. Last year, she fell going out to get the newspaper. It was in February, very cold and they are in a rural area where only a few cars go by each day. Fortunately, she wears a fall alert and I got the call that she fell. It took me 10 minutes to get there and she was by the mailbox, unable to get up. Thankfully she wasn't hurt, just cold. We decided that my brother would get her mail and newspaper every day during the cold weather so she didn't feel like she had to go outside. That worked for about 2 weeks. This winter, I invariably find the newspapers/mail in the box from the last time I stopped in. I just don't get it - he lives right next door! I should mention that I have two other brothers that live out of state so obviously the lion's share of the caretaking falls on us that live nearby. I recognize that, after all these years, my brother probably isn't going to change but I can't get past being frustrated when he can't even seem to do the simplest things to help out our Mom. Argghh!

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(((((((hugs)))))) I think you know the answer. I would concentrate on your mother's needs - without your bro's help. Sounds like your mum is approaching the time when she needs more assistance, and possibly eventually a different environment. Keeping a declining elder at home is complicated and expensive, though doable with lots of resources. Start working on a plan for your mum's care, without relying on your bro, and let the expectation of his help, and associated frustrations, go.
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A couple of answers - I don't think my Mom will ever need to be on Medicaid.  Yes, my brother was spoiled as the youngest and most "needy". Mom's an enabler, I recognize that and know it's just her nature. She's just a lovable and loving person who would give most anyone the shirt off her back if she thought they needed it. (Although, I have to say that, thankfully, she does hang up on all those telemarketers!)

She was falling quite frequently until a little over a year ago and it scared her enough to know that she needs a cane and shouldn't go outside when the weather isn't good. She does have a walker as well but doesn't want to use it. To be fair, though, she has a number of stairs leading up to the house so a walker wouldn't help to get to the mailbox.

Freqflyer - Yes, my brother has always lived with or next door to my parents.  They gave him the land so he could build.  And I think you are right. Some people just aren't cut out for caregiving and I need to keep telling myself that. I probably also need to stop depending on my brother to do things, even if he says he will, so I don't get frustrated so often! Thanks!
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Ava, it is common when siblings are not on the same page when it comes to taking care of a parent. Each think about "care" differently, and some just are not cut out to be caregivers. Believe me, I am not making excuses for your brother, just bringing out that everyone is different.

Curious, has your brother always lived near your Mom? And borrowing money from her without repaying sounds like he is a bit spoiled. Thus his world runs on his own timetable.

Regarding Mom's fall, do you know if she has been falling on a regular basis? Maybe it is time for her to have a rolling walker. My Dad had one for getting the mail and he loved it... he would throw the mail into the basket and roll the walker back to the house :)
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sue888 has a very good point. The loaned money will have to be paid back.

Your brother is probably assuming that if he just ignores things he's supposed to be doing for your mother, that you will step in. So he's off the hook.

I'd have a little chat with your mother about the money your brother owes her.
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"I take care of the checkbook so I know what he's borrowed and what has not been paid back ($25,000 so far). "
If your mom ever needs medicaid this money will need to be payed back before she will qualify.
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