My brother lives out of state and he is married with children. I am single with no children. I work full time, I have a few close friends and I am involved with a volunteer group so I have some activities that help me with stress relief. However, I find myself angry and frustrated that my brother rarely calls me to ask how I'm doing as far as taking care of my parents is concerned. In the past, when I've mentioned how I feel my brother has told my parents that I make him feel guilty for not being physically closer to help and my parents commented to me that because my brother has a family that he is doing the best he can. I'm not trying to make my brother feel guilty. I just want to feel that my brother is sharing in the caregiving and I'd like to know that he understands or appreciates what I'm going through. I want to better communicate my feelings with my brother so I don't continue to grow more angry and frustrated with him. Any suggestions?

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From what your brother told your parents, it sounds like he does not really understand what you want. You do want him to move closer. You do not want him to feel guilty about where he lives. You want him to call you often and to express appreciation for what you are doing and interest in it.

I'd suggest that the first thing to do is clarify with your brother what you really meant and what you would like from him. Was your brother in the habit of calling you often before your parents needed caregivng? Did you call him often? If you weren't in frequent contact before, there is no reason to assume he'll figure it out that it would be a good support for you now. That is why you need to be very specific and clear about what you would like.

When you are sure he understands what you would like, then accept his response, whatever it is. I mean his real response -- what he does, rather than what he says. Not every sibling is keen on close family ties with siblings. In my own family, the men have tended to be somewhat more integrated into their wives' family and lose some closeness with their sisters. That is not absolute and we all like each other just fine, but I have less "meaningful" conversations with my brothers than with my sisters. I'm sure this is not true in every American family, but I caution you not to take it too personally if this is the case with your brother.

Are you close to his wife? If she understands what you want she may be an ally in encouraging your brother to reach out to you.

Would it meet your needs to call him? What if you have a date to give him a phone update every Wednesday after work? Yes, it would feel better if he initiated the contact, but you could contact him, right?

Your brother sounds more clueless than malicious. Wasting energy on being angry or frustrated because he isn't the kind of brother you wish he was only harms you and does nothing to change him.

Communicate your needs clearly. Meet him half way. And then just accept who he is and how he relates to you and your parents.

Join a local support group for caregivers. Come here frequently to read and to post. No one can really "get" you like a fellow-caregiver.
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Change the things you can. Your brother is not one of them. Build your support within your friends and fellow volunteers. Just give him an update and vent your frustrations here or with friends who will listen. Avoid the mom said dad said routine, just tell him what you need for them. If that means hiring help, ask him to split the cost. Be specific, just saying "I need help" is too vague. For example: " Mom and Dad need a hot water tank. A new one is $800. Will you pay half?" or "Grass cutting will be $400 for the summer. Will you pay half?" or " I am going on vacation for a week. Can you come up that week?"
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