Hi all I live a plane ride away from my mother who is in increasingly failing health. My sister is the primary carer and is exhausted by the demands being made on her. My sister is not a talker and I have struggled to get a sense of what is going on. My mother only gives me good news and hates it when I try to challenge her. My sister has become increasingly distant over the years and I have struggled with this too. It turns out that she has been silently screaming for a very long time and expected me to just "get it." Today I was called stupid, naive, uncaring, living in la la land ect. I hurts me grievously to hear this. It does not help that we have nothing in common and are very different temperamentally. Today she told me that she is sick of doing all my thinking for me and if I want to help from afar I will need to figure it out for myself. I've come up with a few ideas, I already do her grocery shopping on line, I do her finances when I visit, I could coordinate her doctor visits and home help remotely. Anyone got any more ideas?
The big step was hearing it, though, so well done for your reaction i.e. seeking suggestions rather getting defensive and stamping off in a huff.
Telling your sister you've heard her might also make her feel hugely better. You'd be surprised.
Chuckle. "If you don't understand there's no point trying to explain it to you..!" I love all of us sisters of the world, but if there is one thing we ladies tend to say that I have vowed I will never, ever say, it's that.
I should be wary of making appointments for your mother that your sister then has to help her keep. That is a form of delegation that carries the risk of going down like a lead balloon. When you help, be very very careful that you're not creating extra things for your sister to do. E.g. when my sister invites us to lunch, she makes sure it's convenient for me. When my brother comes up with brilliant ideas, he's hurt that I think they suck - because they tend to involve a 240-mile drive for me and a miserable experience for our mother. I think it's the la-la land thing - he doesn't know what it's like here at the coal face, she does.
Hm. How much vacation do you get? And how good are you at practical tasks? If you were to suggest that you go and stay with your mother for, say, a week your sister might be very happy - BUT ONLY if it's a practical and sensible idea. If you've never taken care of so much as a goldfish, or if she has nowhere she'd like to go for a few days away, then it's a non-starter and don't even mention it.
Listen, I'm just impressed by your attitude. Send your sister a comforting, supportive and understanding email, ideally followed by a bottle of her favourite bubble bath or something pampering that she would like. And then, consistency. Don't do the thing where there's a flurry of activity that peters out over a few weeks and then comes to a dead stop. Schedule in time you can make available for your mother and sister in your diary as a matter of routine. It's all about taking time and making your mother a priority. And, by the way, it's hard work. Best of luck, I think you're off to a very good start.
I think your sister is probably so isolated that she feels she sees what needs to be done very clearly, but it's not always that obvious to someone who's not in the same physical position doing the caregiving. And she's angry that she feels she has to explain the obvious.
Perhaps you could imagine yourself first in your mother's position and think of what you would need on a daily basis, then imagine the same thing for your sister.
Respite is probably a strong need for your sister. I agree with others' suggestion that household help and someone to stay with your mother for awhile would help your sister.
If your mother goes to church, perhaps you could get contact information for something like a relief society and make arrangements for one of them to visit (assuming that your mother doesn't need medically specific care for a visit), perhaps take her to lunch, church, or for other church activities.
Is there a senior center in their community that might have activities, assuming your mother is mobile enough to get out and about?
Transportation to medical appointments is also a big time and energy drain. Some communities have small bus service that provided door to door pickup, although I do know that it's not easy to accept that kind of impersonal transportation when a family member is available.
Perhaps something just as simple as sending flowers to both of them, thanking your sister for her efforts and telling them both how much you love and care for them.
Or perhaps just make a list of things that you think could be appropriate and e-mail them to your sister; if she ignores them or crosses them off you'll know that more creativity is required.
It would help to know a little bit more about their living arrangement and what your mother's medical conditions are that might create limitations.
I've thought of what my sibling could do from long distance, and it's really quite limited, but he does help with researching potential security devices for safety and things of that nature.
If there were to be additional help locally, I would ask for help with transporation, housecleaning, yard work, and house repairs - especially house repairs!
Also a housecleaning service would be nice. Anything to make your sisters life a little more pleasant.
Good for you for trying to help.