How do I get my non-care-giving brother to TALK about why he's so angry?

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My oldest brother is my mother's favourite child and favourite person in the world. He loves her too. He lives 125 miles away from us, works full-time and has a busy life. His wife is a recently retired dietitian. She has huge issues of her own: I'm not unsympathetic, but they're not my problem - except that, for some reason, they've made her amazingly hostile to elders (e.g. she calls my mother "manipulative" - my mother wouldn't know how; she gets angry if her own mother expresses any opinion about her own children and calls her "interfering"; she wants her aunt forced into residential care because the aunt isn't doing her PT exercises properly). She has selected a place for respite care near their home which, frankly, I wouldn't leave my goldfish in: it's run like a boot camp. SIL thinks it's wonderful; has heard good reports from her colleagues and social circle. The home describes itself as "ideal for the active elderly." My mother has severe CHF, Stage IV kidney disease, vascular dementia with ?Alzheimer's involvement; she had two minor strokes almost a year ago; she is at high risk of falls; she is very anxious about the whole idea of needing care, and really not good with strangers. I've already told them mother is not going to this place they've picked, which we all visited before Christmas. I'd happily spell out why if I could get a word in edgeways, but I always get cut off by accusations that I don't like it because I didn't choose it.

This evening my brother calls to say that as we're going to be travelling near them for my aunt's funeral this would be a good time for mother to stay in this (rejected) respite care home. I say no. He flips his lid and hangs up on me. I call straight back and get SIL instead; she is also angry because, she says, I am very rude to her (honest, I haven't even started…) and think that I am the only person who knows how to care for my mother. I do know better than she does; because she makes no effort to ask about what's going on clinically and has no idea of what my mother's current condition is. But because she has worked with stroke rehab teams she thinks she knows what my mother needs. More to the point, she thinks my mother lacks moral fibre and that "she can't be too picky about where she stays."

My brother is clearly extremely angry with me. The fallout of this is that he called briefly on Boxing Day, but didn't speak to my mother. He did not call her to wish her a Happy New Year. Her sister died on New Year's Day, and he has not called her with condolences, nor given me any message to pass on to her. He is being a thoughtless idiot, which wouldn't bother me except that my mother would love to see him and love to hear more from him. My SIL said this evening that "she's his mother too, he wants to see her." He does? Well, yes, I'm sure he does. But he's hiding it extraordinarily well.

N.b. My mother is not staying anywhere she is not spoiled rotten and taken lovely, respectful care of. It's taking me every waking moment to convince her that she is loved and important, after a lifetime's training in the opposite beliefs. She is not paying over $1000 to get ordered around and plonked in front of the TV for a week, in a care home that has one qualified nurse who works Mon-Fri 9:00-4:00 and as far as I can tell is always either out assessing future residents or in meetings.

Thanks to AC, you would all have been proud of me this evening. I did not get angry back, I was not rude to moron-face (it's my pet name for SIL), I concentrated on breathing properly and stayed calm, and I went on to have a nice conversation with my lovely grown-up nephew about his career and his forthcoming marriage.

Now. How do I get my brother to have a conversation, rather than an argument, about how he can see more of my mother without its being difficult for him or unpleasant for her? How do I bypass SIL? They've given me one option, it sucks, I reject it, they blame me, they come back with the same option, it still sucks, I reject it, they get angry and blame me... What's my best next step?

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Thanks Veronica - "...the tough get going," what a kind, cheering thing to say! I know, I'm sorry to have inflicted War & Peace on everyone - it helps to think aloud, though, and I do work on the assumption that people will just bleep over the boring bits.

The irony is that while bro and SIL have been fuming about my obduracy, things have already moved on to the extent that there's a local home-care agency coming this week to discuss respite hours as an ongoing thing; it's a small step, but it's a start - with luck it'll introduce mother to caregivers who are nice, professional, non-scary people. The week away idea is first and foremost the best substitute I can think of for my mother's lifelong travel bug: up until 2 years ago, when her GP, geriatrician and I ganged up to stop her attempting a trip through the Panama Canal, she was an intrepid long-haul independent traveller. Always came home exhausted and in pain, but it was the sense of achievement she needed. Her feet are so itchy by now it's unbearable, and of course incredibly depressing for her to think that she'll forever be under house arrest. By contrast, I'm a complete homebody: my idea of a holiday is that EVERYONE GOES AWAY and gives me some peace!

You're right about bro and SIL being a self-supporting unit. And, I keep reminding myself, I don't actually wish her away anyway. There's auld lang syne, for a start - she's been part of the family for 33 years. She's his loving wife, that counts. And she's my gorgeous nephews' beloved mother: I wish her well for their sake if nothing else. I just need some way of getting her out of my mother's face! - and stopping her chucking her well-meant spanner in the works the whole time: that's the rub. If I could, I'd do it without hurting her feelings; but time and again I end up with a straight choice between her feelings and my mother's welfare - and there's no contest.

I don't know what's going through my brother's head. We're a family of depressives, with a few members per generation who've got away and therefore don't get it; and to judge by his Crohn's disease, his history of wild underachievement and self-sabotage, his counsels of despair and - does this ring any bells??? - his bitter hatred of governmental and corporate intrusion… yeah, I'd say he has a few unresolved issues! Add in the boarding school from age 8, Perthes disease in late childhood (and a father who didn't believe in that, either, and prescribed his own patent exercise programme)… sigh. As my close friend said: "how old do you have to be before it's illegal to carry on blaming your parents?" But men like him are brought up to believe a) that failure is not allowed and b) that failure is inevitable. Doomed, really, aren't they? - unless they can learn to forgive themselves.

I'll be as kind to him as I get the chance to be. I wish he'd realise that my mother loves him anyway, and is demanding nothing. Silly boy. (Don't worry I won't tell him that!)
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CM you have written a book this morning.
What I am gleaning from this is that you have to have some respite for various reasons and so far the focus has been finding a facility where Mom would be comfortable and stress free . Forget the money if Mom has it, it can be spent. 1000 a week is not expensive for that level of care. leaving that aside people with dementia do best when their environment is kept the same. Would it be possible for Mom to stay home while you go for respite. How would it sit with your ex live in partner? Does he have a good relationship with Mom? Can you hire 1 -3 full time caregivers to stay with Mom at home?. Our local hospice keeps a list of caregivers that they pass on when someone is looking for a private hire. They never give recommendations but people don't get on that list if their work is seen to be unsatisfactory. or just advertise and check references. try an over night or week end first and see how Mom does. As for bro I doubt anything can be confidential as SIL is always looking over his shoulder. I assume he is mentally ill but caries the British male attitude to that. I have seen that in my husband's family. Obnoxious as SIL is he would not function without her. You will work it out I know when the going gets tough the tough get going
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Thank you all, I feel much better. Jeanne, you ask all the right questions, as always. We had a "family conference" - both brothers, my sister and me, while SIL "looked after" my mother i.e. rabbited on at her for an hour in a voice so piercing we could all hear her through two shut doors, and laughed at her for getting crossword answers wrong… but I digress… - where I was told I didn't have a life and mother should go into respite care for "at least" a week; so we agreed that we would all look for suitable places. That was four months ago. Brother and SIL have come up with their one. Sister has looked but not found anything, and anyway she sees mother fairly often and is probably just taking a back seat on this. Younger brother may have looked but I doubt it - he wouldn't know where to start.

I've found one I think is great - it has a full library, book group, theatre, current events discussion group, petting animals, a resident team of doctors, full complement of nursing staff, specialist dementia care floors, and a care manager who kicked off his assessment by asking my mother "are you a people-person?" - and enabling her to say no, not really, which was the most important thing. Mother doesn't want to go to that home, either; but if I didn't genuinely think she'd have a brilliant time I wouldn't still be gently recommending it. Brother and SIL object to it for the simple reason that it isn't near them; for the more complicated reason that it is near one of their sons, my sister's daughter, my son and DIL, my daughters, my (nice, psychiatrist) SIL and my ex's warm and inclusive family members (she'd never go short of a visitor) and they claim I am "loading nephew up with massive guilt" (not what nephew or his fiancée say, btw); and for hugely complicated, unspoken religious reasons because this home is run by a religious charity - albeit a highly ecumenical one - and they're uncomfortable with that. We all went to visit the place in November. SIL invited herself to join the guided tour (my mother said "we can't very well tell her not to come"), was then half an hour late for the appointment, followed a few paces behind the rest of us making snide remarks to my sister instead of putting questions to the residents' services manager, and then gets all hurt and surprised when I rip her head off afterwards for talking uninformed b.s. about mother's care needs. Rude? I was positively restrained. I didn't slap her, for a start.

We seem to have wildly different priorities. I want this stay to be a holiday for my mother, a really nice time, a positive first experience of residential care. They seem to think she should put up with any minor discomforts for the sake of seeing her lovely boy; and in SIL's case sincerely believes that a disciplined schedule and "robust" approach will bring her out of herself and improve her "hypochondria."

Jeanne, again you're right - I need to do more homework and see if I can find a home that's as good but without the drawbacks. In fact there are - a quick google search reveals - some 21 respite care homes within 10 miles of my brother's home. I need also to tell them to keep looking, and find one that doesn't tell my mother what time to get up, eat, or go to bed, but does treat her as if she's a graduate professional with a high IQ and not a naughty, lazy, disruptive child... then we can talk.

The money is an interesting question. My younger brother is terrified by the cost, not because he wants to keep more for himself but because the costs are terrifying when you first hear what they are. My sister - she leads the financial POA, shared with older brother - has accepted and approved the ball-park figures in principle; but she's not one to waste money. Older brother and SIL, now… that's interesting. I wouldn't make any accusations. At the same time, they do, I'm pretty sure, have long-term financial worries (nothing compared to mine!) and a substantial estate would help them out. Not enough to be worth shaving the respite care bill, but… it's an elephant standing outside the back door, if you like.

Mother last went to stay with them maybe 2.5 or 3 years ago; once the driving got too much for her, my partner would give her a lift and she'd stay with them for a long weekend every few months. Since then she's had a small heart attack, two small strokes, a bad wrist fracture, a pacemaker implant and she's become very frail. She needs assistance with almost all daily living activities; and she is often disoriented to time, place and events. She's always found SIL overbearing and tiring - that isn't something I blame SIL for, genuinely: she can't help her personality - but nowadays mother just doesn't have the resilience to cope with it. I've considered suggesting they hire a carer, there is room in the house for two people to stay, but I think it would end up being the worst of all worlds - still the expense, plus the loss of personal privacy, the discomfort of staying in someone else's home, the 24/7 presence of SIL, the lack of safety adaptations, and for what? So that she can glimpse my brother when he's not too busy or depressed to spend time with her?

Glad, I'm with you - for two straws I'll have my mother enjoying a break (from me, apart from anything else!) in what I know is a really good home… only, it's got to be when she's ready to give it a try.

LadeeM - you're completely right, and that's why I do feel sad for my brother too. SIL goes on and on and on and on… And he has to hear her day in day out, and he doesn't have the confidence to trust his own judgement. And she's ill, too - she had a serious breakdown March last year - and needs his support. And he's been depressed all his life and doesn't believe there's any such thing as depression. He's a mess. He's not my problem, but I still wish I could help him. He's a sweet, clever man - he's not my mother's favourite for nothing - but with the emotional intelligence of a rhinoceros with a headache. And now, it seems, he can't speak to me for more than 5 minutes without wanting to kill me. What have I done? I'm good at shedding unjustified disapproval, I'm not losing sleep over that, but my goodness I'm curious about what he can be thinking.

The biggest laugh I had yesterday evening was hearing SIL say "he thinks you're over-protective." Oh right. HE thinks that, does he? Wonder where he might get that idea.

JessieBelle, when your brother got thumped round the head by your father's passing away, were you able to console him? How? Did you even want to? I keep thinking that if I just wash my hands of my brother's attitude and do nothing to try to wake him up, all I'll have left is the bitter satisfaction of saying "told you so." If my brother doesn't get his act together and do something loving for my mother now, he's going to be a wreck when she dies. Yes it'll be all his own work (with able assistance from his wife), but I still don't want it to happen.

Jeanne, you're also right that I need as gently and courteously as possible to insist on talking only to my brother about this. I've thought of emailing him, but I can't be sure it would be confidential and I also need to have some sense of what his responses are as they're happening so that I don't go too far too fast. Clearly he thinks I'm the enemy. Well, I'll just have to wait for him to approach me, and then if I can get anywhere proving I'm not I'll give myself a small pat on the head.

Thank you all again, so much. Deep breath and on we go. Gosh I'll be glad when I never have to think about them ever again!
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Countrymouse, reading about your situation strikes a chord in me. My uncles and aunts have come up with a million and one ridiculous reasons (or rather, excuses) everytime we suggest they visit or let Grandma visit them for a while. She misses her children and this greatly hurts her. They just seem to think about what's easy or convenient for themselves and not Grandma.

It's obvious to me that you are providing all you can for your mother - and that you are even trying to make her less sad by attempting to reach out to your brother. (Also, you've mentioned that he is the favourite child, so I really understand how much this hurts.) I can see how difficult it is to do so. I agree with jeannegibbs. Is it possible to only discuss with your brother about mother and not include SIL? From what I've read, she neither knows what your mother needs nor takes any of it into consideration.
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All I could imagine was when you called brother right back and moron-face picked up the phone she was telling him "Let me answer it, I'll tell her who's in charge"!

Stick to your guns and continue to tell them NO..You will find a better place..
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I was just going to suggest talking with brother face to face without moron face as JG did. I have two sisters, BLAH, that do dot understand about mom because their own fears and denial take over. You should find a place you find acceptable and take her there, make sure it is a convenient location for you! Not near brother, but close to where you will be.
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CM, Was the decision to find someplace for respite care made jointly, or did they come up with that on their own? Having some place picked out for respite, so you can get away on vacation, take care of a health issue, etc. is a good idea. Picking out a place for "active seniors" for someone who is not active, and picking out a place not fit for a goldfish, are both bad decisions. Combining them is hideous.

Have you picked out a place that would be acceptable to you? Could you pick out 2 or 3, and give them the final say on which one to use when it is needed?

I wonder why they don't offer to have Mom stay with them for your respite, but from what you say that would not be something I'd suggest!

One reason siblings sometimes insist on inferior placements is to save money for their own inheritance. Is that a factor here?

You are not responsible for your brother's emotions or behavior, as I know you know. You are willing to listen to his reasons for his feelings, but you cannot force him to be willing to talk to you about them.

I think if I were you I'd only talk to my brother about our mom, and not the sister-in-law. The two of them can talk, but I'd deal with only the brother.
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PS... and he's probably pissed that you didn't give in... and he STILL has to listen to her yammering...
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CM, you probably won't get him to talk to you about what is going on.... you are not 'dancing' to their music and they are 'interpreting' that in their own selfish way, as opposed to HEARING your concerns and abject NO on the subject...you can always send him an email and acknowledge his anger... but that your answer is still NO... you may be better served to save that energy for important things... like MOM!!!!! Finding out what is got him so angry will not change your answer.... Stay strong for mom... you are doing the right things for the right reasons..... just keep coming here and talking (writing) until he either gives it up, you are heard or him and moron face leaves you alone...

I am sorry mom is hurt over this..... that is purely your bro's responsibility... I know you are left with 'sad mom', but have been reading you for awhile... you will do whatever it takes to keep her safe and for her to know she is loved... in the long run, that's all that matters.... you can't fix what you didn't break.... sending you hugs and prayers for perseverance....
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Countrymouse, many siblings don't really grasp how bad a parent's condition is. It might be that they don't visit long enough to see more than the show-timing parent. I have run across the thinking you described with my brother and SIL. When my father was taken for his final visit to the hospital, I would call my brother with reports. I knew things didn't look good, but all he would do was flippantly say, "Old people do that." He had this notion that my father was going to do okay and magically go back home again. Either that or he didn't want to bother until my father died. The day my father died, I had called my brother to let him know that Dad seemed particularly bad. All he said was the standard "old people do that" statement. A few hours later I called to let him know that Dad had died. Reality hit hard.

Both brothers pretty much ignore how my mother is doing. She is still breathing and talking, so they think she is just fine. They don't see her all day every day. I imagine that they might choose a place that was not suitable for her, either, mainly because they haven't invested the time in knowing better. What bothers me about your brother and SIL is they don't listen to you, the one who is there all the time. They should realize that you are the authority on your mother.

I get the feeling that maybe they are choosing what is easiest for them instead of what is best for your mother. Maybe you can find an alternative place near them that would be more suited to your mother's abilities and personality.
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