How do I get my sister to comprehend the safety of my mother?

Asked by

My sister will pick my mother up for appointments and church to transport her and mom has four stairs to descend and especially now that the weather is getting frosty the steps can ice up. My sister has to come up on the porch to get my mother's walker to load into the car but then my sister proceeds to get into the car and lets my mother descend the stairs alone without supervision. Mom is always carrying a purse in one hand and is very unsteady. I have addressed this with my sister numerous times even as recently as five days ago. Yesterday I was visiting my mother, my sister picked her up for church, my sister got the walker, got back into the car and, once again did not supervise mom. I stayed back a few seconds to see if she would since I had just addressed it but when I saw her get back into her car I quickly went out and spotted mom on the steps. I am at my wits end since I live over an hour away and my sister lives five minutes from mom and does most of the transporting. My sister just doesn't get it. Do I go ballistic on her to get the point across or wait and let something happen?

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
I'm still trying to fathom why the walker is put into the car before your mother reaches the car??

My DH is on a walker and I don't put it into the car until after his butt is in the seat. And this is totally flat ground - not steps. He uses the walker to backup to the car-seat.

The only thing I can think of is your sister resents having to take your mother places. It sounds like resentment to me.
Oh wow. I'd be very anxious about this in your situation. I don't blame you for being worried. What to do about it is not so clear, since you have already done the logical thing and talked to Sis about this.

Do you have any idea why she behaves this way?
Denial that Mom needs help?
Resenting you trying to tell her what to do?
Forgetfulness? (Does Sis have memory issues?)
Laziness?
Secret/subconscious wishes that Mom would fall?

Figuring out why she is doing this MIGHT help you figure out how to approach it.

I wonder if she would receive the message better from someone else. Since many of the trips are to church, perhaps you could talk privately with the pastor, and he or she could have a conversation with Sis, thanking her for her help etc. How would the topic of supervision of stairs come up? I don't know, but pastors are typically good at that sort of thing.

Does Sis go into Mom's medical appointments with her? Wouldn't it be good if the doctor or a nurse would tell Mom that she should have someone accompany here on outdoor journeys now that the weather is often frosty? And that she should especially have someone with her when she uses outdoor steps.

Would Sis listen to Mom? Is Mom able to remember and to ask Sis each time if she will stay with her down the steps?

Would Sis have room in her car to carry a walker all the time? (She doesn't haul a team of young hockey players around, for example.) You could purchase a second-hand walker similar to what your mom normally uses and Sis could keep it in her car. Then she would only have to make one trip to the car and presumably would make it with Mom.

This is really a frustrating situation, since the solution is so easy. Sis stays with Mom down the steps. No Big Deal. But bringing it about isn't so simple.

Good luck to you. If you come up with something that works, please share with us. We learn from each other!

When you say you've addressed this (on numerous occasions, I expect?) with your sister, what exactly have you said to her about it?

I'm wondering if sis is blanking it because she doesn't actually know, when it comes down to it, what she's supposed to do? And maybe mother shoos her off because having somebody incompetent grabbing hold of you is worse than nothing? There is a further point there, because if Sister just stands next to your mother like a lamb chop then she isn't going to support your mother properly or save her if she should slip or trip, God forbid.

I'd suggest getting some quick PT input - maybe for both of you, then you could set her a good example - to learn proper techniques for supporting people sitting-to-standing, standing-to-sitting, walking and on stairs. And maybe throw in getting into and out of a car, for good measure. If you don't happen to know any friendly physical therapists... you can probably find demonstration clips on YouTube or something like that.
Just throwing an idea out there, but I wonder if your sister secretly resents having to be the taxi service for your mother.
So, Karbar, it really sounds as though your sister is having some cognitive/memory issues and is no longer a reliable caregiver for your mom.

As Jeanne said above, even in the early stages of dementia, folks are not really safe living by themselves. It sounds as though there needs to be a new plan for Mom.

And it sounds as though sister can no longer be counted on as part of that plan.

karbar, your profile says Mom is living alone and has dementia. That combination is usually not tenable for very long. Do you and your sister have some plans for what comes next?
Karbar, how do you talk to sis? The way you phrased the question, makes me wonder. I would setup a home assessment by an occupational therapist, ordered by mom's doc. Then both you and sis be there for that appointment.

Work on building a cooperative, respectful relationship with your sis. Nothing worse than being the primary caregiver and having a sibling that does not help much tell you that something is being done incorrectly.

At church, you be the standby for mom. Help her up to sit with the choir and then back to her seat. Why aren't you sitting with her if she needs help? Always be ready to help where and when you can.
CountyMouse gives a great suggestion about having training on helping Mom up or down the stairs.

There is also a useful video on how to do this -- probably more than one. The one I looked at is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWAuhtqTQyM It is on youtube, in a series called Caregiver/Family Training, an episode called Stairs.

I had our outdoor stairs replaces by a sloping sidewalk. That is an expensive solution, but a very practical one. My husband could use his walker all the way to the car.
I take my mother to Florida for the winter with me, leaving in one week, but the steps off the porch are an issue all year round, she is unstable. Another example: my mother sang with the choir in church last week, they put a chair for her to sit while singing. I told mom to use her walker to get to the front of the church, she refused stating there is no room to put it so I asked my sister who also sang in the choir and sat with mom and I to hold onto mom to get to the front of the church to her chair and back to her seat. My sister acknowledged u derstanding and said ok. When they announced it was time for the choir, my sister bolted from her pew to the front of the church and left my mother behind. My mother Lewis walked to the front of the church about five pews. When she got to her chair two church ladies helped her sit down. When done singing two ladies helped her get up, it was then my sister just touched my mother because she saw others helping but she once again did not assist mom back. I would have helped her but it happened so quickly, I couldn't get out of the pew fast enough to get to her. My sister doesn't seem to have any common sense and seems to be very short minded. I have face to face to,d her she needs to supervise mom on stairs by standing in front of her, it just doesn't sink it. My sister is repeating stories to me over and over, maybe there is an u derlying issue.
When I take my mother out, she goes down the (1) front step (my H designed a very strong railing to use) and uses the rollator to get to my car. When she gets to my car, she holds on to the car to walk around to the passenger side while I am putting the rollator into my trunk.

I may seem unhelpful to others when I don't help my mother get up from chairs when we are out. Usually someone rushes to her aid. Sometimes I tell that person that it is better if she does it on her own. Why? Because she lives alone and she can't rely on someone else being there to help her up. (PT has shown her how to get up from a chair.)

Also, I resent having to haul her up (just as I resent doing most things for her at this point). Sometimes it takes her up to 7 tries to get up out of a chair. I suppose she shouldn't still be living alone...

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support