My mother was diagnosed in 10/19 with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. She was living independently at the time in her home. During this time she underwent surgery, chemo, etc. to treat her cancer. I live 70 miles away and my sister lives 10 minutes from her. She is retired and I still work full time. Over the last two years my sister and I started noticing that mom was having falls in her home, she would not press her life alert and laid on the bathroom floor all night once. Went to pick her up for her doctor appt and she had not gone to bed the night before and slept in the chair and urinated in the chair all night. When we woke her up she didn’t know where she was, what time it was, etc. She had early onset dementia and she no longer could live in a 3 level house with steps by herself. It was not safe so she moved to Assisted Living Memory Care. She has been there since March 2023. Initially she was ok with being there but after about 4 months she really didn’t want to be there. My sister’s house and mine are 3 level townhomes with lots of stairs and my mother got to the point where she couldn’t do steps. So she needed to be in a care center. Her dementia has gotten worse over time. We just made the decision to place her in hospice which works jointly with the medical staff at her Assisted Living Center. She is now at the point with she must be toileted in bed. She is not speaking. I was there on Sunday all day with her and she didn’t talk to me or her friends. She just sat and looked like she was a million miles away. She’s not eating. Drinks a little. The entire time mom has been in AL my sister has gone over there every day. She does her laundry even though the facility does that. We pay $10K a month and she is has felt that if she didn’t go over there that mom would just sit in her room. She wouldn’t join in the activities, go to meals, etc. unless she showed up and prodded her to do so. Now, of course, we’re dealing with end of life. I have felt very guilty because I cannot go there every day and quite frankly I don’t think my sister should have all this time. The point of Assisted Living is for her to be safe and for us to be daughters not caretakers per say. I go as much and as often as I can with working full time and having my own family. I have taken her to many doctor appointments over the last year. Taken her for outings and dinner, etc. but I’m not as tied down as my sister has chosen to be. Obviously now I have to call my sister every day to get an update because my mom no longer answers her phone, etc. What would you do in my situation? Am I doing enough? Also, my sister is “very” emotional. She cries at the drop of a hat and I am not that way. I am a very logical person. We knew we would get to this stage. Of course its sad to see my mother like this and I grieve privately when I need to. I don’t cry in front of others. The mother I knew is detached from us at this point. She is not herself. I think it annoys my sister that I am not more emotional in front of her. Any guidance would be appreciated.

"I have felt very guilty because I cannot go there every day and quite frankly I don’t think my sister should have all this time. The point of Assisted Living is for her to be safe and for us to be daughters not caretakers per say."

This is what I see as the core of your post, and it seems to be a resentment toward your sister for her level of care for your mother. Is she berating you for not doing enough? Is she scolding you for not being there? Because if she's not this yardstick you're using to compare your level of caring to hers is your own inner narrative and not based in reality. We all grieve differently and we all have different abilities so if she wants to and can be with your mother daily that doesn't diminish your care and concern, it just makes her different from you, it's not a competition. If she wasn't there every day you would need to call the facility for updates so do that instead, perhaps a little less sister time might give you the space to step away from this simmering resentment/rivalry.
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to cwillie
NeedHelpWithMom May 8, 2024
Makes sense to me. Good advice cwille.
See 1 more reply
Not everything can be fixed.
At some point (and you're there now) things have to be endured with as much grace as can be mustered.
This is no longer about choice.
Your mom is very ill, and is in care because that's where she must be, because she needs 24/7 dedicated care of a staff.

Your sister is, imho, making things very hard on herself, and really not doing her mother any favor. This isn't making your mother happier, and in truth this isn't a happy time, and may never be again until she finds the peace of death.
Your sis is wearing herself out. The bad news is that it's likely that her daily visits will do no good and will only increase your mom's anxiety. That said, there's nothing you can do about your sister's choices. All these issues will be soon enough over, so everyone should make her own best choice for herself, the choices that will be easiest to live with when this is over.

As to yourself, you live where you live. You are doing the best you are able and are clearly upset you can't do more. The fact your sister does what she's doing IS NOT ABOUT YOU. It's about her. You can't change it. You each are making your own choices partially because you feel you HAVE no choice.
Be easy on yourself. Understand you are not responsible for mom's happiness and that given these sad circumstances this is not about "happy" any more. It is about the death of one you love, and your own survival. There've been many times in a long life that mom wasn't happy and you couldn't fix it, and this is one more time. At the end I hope you and sis will be able to feel great comfort in the fact there is no more pain, and no more fear, and you needn't stand helpless witness to the torment of one you love.

I am so sorry for all your mom's going through. She's in care which is where she needs to be. You and sis need to support one another. Be as kind to YOURSELVES as you are able to. It's clear you already wish to be kind to your mom.
Some things have no good answer. They are endured the best you can, and that's what you and sis are doing. I wish you the best and my heart goes out to you both.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to AlvaDeer
JRSLT2024 May 8, 2024
AlvaDeer, I wish you were my neighbor!! You are wise and tell us what we already know, but you just kinda pick us up and put us on track again. Thank you. (I’m the 67 year-old semi-retired RN that has my 90 yr old mom in memory care..which she hates and lets everybody know:) My specialty is ER so this whole dementia stuff is a learning process) We need people like you to help us navigate thru all the emotions we are going thru.
See 2 more replies
You feel guilty, unnecessarily, because your sister is doing more for your mother than you are, and more openly grieving. In reality, your mom has been gravely ill since 10/19 which has given you a long time to process the fact that she's terminal.

We all handle life and death differently. Some openly weep at movies, some don't cry at funerals.

When my mother was dying after 10+ years of caring for her, I was relieved. Not because I'm cold hearted or hated her, but because she had suffered enough in this life and was ready to transition. I sat with her for the last week of her life while she was comatose, but if I'd had siblings there, I'd have cut back my time.

Crying and constant visiting is not a bigger sign of love than being dry eyed and visiting less often. In the old days, my grandmother would throw herself on top of the coffin IN the grave, screaming and crying at her husband's passing. She didn't even LIKE the dude! It was a show for the crowd, that's all.

Leave your sister be to do as she pleases, and don't beat yourself up for doing things your way.

I'm sorry you're going thru such a thing. Sending you a hug and a prayer for peace.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to lealonnie1

My mother is bedridden, in memory care with dementia and on hospice. I live 300 miles away and visit once a month for several days. I’m in touch daily, as needed with the staff and hospice caregivers. My brother lives 30 minutes from her and visits twice a week. He still works full time. I have an Echo Show box on the table at the end of my mother’s bed so that I can “drop in” every day and see her and talk with her. She sounds more responsive than your mom so I don’t know if this device would work for you. But I like that I can see her and immediately contact the staff if she needs something. She’s forgotten how to use a phone so this has really helped. It’s definitely very frustrating not to be able to get to her as quickly as I’d like to, but being able to “see” her daily helps a little.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Lov2teach

I would like to add something to my earlier post.

When my mother was in her end of life hospice care home, my youngest brother called me to ask if he should come home.

He moved away shortly after graduating from his university for work.

My mother never made him feel badly about leaving our city. She wanted him to lead his own life. He lived in New York for many years and then moved to D.C.

My brother was extremely busy with work and I told him not to feel obligated to come home to see mom. He called and FaceTimed with Mom. When he called us, we updated him.

Mom became close to one of her hospice nurses. Out of curiosity, I decided to ask my mother’s nurse if Mom expected my brothers and I to visit her daily.

Mom did not expect us to sit vigilantly by her side. She knew that we had our own lives to tend you. We did go often but didn’t stay the entire day.

Her nurse told me that mom spoke to her about all of us and that she was relieved that she was cared for by the staff and wasn’t a burden on her family during this difficult time.

Please don’t feel obligated to be there with your mom as often as your sister. As I said earlier, I am sorry that she isn’t more understanding of your situation.

Your sister is physically closer to your mom and is having a hard time. You are equally having a difficult time because you live far away, and are emotionally just as close to your mom as your sister is.

Plus, you are dealing with your sister pressuring you. She is dealing with handling this situation alone unless you have other siblings that live nearby.

Her emotions are running so high right now that she probably won’t understand if you ask her to stop pressuring you. She cries easily, you grieve privately. Neither is right or wrong, just different.

I doubt that your sister has turned this into a contest between the two of you, at least I hope that she isn’t.

Anyway, you know in your heart that this shouldn’t be about who sees your mom more often than the other one. That isn’t what is most important.

You have to do what is best for you and your sister can likewise choose what is best for her.

Wishing you and your family peace during this difficult time.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

Well, it is very common for the sibling who spends the most time with a parent to feel that the other siblings just don't understand what they are going through. In most cases, it is true that the primary sibling care provider, has much more stress because they see every day what is going on.
I suggest that you hire a professional caregiver at $30.00-$40.00/hr, to visit your mom 3 times a week for 1 or 2 hours. This will give your sister 3 days off a week. Ask the care giver to send the two of you a text on what she finds.
Your sister deserves a break.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to bgblck69
MiaMoor May 12, 2024
The sister just doesn't need to visit every day. A couple of times a week would suffice. Mum barely notices that anyone is there, so it's not enhancing Mum's life.
See 2 more replies
I am in a similar situation with an uncle.

I am more of a head down, get the work done and deal with emotions after the grunt work is finished. Believe me, if you haven't experienced the grief of your LO decreased abilities, it will hit you. When it hit me, I allow myself the emotion for a time and then gather my wits and go back to the duties that he gave me. His other family member sobs, frets, and coddles my uncle to the point of him not being able to feed himself.

In the beginning I would feel badly for not being more emotional. Then I realized it doesn't help him if I were that way because emotion needs to be removed when making decisions on his behalf since I am his POA, Health Care Proxy and joint on his accounts. I realized he knew this when he set up the items over 20 years ago. He knew I would be best to handle this aspect of his needs.

It is difficult, but embrace who you are and who your sister is when dealing with LO decline and all that is required to give them care. Know that it is a balance that your LO needs at this point in life. One to look after her in a loving emotionally aspect and one to look out for the best interest in terms of financial and future living goals.

I wish you the best.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to AMZebbC

It's possible that your sister visits your mum every day because she feels obligated, purely because she does live so close.

I felt that I should see my mum every day when she was in hospital. I don't drive, so I would go straight after work, using public transport, then not get home until late in the evening, after another long bus journey. It would be too late for dinner and I needed time to wind down before bed.
I was soon exhausted.

I thought I had to do this because I was the sibling who lived closest and I didn't have family to go home to. Basically, I felt that my time was less valuable than anyone else's in my family. I didn't think about self care or even rest. And I made myself ill. (It wasn't just this hospital stay.)

I didn't feel that anyone else should do what I was doing, but my brother felt bad when he found out.
I think that we sometimes put too much on ourselves. My brother didn't need to feel bad; I didn't need to go to the hospital every day; your sister doesn't need to visit Mum every day; and you don't need to feel bad that you live 70 miles away.

It is what it is. You can't change it and there's no use in feeling guilt, resentment or any other emotion that drains you.
Acceptance is my current watchword.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to MiaMoor
fieldhouse May 20, 2024
Hi MiaMoor and any others;
I’m living right in the middle of all this. Dad died at 62 in 2000. Mom has lived with my husband and I (and our kids when they were home) for over 22 years now. Mom has had vascular dementia for last 3-4 years, in stage 7 now. I’m pretty much on my own as caregiver, one brother visits and calls from out of state, and unfortunately the other is a loser. (No visits even when we were out of state and less than 45 miles away at my daughter’s house.) I tried to set it up, to no avail. (Him & spouse both work good full time jobs, but said they had no gas money and behind in their rent. -always wanting handouts from Mom.) No phone calls from him really, including this last Mother’s Day. (We all had wonderful childhoods.) Anyway, Mom now 86 is in stage 7 (needing 24/7 care.) I’m 66, been married 47 years and thinking it’s getting to the point where for my own health and the health of our marriage, I should look for a Memory Care Unit or “something” for her. (So many different kinds!) Would appreciate thoughts or advice from you and others who have been in this situation. Guilt is a huge part of this decision too even though I know I have given lots to my Mother and she appreciates it very much, but I’m just feeling tired and older than I should be. Lack of sleep due to her incontinence (I sleep on the couch to be closer to her) is hitting me hard now too. Any input would be much appreciated.
yr sister sounds like she’s at burnout doing too much and the emotional impact of your mothers slow demise affecting her.
I imagine even if you are more emotionally stronger it would eventually affect you
there isn’t much you can do at 70 miles away
if the centre does video calls and your sister there that might help her feel she isn’t coping alone
even if the call ended up with you two just having a quick chat
maybe you can help by calling your sister more checking on her wellbeing and just being there to chat
sometimes just having someone speak to you can make a huge difference.
if funds allow maybe send your sister a thoughtful gift every now and again
my sister took the brunt of looking after my dad
i caught a covid type cough that was quite vicious and it went into further complications - I was run down and just tired to be honest. My sister insisted I rest. I wasn’t able to help her but when funds allowed I sent her a fruit basket to thank her for her extra support - and sometimes a small grocery order of nice things with a bottle of wine. It made a difference. She said for me not to but the gesture really brought a cheer to her face and helped her continue. Sometimes it just helps to find ways to acknowledge someone’s efforts and to thank them
even a card with special words written in. Wishing you and your sister strength and best wishes
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to Jenny10

You are not only doing enough, you are doing ALL YOU CAN. You don't live there. You have a family and grandchildren.
To my mind your mother has had wonderful loving care. You have made attempts to think out what is best and you have chosen for the best.

This isn't a happy time for you mother.
You mother may never be happy again.
Your mother, in truth, is dying and she is separating herself from this world we all know and love and going to the next journey. Her brain, were you to be able to look at it, as a neurologist assured me, look on dissection like "swiss cheese".
All the happy and sad and celebratory and mournful and beautiful and ugly------all of those many things that make up an entire life-------are gone now from your mother's life.

Your sister has had the burden because as things have worked out she is still living there.

Nothing here is your FAULT. You didn't cause it and you can fix it. It is grief pure and simple and don't let yourself slip into the other G-word, guilt, because you are not an evil-doer and felon who takes joy in suffering of others; you are a decent caring person who has the limitations that most of us have in life.

I am so sorry. Truly there's no way through anticipatory grief but making your sad way through it weeping. For myself, when, in their early 90s, my parents died I felt relief. I have told my daughter that and told her I hope it is what she feels. I have had my life, my joys, my sorrows and it has been a GOOD life. And I am 81. So when I go let it be a relief to people that they never have to fear for me again, never have to stand witness to my losses.

My heart goes out to you. Do what you can. Remember to stay overnight with sis and remember the good things, the sad things, the funny things. Have a coffee, or a red wine, and remember the laughter.
By the way, my daughter lives two states away from me. That is, to my mind, best for her. In all truth, it is.
Good luck.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to AlvaDeer

See All Answers
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter