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I am caring for my mother Gloria, who is 79 years old, living at home with age-related decline, arthritis, cancer, depression, and mobility problems. I'm working part time, taking care of my mother, and not being helped by my family.

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Probably because they don't know what to do.

Warning: casual sexism ahead. I'm being practical to save time.

In my experience of men, if you ask them to do a specific thing with a specific goal they are happy bunnies and will go to the ends of the earth to help (unless they have some particular reason to refuse).

E.g. compare the following:

Mother needs more support at home. [tumbleweeds]
versus
I'm clearing mother's spare bedroom for hospital equipment. Please could you take two chairs and six boxes to the goodwill on Saturday morning?

So, next question: what sort of help with your mother's care are you expecting/hoping for?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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MaryKathleen Dec 5, 2020
You got it!
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I have no doubt that my sister loved our mom but she would never have stepped in the way I did and I have no doubt she would have place her in a NH instead. Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver, in fact I would say that very few people are.
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The way I look at it, which may ruffle some feathers, is that the siblings are not helping because they are CHOOSING to avoid and/or to not help. They are adults. They know they have parents. They know that people age and decompensate and eventually die.

When someone says to a caregiver, "Did you ask your siblings for help," it can actually be a way of, yet again, putting a burden on the caregiver, and giving the siblings a "pass" from adulthood.

In my opinion, it's up to each individual adult to have what relationship they want -- if any -- with their parents. If they wanted to be active in mom's care in any way, they would be, whether it be just calling to chat with mom, picking up some groceries, or saying to the caregiver, "Yes, I am a responsible adult, but I have absolutely no idea what mom needs. Tell me something to do."

I think the real question in this is "Why are they CHOOSING not to help?" If you want to know the answer to this question, you'd have to ask them. "I didn't know mom needed help" is not the root answer. "I didn't help because you didn't ask" is deflecting and blaming.

I'm not putting any judgment on anyone's honest answer as to why they aren't helping their parents. Their answer is their answer, and sometimes people have a very healthy reason for not helping their parents. But, caregivers have enough to do already without being blamed for siblings inaction because they didn't ask siblings to help.

Now, if caregivers choose, they can ask siblings to help mom, and siblings just may decide to help. Everyone may even end up forming a good caregiving team. But, unfortunately, this often isn't the outcome when you ask someone to do something.

I realize sometimes some caregivers do actively work to prevent family from knowing about and helping their loved ones. But, that's a different topic in itself, and not what we're talking about here.

I also realize that sometimes caregivers and siblings have different definitions of "help." If the caregiver is going to talk to siblings about "helping mom", it would be a good idea for the caregiver to name specific tasks that she considers "help." Hopefully, everyone will end up working together for the good of mom and family, but be prepared for definitions, expectations, and people to clash. The phrase, "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst" may come in handy when considering a talk with siblings.

Something that helps me deal with my similar situation is that I remind myself that I am not responsible for my siblings actions or inactions. I am not responsible for managing my siblings relationship with our parents. They need to make, or attempt to make, whatever relationship they want with them. I did take steps to give my siblings information about our parents when their health started going downhill. It's up to siblings to do what they want with that information.

I have to do for my parents what my personal values have me do for my parents. I also have to remind myself that my siblings may have -- and have a right to have -- different values and circumstances than I have. And, as much as I may want to, I can't make someone change or force somebody to do something.

I remind myself of these things quite often. I still have a lot of rough days, but sometimes these thoughts help to take the edge off.
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InFamilyService Dec 5, 2020
Beautifully written, well said. When my parents and a beloved aunt began to decline I chose to reach out to my 3 adult daughters. At the time my two brothers were estranged from the family for many years. My sister was trying to recover from Covid. If the siblings do not offer help, ask for specific duties to be completed or they can help pay for sitters.
I sent an email listing in detail a few suggestions that would fit in with their busy lives raising young children and working. Items such as phone calls, cards and pictures of the great grandchildren. Occasionally dropping off a meal even take out means a lot. The elders appreciated not being forgotten.
I also realized that I could not provide caregiving alone and then hired part time sitters. I complete many tasks online such as medication home delivery and groceries. Moving my mom to a visiting physician service was huge since she has mobility issues. My aunt's physician will make some house calls. I keep sitters and family updated with emails as situations change.
Every little bit helps a lot! It takes a village.
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My brother LIVED with my parents and didn't help with my mom. When he finally got his own place again (a mile away), my dad offered to do his laundry for him just to got him to come by once a week. I came up to spend the day with them every week from my home an hour away.

Now my dad is gone and my mom is in a nursing home near me. I did seven months of going to see her twice a week at the first nursing home near her old neighborhood, but the drive was killing me and surprise -- my brother wasn't ever visiting unless I was there. I moved her close to me in July 2019, and he's been to see her exactly four times -- each time because I told him to and never just one-on-one with her. Her slowness, her dementia, and her deafness frustrate him.

I finally figured it out, though. He can't handle old people. He wants everyone to be like they used to be, and he just can't deal with infirmities.

I think you should follow the advice below (above?) and flat-out ask them why they don't help, then give them specific things to do if they say they're willing.

When people let me down in one way or another, I tell myself that people do what they can do. They can usually do more if they tried, but most aren't willing. I do what I can do for my mom, and it just happens to be more than what my brother can or will do. I don't sweat it.
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Reply to MJ1929
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Are they willing to pay for hired caregiving help? Some people are just too squeamish to do physical caregiving. Could you ask them to help in other ways?
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They don't help because you are doing the job. Why would they?
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Reply to katiekat2009
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There are so many reasons why children do not help out with an aging parent. If you want to know, you need to ask...not assume they will volunteer. But you also have to be willing to accept their answer.

4 children growing up in a household could have 4 very different childhoods. They may not have the same relationship with mom that you did. My father was the fun uncle. My cousins thought the world of him. As a father he was lacking. I carry a lot of resentment. I was not abused but he put everyone before me. Then when all these people disappeared I was suddenly the most important person in his life. It was 40 years too late.

Some people just cannot do hands on caregiving. I was willing to make sure my father was safe and cared for....but it wasn't going to be by me or in my house. I was mortified on the few occasions I had to help him in the bathroom and required my son's assistance as it was a two person job.

Your brothers may just have too much on their plate that they cannot take on any more. Sure calling your mother or running an occasional errand should be something they could do but I have a feeling you are looking for a lot more help. Others have suggested that they help financially. I make a good salary but I don't have funds to give away to take care of someone else. Does you mom have the funds to hire caregivers? Ultimately this is her responsibility.

When my father started to decline I had a full time job, a part time job and two pre-teen kids, a house, pets.....and he ran me ragged for over a year be fore I got smart enough to start saying NO. The problem is it is never enough. I didn't mind helping with things he couldn't do but it morphs into things he doesn't feel like doing. He forgets I have a job and calls me at work to fix his remote....right now! Couldn't understand why I couldn't stop by after work as I had to pick up the kids from after-care. He expected me to find someone else to do that so his wants were met. Luckily he decided on his own to go into assisted living. He assumed he would be catered to in there...he was wrong.

Posters have said your siblings are choosing not to help and that is exactly right. Just as you are choosing to help. You get to make choices for yourself but you cannot do that for others.

Another poster said your siblings should be asking you what needs to be done...not you asking for help. They don't need to ask because nothing needs to be done....you are doing it all. If you need help you have to ask. And yes with men you really need to be specific.

If you need help you have to reach out and ask. I asked cousins to call my father every so often. And they did until they realized he no longer understood phone calls and told me they would no longer do that. I understood.

My end suggestion...if you need help...ask but be very specific in what you need.
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Princess1954 Dec 5, 2020
I asked my brother numerous times. I begged in a long letter. “Just take the folks out for dinner once in a while. Visit once in a while, and bring a loaf of bread, grapes, a pound cake.” The response? No response. Passive aggressive. When my father died, my brother went to the movies that day. Now at 98 my mom is hanging on thru cardiac failure. It’s a slow death. It’s all up to me and my beloved husband. I keep the lines of communication open with my brother for my mother’s sake. However, when she goes, I’ll be so done with my brother. Have absolutely no respect for him.
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Start using moms assets to pay for her care. That is what she saved for.
I am sure all of the siblings will inherit equally so spending her money for her care is only fair as it will be equal across the board. (technically if she is living with you you could also "charge" her for a portion of the household expenses. (example 5 people living in the house you could "charge" her 1/5 of the total household expenses. This includes mortgage, any bills...)
If you expect nothing from your brothers you will not be disappointed! By expecting them to step up it does nothing but fuel frustration, anger, resentment so stop expecting something you are not going to get.
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Reply to Grandma1954
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"Why don't my brothers what to help care for her?"

Have you asked them?
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Could part of it be that the siblings are afraid they will be expected to help in tasks that are too "intimate" or they might see their mother naked? Is it possible they feel they might have to treat their mother as if she were a child, which bothers them?

In any case, I agree that asking them would be a reasonable step. Sometimes just a bit of initiative can be richly rewarded.

As an example, on an unrelated issue, my parents used to wonder why they never heard from a relative although they had sent him cards each year--they wondered if they had offended him in some way, was he embarrassed about something (such as whether his wife, who was never thin, had gained even more weight). I got tired of hearing this, so I called the relative (my mother's only cousin), and found he was happy to hear from us, but he and his daughter (who lived with him, and his wife had died) simply "weren't into" sending cards, driving long distances to visit, etc. but were very pleasant and kind. It just took someone to go "break the ice" only to find there really wasn't any ice, and now we keep in touch and I visit most years.
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