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After Dad died 8 years ago, Mom sold the house and used the money to build an in-law apartment off the back of my sister's house. She's been there ever since and is now 86 y.o. I live close by, and until recently my primary role had been in taking Mom out, to get her hair done, shop, go to doctor appointments, etc. My goal was to get her out - good for her mind and her body, and also to give my sister and her family a bit of respite. Recently, though, Mom's mobility issues, combined with her fear of Covid, have greatly changed her willingness leave the house. She's only gone out a handful of times in the past year, despite my repeated attempts to just take her for a drive, etc.


My sister is overwhelmed with work/Mom/Covid and every time I see her there seems to be a simmering rage just below the surface. I went to see Mom yesterday and Sis was barely civil to me. I want to help but don't know how. I've brought them meals ("My husband won't eat that") offered to stay with Mom so they can go away ("We don't have the money to go away - you should know that"), offered to run errands, anything I could think of. I've straight up asked what I can do to help and she just responds "There's nothing you can do."


I work full time and have an Autistic child so I can certainly relate to how hard it is to provide care for someone 24/7. I really want to contribute - I call Mom every day and bring her anything she needs but it isn't enough. We also have 2 brothers - one of whom lives on the opposite coast and contributes nothing. The other is close by but lives from one self-made financial crisis to the next and had soaked Mom for money so many times that it's safest to keep him at arm's length.


I've started to dread going over there as my sister's anger towards me is so hard to take. What can I do?

So, I'm the little sister taking care of mom.

Similar situation. My husband and I bought a 2 family home, with the intention of mom moving up into our apartment once she retired (this was 25 years ago). It was a win-win for everyone - mom got to live with family and we had reliable baby sitting, because hubby and I were both first-responders with shifting and unpredictable schedules.

So fast forward to 2 years ago when my mom got sick. She had had early stage heart failure for many years -over 10! - managed by minimal medication. But 2 years ago, she came down with some sort of respiratory infection and it did substantial damage to her heart. Within a couple of months my mother went from being substantially independent to practically fully dependent. Gradually she's been losing mobility, strength, muscle mass, etc.

I find myself angry a lot. At the unfairness of the situation. It's nobody's fault. But that does little to ease the anger. And there is fear mixed in there, as well. And being afraid makes me angry, too. And sometimes, I lash out at people who love me, people I know will have my back and help me no matter what, because I know it's "safe" to do so...that they're not going to say "screw you!" and walk away from me, that I can talk to them once I'm calm and not so angry and apologize, and my behavior will be forgiven because the people who love me know the enormous strain I'm under.

My point is this - I doubt your sister is angry "at" you. I'm sure she realizes that you are doing everything you can think of to help. While it should, knowing that doesn't make it easier to accept the situation. When she lashes out, she might be like me - she's taking it out on you because it's "safe". I know it's not fair to you, and I'm really sorry you have to be in this position. I'm just trying to put it in a different sort of light that might make it a little easier to accept.

You're a good sister. I imagine when the time has come and your mom has passed, your sister will tell you that, as well.

(((hugs)))
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Omobowale Sep 27, 2020
Great answer! I’m the caregiving sister. My sister comes to visit as well. She also lIstens to me “vent”. But I too often struggle with unresolved resentment. I was caregiver for my husband...I survived a year of cancer...and when I FINALLY got to retire and take an overseas job I had always dreamed of....I was called upon to come back and live with my parents.

Her visits are helpful. But she gets to be the “good sister” who rescues them and takes my mom shopping or sits and chats and asks questions. She is spared from the constant complaining and discontent attitudes 24/7. She is spared from the criticism

Her “great ideas” ...easier said than done...as if I hadn’t already tried or read about them myself.

Visiting/calling isn’t the same. It is nice. And it is appreciated. But please know it is NOT the same! And I agree...the anger isn’t directed at you, probably...but I would agree. You may be the only person She feels safe enough to direct that frustration and anger.

Someone once asked me this question. I thought it was a PERFECT way to ask. They said, “You seem angry and frustrated with me...but I know I haven’t intentionally done anything to make you angry...so I’m guessing maybe you are angry or frustrated about something going on in your life. Would you like to tell me about it?” I was SHOCKED. A bit taken back...but then overwhelmed by the kindness and wisdom of the question. They acknowledged my emotion without judgment. They didn’t take my anger personally and become offended. They DID give me permission to sort out my feelings and share if I cared to. I REALLY appreciated that.

Thanks for being a caring sibling. (We also have 2 that do nothing. Not even a phone call to check on my sanity). ❤️
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Maybe you should ask her if she thinks it is time to hire an aid or look into a facility for mom.

She sounds like she is burned out and barely treading water.

Have you asked about taking mom to your home for a month? Hourly respite is a nice thought but not a great deal of help for someone that is just tired.

Can you afford to get a room for your sister and her family for a long weekend? She hasn't had a life of her own for so long she may not be able to see beyond what has been.

Lastly, you should send your sister flowers with a thank you card for allowing your mom to move in on her life and for all she does. She deserves it.
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NeedHelpWithMom Sep 25, 2020
Absolutely wonderful answer. This touched my heart because I see myself in this answer when I was primary sitter for my mom. I teared up reading it. Thanks, Real.
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It's time for your mom to get a different living situation. It's obvious to me from reading what you've posted that your sister does not want her living there anymore and she won't come right out and say so. No one wants to be the one who comes right out and is honest about it. No one wants to hurt someone's feelings or be seen as a selfish failure who won't let their elderly parent stay. Your sister is refusing your offers to help because the kind of help you're offering is not what she wants. She doesn't want to be responsible for your mom anymore and wants her to move elsewhere. It's time for you to plainly ask her outright if this is so. Then you and your sister together can make other living arrangements for her.
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Reply to BurntCaregiver
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Do you think there is any chance that her fury, depression, et al is not really directed at you personally, but is directed at a world she cannot abide nor control in any way, a life that has become basically a misery for her? I looked at NotGoodEnough below, and it really makes me think so.
Will your sister sit and speak with you. Can you say "I really need to speak to you and I need you to be honest with me. I am trying to help, but I can't know what to do to help, and I am not sure there IS any help. I just need to know if there is anything I can do for you." If she will not speak to you, then her anger and depression is beyond your help.
What I do need to tell you is I am worried about your bro who is tapping into your Mom's money and I think you need to discuss this also. I fear the time is coming when Mom will need to move to care, whether she built this to live in life long or not. And if she needs any financial help after her assets are spent down there is the five year lookback (unless you are in lucky california) and your bro's money will be considered a gifting of assets that prevents Mom getting help.
I can't know what is going on, but I do think that often we take things personally that are not meant so, that are simply pure frustration, and to be honest DESPAIR.
Your kind heart is proven in the above. I don't have an answer, and if Sis won't talk NONE of us will have, and you will have to go on doing the best you can. Ask Sis what her hubby WILL eat, and give her coupons to have food brought in from his favorite place. I can't come up with anything else and you have a full plate yourself.
I will say that this end of life nightmare is every parent's nightmare, every child's nightmare. I think parents and children should not live together. I so seldom see it work.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
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Her anger isn't towards *you.* She is feeling trapped and desperate about the entire situation. As she says, there is nothing you can do about it.

Except, keep going. And keep talking.
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Reply to Countrymouse
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Seems it’s time for a sit down meeting with sister to discuss what’s not working for her in this living arrangement. Tell her you want to know it all and sit back and listen. Maybe you’ll find out out mom's care has gotten more involved than you know about, maybe it’s affecting her marriage or children, maybe her health isn’t what it was, maybe finances aren’t good. There are a myriad of possibilities why she’s angry and needs a different and better plan for mom. I hope you can have an honest discussion, you’ll have to be prepared for her anger, and come up with some new ideas
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Reply to Daughterof1930
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I missed the part about Anybody being a DR, but if she is then I am in favor of her "gifting" a weekend away while Anybody stays with Mom, Or perhaps they could "swap homes" for a weekend,, sort of like an AIRBNB? I know that sounds weird, but it is a BREAK for sis.. no nighttime calls for help, no worries Mom is alone. Forget about the brothers,, just focus on sis. And as for taking mom out for a drive,, don't ask, just do,, a drive won't give her COVID, and the time alone may help sis out.
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Reply to pamzimmrrt
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BurntCaregiver, you are so right!! A housing situation that worked ok for a while, now is not working - so mom is going to have to be rehoused. Sister has done a lot, but she must feel she is in for a life sentence. Time passes, things change. There are options, but it is necessary to admit at first that the prison door is in fact wide open and you can walk through it.
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NeedHelpWithMom Sep 26, 2020
Life sentence is such an accurate description! I cared for my mom for 20 years, 15 in my home and it really does feel like it won’t ever end. Thanks for this posting.
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I was the sister who cared for my mom. It’s hard. It really is. Our emotions get so clouded due to the stress, exhaustion and isolation.

All I can say is that when caregiving for an extended period of time it does change our perspective on things. Yes, even our moods/ personalities change and I am sorry about that.

You sound sincerely concerned and very sweet. I realize there are two sides to this story. I see through your words that you care.

Let’s be honest, your sister needs a real break. A brief time is all that you may be able to do. I see that you have responsibilities too. We all do.

Please read Isthisreallyreal’s response again. She took the words out of my mouth as to how I felt.

I know you feel hurt and I understand. I know that you can probably cut the tension with a knife around your sister and that is hard but it’s because we feel overwhelmed as primary caregivers.

I did burn out. Ask anyone here and they will tell you how stressed that I was.

Since I am no longer the primary caregiver I am feeling like myself again. We lose ourselves due to only being able to be a caregiver.

Everyone needs a break from time to time. Yes, they may at some point have to be open to consider having someone else care for their loved one. Not an easy transition because we start to feel like we must do all the caregiving. It’s all we know.

It’s hard to explain. Sorry if I can’t articulate it well enough for others to see how it feels. I had no idea it would be as hard as it was. You really do have to walk in a caregiver’s shoes to completely understand.

My mom is now with my sibling and he is getting a dose of reality of how hard it was for me. I am glad that he called in hospice to help.

It isn’t good for anyone if the caregiver burns out, not the caregiver, the siblings, the caregiver’s family and certainly not their loved one that is being cared for.

I would like to thank you for posting this concern. It shows that you care.

Best wishes to you and your family.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
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Hi Anybody. I am the sister providing full time care for my Mom. I would start taking your Mom out more again giving your sister and her husband a break. Maybe dinner a few times a week? Even though your Mom doesn’t necessarily want to. Set it up of course with your sister’s ok and that’s what you tell Mom will be happening. Make it a set schedule so your sister knows the break times. Your Mom is getting great care so she needs to do her part to make the arrangement continue to work. You don’t mention dementia so Mom ought to understand this. Could you take your Mom one weekend per month maybe to your house? That would be huge for your sister and husband. Being a full time caregiver is draining. Covid certainly adds to the stress. You are a kind sister to care. Good luck.
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