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My Dad is in a rehab facility in the beginning phase of recovery from sepsis. He is still very sick and not out of the woods. My Mother and siblings are all involved in caring for him which is a blessing but my sister, who is his medical proxy, has taken it on herself to be in control of just about everything. She is an aggressive and at times an abusive person. I'm trying not to let her behavior get to me but its not easy sometimes.
Today the family was supposed to have a phone conference with my dads nurse case manager but then my sister called to tell us it would only be with her. I was disappointed because I wanted to be part of this. Also I might have questions and my sister finds questions irritating. I sent the nurse case manager an e-mail asking if I could call her if I have questions but now I am worried my sister will see that as going over her head and cause trouble. I also don't want the staff to see ME as a trouble maker. My sister has already had a couple of confrontations with them. I just want to keep the peace but I am not happy with this dynamic.
My sister is starting to control even the most minute things. Yesterday she announced that we would all be taking turns doing Dads laundry even though the facility will do it. We all have enough to do so I started to ask why not let them and she cut me off saying that they might loose his clothes... end of discussion. I would at least like to give the facility a chance to do his laundry and if it does not work THEN we can take over but I was not given a chance to suggest this. My sister does not let me talk. If she does not like what I am saying she raises her voice and talks over me. Usually I back down because she will escalate and it never seems worth it.

The problem is I DO want some kind of involvement in the decisions around caring for my parents especially since I will be in there helping. Neither one of my folks want any friction in the family so they defer to my sister because it's easier that way. My poor Mom told me the other day that she wished my sister would learn to talk nicer to people but she does not want to say anything to her. My Dad might be stubborn and rigid in his ways but he is just as afraid of confrontation as my Mom.

i guess my question is this. How do I pick my battles with my sister and should I even try? This is nothing new and I had to decide years ago to detach in a healthy way from my sister but now we need to work together and it's not looking good.
I could simply make myself available with the time and energy that I am able to give....do what I can, If my sister wants to create more work than necessary then let her pick up the slack. It's hard though, there are times that her browbeating feels impossible to take anymore. I want to tell her to you-know-what.

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I'm sorry you have been alone caring for your Mom all these years assadache7.

Before my Dad got sick I worried that I would be the person in that position because neither of my siblings seemed to be aware of my parents aging and both made unreasonable demands on them regarding money and favors. I was the one my Mom came to for emotional support. It's a huge surprise to me that my sister has taken it on herself to be in control of my Dads care and that my brother is jumping in to help manage their finances. I can look at it a number of ways but I think my best course of action is to let them both have at it, define my limits and boundaries (as so many here have suggested :), help where I am able and TRY try try not to feel guilty when I say no.

I don't blame you for feeling disgusted whit the people only jump in during crisis... where were they all the rest of the time? I get it. In my case I think it's better for me to back off, gentle my pride and TRY to see my siblings surprising involvement as a good thing. That does not mean I will allow myself to be bullied though. I'll be asking my maker for lots of help with that :) And probably I'll be venting on a regular basis :)
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Sometimes, when they feel they are losing control of the patient's health, they will try to control the things around the patient. In this case, it's the laundry. Just agree with her, and put the laundry in the bag as usual.
In my MIL's case, she wants to control the food at ALF. She will order a salad plate when the menu says turkey & gravy and then throw a hissy fit when she can't get it. LOL
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Sorry, that was pamstegman's comment I liked. Need to find my glasses!!!!
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Oh I do like Peg's comment. She is giving you the same advice my husband gave me. We call it "being Mary Alma". My husband had an aunt who was a master at never raising her voice, never arguing, and of course never being there. She would just nod and smile and go her merry way. Very passive aggressive but it works.

I have a bully brother who has told what I will do for mom and what I need to know, etc., etc. I can't wait till I get my orders. Yep, Mary Alma. And don't forget to smile.
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Tryingmybest I'm not directing this to you. It's an emotional time for your family right now which I can relate with.



I came back here to read other comments and my findings are:

As a caregiver I have learned to accept my parents/patients for who they are NOW, I understand it's the disease talking. So I guess I try to diagnose others and use what I have learned to understand them. In this case sister. I tend to give everyone the benefit of doubt, make excuses.

I know I myself have become a stronger advocate for my Mom and have done this with basicly no sibling help for years.

If or when my Mom ends up in NH and my siblings who are not MPOA for my Mom decide they want to get involved I don't have the energy or patience to let them in..

They can call me "controlling" all they want! It's obvious to me that they have NO respect for me or their mother. Why all of sudden do they want to be involved?

My Mom made me her POA and it's my responsibility to fulfill her wishes...

I've cared her for this long without there help and will continue to do so.

If it came down to your Dad moving in with your sister would she be a bully about making that happen?

Everyone shows up when there is a crisis. When Dad is home and recovered remember to keep up the support.
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I think all of the advice here is great. When I read your question, I felt overwhelmed just reading it. I can't imagine living it.

One fact about caregiving is it will bring out all of the family dysfunction from all those years, even if you left home decades ago. That's how it has been with us. Thankfully, we don't have any bullies. Well, an aunt, but thankfully she is on the other side of the country.

I would ask myself what my main goal is and do that. If your goal is to protect your time and energy - which can be hard around a bully - then focus on doing that and learning to say "I can do x but not y." If you want to love your parents, you can do that without sister's permission or approval. Focus on you and your family and helping your parents in ways that don't touch on your sister and her family.

If you want to challenge the power dynamics with your sister (and she didn't get this way in a vacuum) be careful and know that will be a big struggle you may not win. You may have to let go of some things if you decide that challenging her all the time isn't worth the effort (and I don't think it would be).

Good luck in this difficult situation.
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TMB,
Is Dad competent? Mom? Is the proxy setup to activate if he becomes incapacitated or is the power your sister's always? If dad is competent he can instruct the staff to share information with whoever he wants.

Just a story on my all powerful narcissistic sister, I have one or two of those. When mom's hubby was in rehab, none of us had his POA at that time, my mom with Alzheimer's did. It had never been changed when my mom's problems got to the point she would never be able to deal with his medical issues (it has been changed now). #1 narcissistic sister stormed into the facility one day and told his nurse that she expected antidepressants to be started immediately. When I came in the doc came up to me and told me they would be started. I said hold on, what are you talking about? He then asked me which sister was I? Whoops wrong sister. Well, I told the doc that we should wait, keep an eye on him for a few days and see how it goes since mom's hubby had just spent his first few days in rehab at an awful place. They ended up calling in a geriatric psychiatrist to do an evaluation of his mental state. Sister had told them that mom's hubby was suicidal. The geri psych determined he was not depressed, much less suicidal.

This same sis started bringing in nasty looking protein drinks to help him gain some weight. At one of our family meetings the social worker asked who had brought those in. Sister raised her hand and waved it, so proud of herself and then was told "Don't do that any more we need to record all he eats and drinks".

All of this was nearly three years ago now, and mom's hubby is home and doing well. The staff will pick up quite easily on what is occurring in the family. If you treat them kindly, are appreciative of them they will reciprocate. Leave family arguments alone with them, show you genuine interest and concern about your dad and they will be happy to work with you.
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My husband would never argue when his mother got into a controlling mood. He would smile, agree and then just go his merry way without doing what she asked. His brother would refuse, yell, stomp his feet and clench his teeth, then give in after endless nagging. Who did mom favor? Who did she think the sun rose and set on? My husband. Go figure.
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Thank you. I will ask about family meetings and I will look into a mediator. all the answers here have been very helpful.
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Most facilities have a family meeting every week or so (at least from my experience). I would make it a point that you have face to face meetings not telephone conference. As mentioned, the staff catches on quickly who is approachable and easy to work with....even your parents' doctors will get the message quickly.

We had good experience with the laundry service. With everything else you all are dealing with, laundry should not be on your list of things to worry about. Let sister dearest take care of all laundry. Load her up with all the petty things that are important to her; keeps her busy and hopefully off your backs.

It is perfectly okay to say "I am sorry, I don't have time for that". Jump when she shouts and nothing will ever change in your relationship. Senior service agencies will provide a mediator for a family meeting to make future plans. We had to go this route and it was very focused and helpful. The purpose is taking good care of your parents. Leave the personality differences at the front door!

Best of luck!
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You've gotten some sage advice so I just want to give you a bit of positive feedback that you're handling this well. My mom has been in two facilities and laundry comes back every time. We have found that we don't buy her anything that needs special care, like handwash or dry clean. It just less stressful than worrying about damage or shrinkage. Also, the staff really appreciates little gestures from families, like a batch of cookies. Nurses and aides really work hard.
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TMB it sounds like you've got a very sound perspective on all this. Very hard times for you and your parents, and I'm sorry for it; I'd just add that - however unpleasant her attitude may be - they are also difficult for your sister. It's a pity she doesn't have your sensible approach to dealing with her anxiety; presumably this is her idea of displacement; but you're absolutely right not to let her be a problem for you.

If she will not answer your perfectly reasonable questions then she must accept that you will seek information elsewhere. Simple question to her if she objects would be "do you expect me not to want to know?"

I can't help agreeing with AandA that the temptation to tell her what you think of her must be almost overwhelming..! But you're right, it wouldn't help, and to be honest you have much more important things to think about.

She must love laundry. You do need to rehearse the following, as though speaking to a small child: "there is a laundry service here. I am not it."

One other REALLY useful verbal skill to practise: "I don't agree." E.g. "I've organised a rota for us to share the laundry because the facility will just lose all their clothes." "I don't agree." You then stop dead, which will oblige her either to ask for your reasons or to accept your disagreement.

Ooo, siblings. I feel for you. Well done you, your priorities are dead right.
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I'll continue to try and keep the peace. I think it's best for my Dad and Mom.

Thank you for your kind words about my Dad JesseBelle. It is very scary to see him like this, mostly to see him so weak and depressed. This is hard on the family but so very hard on him. For better or worse Dad has always been the "Patriarch" in the family. He is a proud person and more than set in his ways. He is blindly stubborn but never mean spirited and there has never been any doubt how much he loves us all. In former posts I depicted him as domineering which he really is but not in a hateful way if that makes any sense.

My sister does give us information but only what she sees fit and not always in a timely manner. Maybe I need to let that go. Even if I do know whats going on I have no control over it so really what difference does it make? If I have questions I'll just ask the nurse.
I will try to be nice to the staff. They have a difficult job and I really appreciate them, I'll make sure they know that.

I'm not going to let my sister sour things. I don't know how much longer we will have our parents but I intend to cherish the time we do have. Last night I printed out family photos to put on his bulletin board to cheer up his room. I asked him first and he loved the idea. When I offered to also print some pictures of my sisters family she snapped at me and said she would do that herself. Then she went on to dictate the new laundry regime. Oh well... I need to put on a thicker skin and set my sites on what is important. It's not easy though but I think venting will help. Thanks for listening.
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I've been there, done that, and finally had to just throw in the towel and let my sister drive the whole bus. It's too exhausting to deal with a control freak.
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I agree that I would kiss *ss to the staff... Let them know you are a better person than your sister..

I just erased what (where) I would tell my bully sister to do with her attitude but it seems her bad behavior has been allowed by your parents and siblings for to long..

Don't let it come to a boil... Make up your mind NOW if you want to approach her about her bullying or just let it go....

Most importantly remember this is about your parents...
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It's a shame that everyone is scared of this person.

I think that if you want to ask questions about your dad's health you are perfectly within your right to email the nurse manager. Especially if your sister won't give out any details regarding your dad's health. This is a battle I'd definitely pick.

Be "the nice sister" with the staff. Stop and chat with them when you get there, learn their names. Since your sister has already alienated some of the staff you may have your work cut out for you but it's worth it. Don't ask the staff for progress reports or anything (save those questions for the nurse manager), just chat with them for a few minutes. Let them see how nice you are! This will probably open some lines of communication between you and the staff and in the end will help your dad. Nurses, LPN's, etc. understand family dynamics and know who to approach and who not to approach (unless absolutely necessary). Be the approachable one.

Your sister's abrasive, somewhat abusive personality makes everything in a bad situation so much worse. You can't change her, you can't talk to her about it. All you can do is what you think is right. Communicate with your sister via email if necessary. If she continues to steamroll over everyone ask her who died and made her boss? She gets away with this behavior because everyone allows it. You don't have to start WWIII with her but communicate to her, in an email if necessary, that you expect to be involved with your dad's care. That you want to be involved with his care and that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to take orders from her. Tell her you think it's wonderful that the two of you are so involved in dad's care and you'd like to work with her in decision making and planning for the future. Emphasis on the "with".

I'm not totally sure this will work because she's such a witch but at least give it a try.
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Tryingmybest, I am so glad that your dad pulled through sepsis. I know it was frightening. I hope that he starts to feel better and recover his strength soon. He definitely doesn't need any discord in the family right now. I have a feeling the rest of your family are also feeling like a wreck after going through the sepsis with him.

It sounds like your sister is a bit of a bully. Since she is the medical proxy I would just let her lead the show. However, I would say no if she starts making unnecessary demands on other family members. I also see no reason for family to do laundry unless your father's clothes are delicate or very expensive. It's hard to say no to a bully, I know, without causing discord. If things go well, your father should be well enough to go back home soon. Perhaps you can refocus your sister on what arrangements are being made when he comes home. I would just ride along with your sister during this rehab phase and wait until your father gets home to talk to your sister about what you will do. You can't control your sister, but you can let her know what you are able to do when it comes to caregiving for your father.
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