Skip to main content

My sister and I are having a very difficult time getting my brother to visit my mother, who has been in the hospital for over two weeks, and in getting him to assist us with her needs.We lost my father just over a year ago and he is still having a difficult time with that. Now my mother has been diagnosed with cancer and is back in the hospital with an infection after her first surgery last month and her first chemo. I know my brother is having a difficult time dealing with all of this but, because of that he does not visit my mother as much as he could or as much as she needs. He also has left everything else to myself, my sister and his wife. I have been spending 10-12 hours a day(not counting the min. 1 hour commute each way) with my mother in the hospital. I also arrange for someone to spend each night with her, talk to the doctors, handle a lot of her needs while in the hospital(getting her to the bathroom, cleaning her, bringing her real food from outside and preparing food, making sure she walks, sits as much as possible and trying to keep her spirits up(which is the hardest part).I have go arrange for the care of my dog while I am gone everyday all day. When I get home I get things together for her to take back the next day, wash her underwear, send update e-mails on how she is doing to family and friends and return phone calls. By now it is maybe twelve at night and I start all over again the next day. Both my brother and sister have spouses and kids. My sister, who lives further away than my brother,comes down as much as she can and has taken off work several times. I moved in with my mom after my father passed and have not worked in over 10 years because of a back injury. I know it makes the most sense for me to do the most because I don't have a family of my own or a job. The thing is, I have sever chronic back pain. After a day at the hospital I am in so much pain that I cannot even sleep. I have been getting so tired that I can't even take my extra pain med. because I wouldn't be able to drive and the past couple of days have been so tired I literally could not walk or talk straight. My brother won't even return my calls when I ask him his schedule for visiting so I can get coverage before and after. When a friend called him to ask when he was going to the hospital so she could make her plans to be there he told her to call my sister. Whenever we ask him when he is going to visit my mom he starts telling us about the kids homework, sports, teacher conferences, parties, concerts, etc.... and says he will have to see what he can arrange, that they are very busy. He know other people, friends and my sister (and also his wife) are going to work,then to the hospital to spend the night and then back to work in the morning. He doesn't seem to mind that everyone else is doing all of this and never offers to help. When I try to talk to him about it he gets very defensive (as does his wife sometimes on his behalf),or avoids talking to me at all by not calling me back or having my sister-in-law talk to me instead.My concern isn't just for me or all the other people who are helping but, for my mother who really needs my brother around also. My mother defends my brother and worries that my sister and I are giving him a "bad time" (which we are not) but, I know it really hurts her feeling and that hurts me alot. How can you not be there for you mother and let everyone else do everything? A friend told me that maybe because my sister and I are caring for my mother that he thinks we are ok with everything and that it isn't hard for use physically or emotionally. I just don't understand his attitude and lack of involvement. I don't want to make him feel guilty and am afraid that he will "go over the edge" if I confront im. At the very least I know he will get defensive. I don't want to hurt him or our relationship but, my mom needs him too and we need his help. This is difficult on all of us, emotionally, spiritually and physically and we should all be working together. The reason I arrange for someone to spend everynight is that my mother has been in a lot of pain and is also very depressed.It gives he comfort to know someone is there with her. It is difficult because she doesn't feel comfortable with just any friend(and she has alot!!! of friends)spending the night (or even visiting right now) so, I have been having to ask the same few people to do it over and over. My brother act put out that he spent 4-5 hours once a week at the hospital but I spend 12 hours a day and others spend all nights. My brother started counseling soon after my mother diagnosis at his wifes insistance. I am also worried that he is going to become ill because he doesn't deal with his emotions and avoids everything going on as much as possible. I shouldn't have to worry about him too right now on top of my mother. I have missed apx. 6 appointments the past two weeks and my brother can't miss a single soccer game. I don't want to be angry but I am. I also don't want to hold this in but am afraid to talk to him and I (we) need his help and my mother needs him too. I love my mother and want to be there all of the time for her but, physically (not to even mention emotionally) it is extremely difficult and I need help. I hate that on top of everything else she is dealing with she is being hurt by my brother hardling ever being there(he seems to think his wife being there is just as good). I keep saying that men just aren't natural care-givers (and to some extent that is historically true) but, I think that we make excuses for some men and figure they just can't deal with illness so we do it all and they let us(I know this is a generalization-sorry). This is just not fair to anyone . We all need to work together to get through this and care and support my mother and her healing and each other. Any suggestions on how to accomplish this and on how to approach my brother would be very much appreciated. thank you (ps-this is my first time on this site,I am sorry this is so long.I am overwhelmed right now.
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Jamie, I am so sorry. I hope that you and your family can find some relief.
I know what you are going through.

My Mom has been living with me for 3 years now. she is end stage COPD and CHF. My oldest brother has only seen her 4 times since she has been here. I have a sister who has seen her maybe six times.

They offer no help, no support whatsoever.

So you see you are not alone.
You can not make anyone do something that they do not want to do, believe me I have tried.

I think sometimes it is best to even stop trying and just do what you need to do for your loved one.

Come here and vent. It does help.
You will both find you are not alone on this subject of sibling help. I don't know what it is, but it seems that one sibling takes on the role of caregiving and the others just back away. Maybe they think, ok, he/she's handling it, seems to be doing ok so I'll stay out of it, or maybe they think good, she's doing it, so I don't have to. Mom lived with me the past year - she has Alzheimer's and my two sisters each saw her 12 hours a month, and called her the morning of the day they picked her up -- that was it. Mom has 7 grandchildren; out of the 7 2 called and not very regularly. Honestly, it bothered me terribly, until I realized that mom didn't care; she never asked, so I got over it. Sure, I would have liked the extra help, but if they don't want to, there's not much we can do about it.
Now one of my sisters has mom living with her - mom's been there for two weeks, since I reached my limit both physically and emotionally and I could no longer take care of mom. I was looking at nursing homes and my one sister just didn't want mom in a NH yet, so she volunteered to take mom. I use to call this sister and just want to vent, knowing she couldnt do anything, but I just needed to feel that someone was there for me, and yet, most times, she was too busy. Now, in the past two weeks, she's called me every day to vent about one thing or another, but I let her talk and vent. I really wanted to not take her calls, but then I thought my mom would end up suffering, because she'd call for some advice, and I don't want mom unhappy. No matter how you slice it, caregiving is a very tough road to travel, and many of us travel it without the help of our siblings, I'm sorry to say,
Hello Jamie...

welcome... I am sorry that you and your mother are in such need at this time and that your brother is not capable of being there for either one of you.

You said. "This is difficult on all of us, emotionally, spiritually and physically and we should all be working together. " if you can truly understand what spiritual means., you must understand that you cannot change another no matter how much you want to for your mother or for yourself.

Perhaps he hasn't gotten over the loss of your father.. perhaps he is not able to heal and rebound as you have chosen to..

the fact that you have others including his wife to help out is so much more than others have from their family members... there is karma and all the divine of the higher power at play here.. you can be hurt and continue to get upset or you can move into a more compassionatge support for him... but on a spiritualy level.. you surely must know you cannot change or force him to be there...

how can you shift your energies and focus more on thins to be be grateful for.. how can you transform the givens in the relationships at hand into more meaningful ones with what exists.. how can you not get as caught up with your brother's notparticipating into helping to heal your mother's need by supporting her on all those around her who are coming from love that are able to be there for her...

please take a deep , surrender and do the best you can with what is given... find your own inner peace... in doing so, you will serve your mother even more for she will pick up on your own peace, understanding and surrender with your brother rather than feed her upset with your own...

this is a time to focus and move into providing a quiet, loving environment for her.. I know you have it all within you... please accept that he just can't be there as you wish him to be...

please keep us posted....


ps.. i know you are upset.. if in the future you could write with paragraphs it would be easier for many of us to read your posts...

Thank you for all of the insight and advise. It it not that I don't understand where he is coming from or that I cannot change him. I do. It just hurts me to know my mom would love so much for him to be around more. Also, it is just so physically difficult for me. I really do not mind the emotional part. I love being there for my mom and would be no other place. It is an honor being able to help her in any way I can.
I and my mother are receiving a lot of support from her many friends as well as from my sister who does what she is able. I am truly grateful for this. Thank you for reminding me to focus on that.
Thank you also for the suggestion about the paragraphs. I appreciate the support and advise, especially from a spiritual perspective. I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my message and for your coming from a place of acceptance, love and appreciation.
Dear Jamie:

You are truly a wonderful, loving daughter. Your mother is blessed with your caring and concern. I, too, am sorry that your brother is unable to be involved in your mother's care-giving at this point. It is not unusual...

I have a twin brother who very seldom visits or helps with any repairs on the house and feels very okay with leaving it all on my shoulders for some reason. It seems, or so I have learned in my situation, that family dynamics from childhoold resurface during our care-giving years which hand us another burden to deal with. It is strange - but true. I finally ran to get counseling myself because it was one more thing to deal with that was difficult to comprehend for me.

Counseling has been reassuring when dealing with these sibling issues. I have learned that there are issues that are not mine... That makes it much easier to identify sibling issues and let them go...

You are doing good work and are there for your mother. You will never regret this time with her. Just please take care that you do not overdo and become worn out yourself. Your mother would not want that for you and it is common among us care-givers. Take some time to yourself and take care of YOU during this time.

Love and Hugs from Glenda

[This message has been edited by glenderella (edited 11-05-2005).]
Hi Jamie...
So very sorry to hear about your mom..she is so lucky to have you..
One thing you must keep in mind is if you "burn out" what will happen should relay some of this to your brother...maybe a little wakeup call will give him that bit of extra strength he seems to need to cope with this...
Siblings...I'm an only child so I'd not dealt with that kind of problem pertaining to my many times I'd wished I had a brother or a sister to take some of the load off when I was very exhausted...then I see my husbands family...
With my father in laws fight with cancer, and his recent passing I saw first hand how hurtful it can be when one child just could care less. My oldest brother in law wouldn't visit his dad in the hospital, wouldn't check to see how his mother was, etc, fil would keep asking my husband why...what he'd ever done to him, this in turn upsetting my husband, who resents his brother very much still, and I think always will. He did show up for the funeral but made such a big deal about taking a day off work, as if we should all bow down and be thankful for this..: ( husband has said repeatedly that he held his tongue then, because of their mother, but should he pull this same thing when she passes away...all hell will break loose.
Anyways...hope things are going a little better for you? Let us know...
take care

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.