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When Siblings Need Reminding of All You Do For Mom

sibling rivalryDear Maria:

Last night I sat down at my computer and asked my three brothers to consider sending me a gift of money in light of all I do to care for our mother.

Today I feel sick and ugly and crass for doing so. I also feel really angry. Why couldn’t my brothers come up with this idea after almost three years of my intense, lonely caregiving long distance for my mother? Why did I have to ask? It feels like our old sibling rivalry is coming back and it ticks me off!

Three years ago, my mother suffered a broken hip and a month later, a stroke that left her with aphasia. Recently I was told that she is in the early to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s. During this time I’ve done what I could to care for my mom from a distance while my brothers have remained on the sidelines for the most part.

Please don’t get me wrong…I love my mother and don’t mind caring for her, but the financial toll is something I never expected and I realize now what a huge impact it’s having on my quality of life.  I’m on family medical leave which only pays two-thirds of my salary and the trips to see her (almost 1000 miles away) are expensive, to say nothing of the smaller related costs that add up too.

I know my brothers basically appreciate what I’ve done and continue to do, but I think they’ve failed to acknowledge the large economic toll I, alone, am paying. This feels unfair to me.  I was so angry that I decided I had to tell them, but now I’m angry that I had to speak up.  And another part of me feels guilty too for not being able to manage this on my own.  What’s your view? Sincerely, Barbara

Dear Barbara,

First off, I don’t think you’re crass at all. If anything, you are assertive and I support you 100% in doing just as you did.  And you hit the nail on the head; this is sibling rivalry all over again – unfortunately.

In a perfect world your brothers would recognize your significant financial (and emotional) contributions to your mother’s well-being and offer you assistance without you having to ask.  But in the absence of that, learning to ask for what you need is something that you’ll need to continue to do. There’s no shame in it. I repeat, no shame!  Why?  Because it’s not okay for you to “go under” water financially or otherwise providing care to a mother whom you share with three other adults.

Over the years I have met countless family caregivers (often women) who have been designated as the “it” person when it comes to caring for an aging parent.  It is lonely, exhausting, expensive, and very difficult to sustain over time. To add insult to injury, sometimes you handle the challenge so well that siblings fail to recognize the sacrifices. I think it’s a strong possibility that this is what’s going on here and it sounds like it was time to set things straight.

Also, no one knows how long your mother will live which means that this probably isn’t the last time that you’ll need financial assistance from your siblings.  My best advice is to keep careful track of all the costs you incur related to your mother’s care – particularly the big ticket items like travel – and ask your brothers to chip in on a more consistent basis if the end of the year “gift” approach proves to be too uncomfortable for you.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll let up on yourself and let go of the guilt over speaking up.  Take some deep breaths and have a good cry if you need to.  But when all is said and done, accept what they send as a small token of what you’ve given in the last several years.  You deserve it and at the end of the proverbial day, your health and well-being are just as important as your mother’s.

All the best,

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