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641ljt

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Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #1 
Good morning.  I just joined and have never been on a blog before.  Thank you for listening to my story which although complicated, I will try to make brief.  I am a 62 yr old long distance caregiver to my 89 year old mother who lives in a senior apt.  My 60 year old sister is the primary caregiver who lives in the same town as my mother - and has always been the favorite.  Both my sister and I have a love/hate relationship with my mother - she's very manipulative and controlling.  I live across the country 8 months of the year, and I come home with my husband to help with my mom 4 months in the summer - and of course if there is an emergency, I fly home.  I also am the POA who handles ALL of my mother's finances and I usually make all the calls necessary to insurance, annuities, etc.  There is alot I can do by phone and internet even tho I do not live there.
     My sister and I have been life long best friends.  In the past couple of years, her life changed as her 2 daughters living in the hometown have had babies and my sister now babysits for her grandchildren and has become resentful that she is being pulled in all directions - and the root of all her problems is the fact that I do not live there to do my 50% for mom.  In the past month, my sister has had to take some of her days off to take mom to Dr. appts for an ulcer in her foot.  Let me also say that my mom has neuropathy in her feet and legs and has no feeling so clearly doesn't drive.  She somehow is able to walk with her walker and has been able to maintain this for the past few years.  At her senior apt., she is very social, enjoys her life with her "girlfriends" and has meals provided in 3 different restaurants which she can choose from.
     Back to my sister and me - my sister has virtually cut off all contact with me.  If I would to ask her why - which I have not - she would say she is too busy with her daughters and grandkids and mom to maintain a relationship with me.  I feel the real reason is that she is jealous of my life and the fact that I don't live there, and she is very resentful.  I am heartbroken.  I mean really heartbroken.  I am not a sibling who has walked away from my parent.  I am there every year for 4 months, do the finances, make the calls and come up when I am needed.  I have coordinated 3 moves for my mom, etc.  I am sounding like I am perfect.  Clearly I am not, but I can't seem to meet my sister's expectations no matter what I do.  Because my sister is so stressed, I have started to make sure she is paid for the extra running she does for mom.  We have to be careful with mom's money, but I am trying to help.  Right now I am so angry that my sister has shut me out that I will not be paying her out of my money.
      Not only is my issue the guilt of not doing enough for my sister - but my husband is now getting older (68) and he would like to spend next summer on a trip to Alaska (3 months) instead of going to my hometown.  We have stopped most travels to go to my hometown for the past 13 years.  This year he is saying that he is feeling his age and would like to do this before he's too old to do it.  We would take our motorhome.  I want to honor my husband.  This will completely put my sister, and probably mother over the edge.  I don't know what to do.
     I have to stop now.  There is more to the story but I have run out of time, and I'm sure I'm trying patience by writing so much.  Sorry and thank you for your time.  It's just nice to put things in writing.
     By the way, my father passed away 6 years ago and I flew up immediately and coordinated almost everything at that time including another move for my mom.
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Splotchy
Reply with quote  #2 
You have definitely not walked away from your mom, as you are doing way more than most siblings who live far away do.  Most of us don't get nearly the level of support from our distant siblings as you are providing.

Having said that, the needs of a manipulative elder can drain even the most giving of people. I'm guessing your sister is overwhelmed by all her responsibilities and simply wishes she had the freedom to do what you are doing.  That's understandable.  Being the local child is hard and we often get called to do things that completely disrupt our lives.

What's not understandable is her response to you.  Cutting off people and having unrealistic expectations helps no one.  Perhaps your sister is too tired to come up with a healthier response, or is too burned out to think straight, but you definitely do not deserve to be treated this way. 

I understand why you feel heartbroken; however my suspicion is that this silent treatment has more to do with your sister's emotional state than your actual level of participation.  Either way, it might be helpful to let your sister know that you want her to have the same freedom to say no as you have.  Sometimes caregivers feel alone and have a hard time seeing that they can in fact say no. Maybe your sister feels she has no choice but to comply with your mom's every request, and that makes her feel like a powerless child again. 

If it helps, maybe your mom's senior apartment or the local area has resources (ride vans, aides, etc.) that could help take the burden off your sister's shoulders.  At the end of the day, your sister may never feel as though you are doing enough, but you have no control over that.  Instead you (and she) need to be able to make choices that make sense for you.  EVERYONE's needs matter, not just your mother's.

Maybe that's a lesson you can help your sister learn. 
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641ljt

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Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #3 
Splotchy,  I cannot thank you enough for your lovely reply.  I am going to print it and keep it with me to read.  Because we are on our way up north right now my connections are sporadic and therefore it's hard to write more.  I agree with most everything you have said.  My sister's coping mechanism in the past few years has been to hang up on me and not speak for a few weeks.  This time it is months.  She is completely burned out and doesn't have the capacity to say no to our mom - and therefore I have become the main basis for her trouble - I am not there to help with my 50%.  Thank you again.  I really need a kind, positive word because I feel like a jerk.  Overriding guilt.  Thank you again.
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Christa4

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Posts: 47
Reply with quote  #4 
I just wrote a long reply & because I'm so tired, I somehow lost it. I'm glad you are new on here. Tomorrow I will try my best to get back on & see if my msg appears. I'm more in your sister's shoes. It's wonderful that you care so much about your relationship.
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641ljt

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Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #5 
Here's what I wish to add here, and part of the reason I am so distraught.  Yes, I will probably get some much needed counseling this summer!  Because my sister and I are estranged now, my whole sense of family is gone.  A bit of background - I have never had children so my sister's 4 children became like my own.  Because I moved away with my husband, my mom didn't like that I was not there in attendance of her and in many ways, she tried covertly to keep me out of the family.  It is through my sister that I was actually able to maintain a feeling of being kept in my family of origin.  Now that and everything it has represented to me is gone.  My sister and I would spend countless hours on the phone together talking about EVERYTHING in our lives and now it's radio silence.  As an example - we are currently driving 1500 miles to get to her town up north for our 4 month stint - normally, my sister and I would be texting everyday and I would report our progress and letting her know we were safe.  Now nothing.  She probably doesn't even know we have left.
     So as I write this at 5am I am also saying to myself - "you are 62.  Really?  Am I really becoming a child again", because that's how I feel writing this.
     I guess the bottom line is this - I feel like I have jumped through every hoop that has been in my path to handle what I could for my mom and sister.  It is never enough because I don't live there.  I am probably being manipulated and controlled.  I know I need to work this out on my own.  I guess I just wanted to know if I am doing enough.  I always felt like I was, but I'm not exactly an outside observer.  Thank you for listening to this crazy story.
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Christa4

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Posts: 47
Reply with quote  #6 
Let's see if I do better this morning.

My situation is more like your sister's. But you go for FOUR MONTHS? I'm lucky to get a weekend of help a year. Your sister doesn't know how lucky she is. But we never do, do we?

Is there a chance something is going on with her kids that is dramatically affecting her? I babysit for grandkids that live here. There are times when my daughter takes advantage of me. I never say anything to anybody except my husband because as a mother, that seems disloyal.

Also, I am thinking back to a time many, many years ago when I had some major problems. I didn't tell my family anything for a couple of years because it seemed like it would make it harder to deal with. I was wrong, but when one is in the middle of something, clear thinking isn't always done.

Keep in mind I'm speaking here to what I would like as the caregiver - don't know if it applies to your sister. I would love for my siblings to call at least once a week just to ask how I'm doing, listen to me complain about how hard it is to be the caregiver day in day out and NOT problem solve from afar. That just makes me feel criticized for not having done what they suggest.

Is there a chance your sister just needs to be heard? You definitely do. I hope you have the chance to talk alone face to face and gently ask her questions to draw her out.

You know, I think you should text her about your travel - maybe not as frequently as before - and somehow say you look forward to seeing everyone and catching up. Sometimes just acting normal will help break the ice. Families are so complex and we all bring years of disappointment and failed expectations to every encounter. Your relationship with your sister is the important thing now.

Good luck and let us know how you are doing. I'm glad you joined us.
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641ljt

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Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #7 
Thank you Christa4 so much.  Yes, 4 months - for 12 years.  And this week, I spoke to my husband and we decided if need be, we'll go to 5 months, and then with the financials I do for mom I consider that at least a month so I feel like I'll be at 6 months and then I can say to my sister now we are equal, fair and square.  She will never feel that because she lives there 12 months, but it's the best I can do.

     I have tried many tactics through the years.  I feel like I have been there for her anytime to listen, yet I also feel like I have swooped in and taken charge - because she tells me she does not want to make the decisions.  I have offered to go with her, and pay for counseling for her so she has someone to talk to and because I know there are other things going on with her - not much relationship with husband, very little money - to no avail.  I have offered to pay for her to come down to see me for a vacation to get away - she has come 2x in 12 years and now that she's babysitting, I know she won't be back.  She has many issues, but I'm not sure it's her daughters.  I think they are appreciative that she is watching the children.  My sister called me Christmas Eve in an anxiety attack because her 4 children would be home for Christmas and thus disrupting her quiet life.  I couldn't believe it.  I had never heard of a mother who wouldn't want her kids home for Christmas.  You can see, and as you said, families are complicated with years of disappointment and failed expectations - you are so wise.

Right now, I am not in a place to begin to text her or sit down.  Not only am I so down on myself and can't bear to sit there and let her tell me that I am the problem, but I am now as angry as heck that I am being treated like this.  This feels like a divorce.  I feel like the "dumpee" who still loves someone but they don't want me.

So I know I am doing so much whining, but even if no one responds, it just feels good to get this out.  I do know this too - even if I DID live there, my mom's first call would always to go my sister because that is the state of our triangular relationship - and, because of the man I'm married to, we would NEVER be there in the winter - so I would still never be there for 12 months.

I forgot that I have also told her that if there is any money of mom's left at the end, although it is set up as 50/50.  I will be giving her 2/3 because I KNOW she has the heavy lifting.  Nothing helps.

Thank you for taking time from your busy day.  I'm just a sib living out of state overwhelmed by guilt and I'm trying to work through it day by day.
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Christa4

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Posts: 47
Reply with quote  #8 
Thank you for sharing more and as you reveal more, I understand you better. Not that I didn't believe you in the beginning. Please don't take it that way. Your pain is deep. I, too, feel like I have lost close relationships with my sisters and I fear it will never be mended. I did try asking them both last year for help --- and it was a disaster. I've even tried telling them that their emotional support keeps me going, thinking that will bring more of what I need. That hasn't worked either.

So, back to you and the issues you are facing ---- You just have to do what you think is right and accept that you can't solve all the problems. You may not be able to solve many at all. Try to forgive yourself for not being a super hero! I'm guessing you've always been the stronger one which may be why your mom is closer to your sister; your sister is easier to manipulate.

I'm thinking maybe your sister really does resent what she sees as you having an easy life. I think my sisters feel that way about me. They just don't have any idea of the challenges we face. I see no point in sharing. If they don't care about the challenges with our mutual parent, why would they care about the even more personal parts of my life -

You need to plan that trip to Alaska. And maybe not tell anyone til shortly before you go. You deserve enjoying a trip like that together and it has nothing to do with others.

Thank you for the kind words. Oh, I really don't think I'm so wise. I'm not doing so well at getting what I need from others. Somehow over time I've gotten closer to accepting I'm not going to and I've also gotten to where I don't feel I have to solve every one of my dad's problems. I'd like to, but I can't. A doctor told me a few months ago that I was headed towards a major medical event if I didn't get the stress under control. I've tried to concentrate on little things to put more joy in my life.

Hang in there🙂
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641ljt

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Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #9 
Christa4 - thank you again.  Because of the help and supportive comments I have received here, I am starting to think I may be ok to make it through this summer.  I am going to plan that trip to Alaska (of course I am going to tell my husband to keep everything "loose" incase I have to cancel, or fly home from there).  I have already prepped my sister as I have felt it's better to let her gear up for it, and I was going to tell my mom because I feel like there are things we can set in motion this summer which will help next summer when I am not there - such as alternative transportation to appts.  I'll play it by ear.
     I am so very sorry that you go through so much.  In reading the few things you have told me, I can imagine my own sister feeling equally as lonely and alone.  I can't imagine your sibs not feeling pain.  If you ever want to share, I will be there for you.
     Honestly, it wouldn't even matter to me if people believed me or not.  It is where we at this awful time of life.  My friends and I say "we used to meet up in bars - now we meet up in nursing homes."  It sucks.
     Thank you again.  Wish me luck and I wish the same for you!
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Christa4

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Posts: 47
Reply with quote  #10 
I do wish you luck! Please update as you can.

That is hilarious what your friend said. My dad is in our home. Maybe if he were in assisted living I'd find new friends going through the same thing. That thought never crossed my mind.

Maybe you'll get a laugh out of this - I was somewhere last week and saw a free seminar being held for caregivers and how to get support. I couldn't go because I had an afternoon of taking my dad to medical appts. Is that ironic or what? I've tried to find a local support group & haven't. I would have loved to attend this.
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