Our mother is afraid to burden my sister with anything, but she makes me feel guilty about having to go to medical procedures alone. I understand this is a sandwich generation problem, but it’s also a sibling problem that I can’t solve.
– Helpless long distance girl
Helpless long distance girl: “Powerless”? No. You can do something about it: don’t even make the “slightest suggestion” that “she could help our mother.” Never.
When a cancer survivor with special needs children at home is the only one living near a sick, elderly, widowed mother, person manages to intervene to tell her that she needs to do more. Especially not the person who lives beyond the reach of even the most soul-sucking job.
If you can afford it, offer money for your mother’s care – for a home health aide, a visiting nurse, a housekeeper, a meal delivery service. Or return to tasks you can do remotely, like ordering groceries for delivery or managing insurance and prescriptions. Even a symbolic contribution is a demonstration of good faith, much more than resigning oneself to helplessness beyond telling one’s brother what to do.
By the way, your mother is the one stirring this pot, and it’s totally inappropriate. Your sister is. not. an option. Just like you are not an option. Treat your geographic obstacle as “Oops, hell, I can’t,” then treat Sis’s responsibility saturation obstacle as “Oh, what’s one more little thing?” This is why families implode over elder care.
Treat both obstacles the same. And respond clearly and accordingly to mom’s complaints: this is the case with her daughters who drive her to her appointments. not. an option. Then say that you and she (mom) need to think about a plan B. Is it time to have home help, a medical companion, an informal network of friends? If she resists, then kindly/firmly/no BS remind her that the alternative is not sister; the alternative is the status quo, where she handles these things herself. Is she okay with that, then? Otherwise, let’s return to the carousel of options. Disliking options should not be confused with having different ones.
Tell us: What’s your favorite Carolyn Hax column about becoming an adult?
· My siblings ask Dad to conference call us during his doctor appointments, preferably by video. At least we can hear the doctors and say things like, “Hey, Dad, remember last week you told us X?”
· I completely agree that it is a very bad idea to make helpful suggestions that add to the sister list. One thing you can do remotely is contact the local Council on Aging and find out what services might be available for Mom. Then, with mom’s buy-in, line them up and be the primary contact.
· You can deal with it. You just don’t want to. There are many things you can do without involving your sister. For some reason, you and your mother want to give these responsibilities to your sister.