13 answers

Frustration with Grown Sibling

I need advice. My mom, 70+ is widowed and living on her own. All the sibs are 40+ and as a daughter, it seems to fall the most to me to call, visit, etc. My older sister does what she can with limited resources but my brother appears totally self-absorbed re: my mom's needs He always has a reason not to be available to her. Does it make sense for me to intervene?

How do I support her wholeheartedly without feeling resentment that it's mostly on me, or on his wife?

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks ladies! A lot of wisdom out there.

1) I realized that I can only change myself. I can do my best and let others make their own choices.
2) I'm trying to understand my brother more -- that he is uncomfortable in dealing with my mom, so he limits his exposure.

I do plan to speak up and ask for help when things are feeling out of balance. Thanks again! :)

More Answers

Both my sister and her husband and I have struggled with this issue. My brother in law (I'll call him John) is one of 5 and his mother "adores" one of his other brothers, but the ONLY one who helps her with anything from large to small is "John". The others seem to think that because he lives closest its no big deal. My first husband was the youngest of 3...again, we lived closest so it was assumed we would do whatever Mom needed (again, everything from taking her shopping to home repairs) and the others went about their life. My husband's mother developed Alzheimer's. We brought her into our home and cared for her like a child. Her other children would call on Holidays but made no effort to come see her more than once or twice a year. NO, they didn't live across country....they both lived no more than 45minutes away. When we wanted to take our 4 children on vacation with out MOM, my siblings came and stayed at our home to look after her...her own children coulded take the time to fill in for that brief vacation which we were more than willing to schedule at "their" convenience. SAD. My mother in law died several years ago. Her other children felt guilty (as well they should) and no amount of grief on their part will make up for their neglect. She was a wonderful, caring woman....but the stage was set when they first left home and would not make time to see her and she did not complain. "John" and my sister see the same pattern of behavior. Currently "John's" mother is not doing well....the other kids have been better about coming around but it is clear it is only to try to secure their place in her will to get her money after she dies. My best advice for you......do what you feel is right. I did. I have NO REGRETS regarding the care I gave my ex's mother...when we divorced I got very little of our net worth (far less than 1/2). The court saw no value in my caring for his mother or his children. It showed me that REAL value is in how we deal with the intangible things in life and not the money attached to it. My current husband's mother has recently come to live with us. She also has Alzheimer's. I will care for her because I know it is the RIGHT thing to do. I will expect nothing.

By the way....I worked full time until my mother in law required full time care, and work part time now. It is not easy but I'm sure you have a richness your siblings are lacking in caring for your mother. Stick with it. ...Your self absorbed brother will feel bad after Mom is gone but you will feel loss without regret. Depending upon Mom's needs and income there are ways to look for help for her. She needs to hear and see you, but other issues could be handled by "strangers" if necessary.

3 moms found this helpful

Dear A.,
Do it for your mom, and because you know it is the right thing to do. Maybe your brother is not as emotionally strong as you and it is hard for him to see his mom, (who we always think as perfect when we are little) in less than perfect condition. My thoughts are with you and your family. It is very hard when we have to switch roles with our parents. God Bless

2 moms found this helpful

I am in the same club. My father has been sick for 10 years. I have one brother who helps a bit and another who does nothing but is my father's favorite. I live on the next block from my parents so it all falls on my house. My husband must pick up my father off the floor at 3 am. I have had to deal with strong feelings of resentment. What get me through all this is the fact that I have done the best that I can. I have been there like a child should and when it is all over I will have no regrets. My mother and I are close. I support her all I can. My children have a great relationship with my parents. I firmly believe in what goes around, comes around. My children will not abandon me in my old age because they have seen how I have been with my parents. That cannot be said for my brother. Self absorbed is the best way to describe it. Try to just focus on your mother's relationship with you. She needs you and you are there. Don't worry about him. Unfortunately his time will come.

2 moms found this helpful


Having gone through a situation very similar to this, I'd advise talking to Mom (yourself) about what she'd like. If she's a recent widower she may need a year or two of family support until she figures out how to be on her own & what she likes to do.

If she wants her family to visit on regular intervals, then I'd have a separate meeting with my siblings in a public place...meet for coffee...no kids (for minimal distractions & maximum attention) but spouses might be a good idea to include because they'll be impacted by this as well.

A good place to begin from is by embracing the mind set that if *you* were in Mom's position & needed family support, you'd want your children to be there & come along side you--am I right? I'd go into this sibling meeting with a goal of setting up a rotational schedule to try for 6 weeks to see how it goes, if it's working, how everyone is doing with it & plan a follow up sibling meeting for the 6th week. If you all come together on this it won't feel like a burden for any one person.

Mom needs time to adjust to this new season of life, evenings and dinner-times are hard to be alone, holidays are hard, facing your own mortality is hard, loosing your life-long companion is hard.

Understanding & compassion is easier when you're able to put yourself in the other person's situation.

One more thing to think about, Mom's perspective on the whole situation is really indicative as to how she'll be able to move forward. If she's someone who has had hobbies, friends outside of her marriage that she's spent time with on a regular basis, activities that she's involved in...and if her physical health is good, she'll be able to move through this process a little easier.....if on the other hand she didn't have hobbies, was a home-body & isn't in great health, this will be a harder process for her. That is not to say that she can't find something that interests her...there are senior groups that meet regularly through most park districts & go on outings/trips/play cards & have social events, there are book clubs, art clubs, dining clubs, travel clubs...there is the idea of taking a class for fun at a local community college and there are also support groups to help talk through the grieving process.

I wish you *all* the best...keep us posted :)

2 moms found this helpful

Your brothers are guys and unless they are very sensitive to others feelings they will not be really supportive of helping and visiting your mother. Boys take after their father, was your father a very sensitive man?
You can say something to your brother but it may not do any good. People are who they are and if he is self absorbed and oblivious to what others needs are it will probably fall on deaf ears.
If your brother is married consider visiting him when his wife is around. If his wife is present maybe she can shine some light on the subject.

Good Luck,

2 moms found this helpful

Hi A., I lost my mother a few years back...I was her only daughter and I have 2 brothers...when my mother became ill, my husband built a room addition to our house, so, she could come and live with us...I gave my brothers the key to my house, so, they could come and visit any time they wanted to...yes, sometimes I did resent they never gave me a hand in taking care of our mom, but now that she is gone, I miss her everyday and I am so glad that I did everything I possibly could for my mom...there was a time in my life when I lived in a different state away from my mom and brothers...that's when my brother's were always there for her and I wasn't...my mom was a widow at 49 and she passed when she was 89...she relied on us for most everything...but most of all, we needed her so much...with me in my 60's I've come to know how precious and short life is...I miss my parents everyday, I hold my brothers close to my heart and everything I thought they did or didn't do to help my mom is all gone now...we only have each other and our memories...I understand your frustration at times, with your brother, but whatever you can do for your dear mom is such a blessing, your children see what you do to help your mom and some day they will be there for you...May God bless you and your family, J.

2 moms found this helpful

Maybe you and your sister and brother can have a meeting over lunch at one of your houses. Have it in order to talk to them both and to try to set up a weekly schedule of who can do what. If it is just you and your siblings, maybe your brother will open up about why he resists helping. If he is reluctant to help by doing then ask him to help financially, stating that all three of you must do what you can, and if he can only help in that way, then he still needs to step up in one way or another. If nothing goes well with him then at least you know you tried your best and you and your sister can take things from there.

2 moms found this helpful


You're in a tough position. You can try having a sit-down with your siblings to agree on how you're all going to divide up the list of things that need to be done to help your mother.

In the end though, do whatever you feel you should do for your mother, lest you end up with any regrets after she is gone. It's more important to know that you did everything you could do for her when she needed you, than what your siblings didn't do. They will have to live with that.

Also, keep in mind that your own children are learning from you how to be a good (and responsible) child at all stages of one's life. You are modeling the right behavior. At eight years old, I remember seeing my mother take care of her own aging parents. Now I want to do the best for her, as she did for her own parents.

Sincere best wishes from a fellow caregiver,

1 mom found this helpful

Though we all get irritated when things aren't fair, especially when it comes to the siblings....I get irritated because nothing gets done around my mom's house (or much less than I feel should be done) unless I travel 16 hours to visit. My bros live within minutes of her house and little gets done for her unless I'm there motivating.

But it all goes back to we have to stop obsessing about what's fair and focus on what we have to do that's right....

If you are the only one that can help, then that's the way it is...that's life. Trying to get your brother on board and force him to do what he won't isn't going to do anything but cause strife and anguish. Just worry about yourself and do for your mom as you can. She hopefully will see that and really appreciate you for it. If not, then so be it....you will know you have done your best for your mom.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi mom look you can not control others just do your part and God will bless you and its sad to say but your other siblings will reap what they sow. God Bless

1 mom found this helpful

Though you may not feel it, you are easily the best off in this family, your brother being selfish and your sister having limited resources. That is looking at the broad picture. Does your mother really need that much help at 70+? my mother-in-law is in her 80's and loves being as independent as she can be. Don't age her before age and health do. Remember the big picture and try not to judge that brother, it won't change him. But you can change yourself, especially the way that you look at things. Try to concentrate on your blessings and others' good points, chase negative thoughts out of your mind. "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."MLK Jr. You will probably live to see improvements in this situation.

1 mom found this helpful

Dealing with aging parents is always tough. Either there are too many people who want to be in charge and help or there are not enough willing or able to help.
Can your mom afford a nurse or caregiver or neighbor to check on her on a regular basis to make sure she is okay? Does she have one of those life line machines that she has to check in with twice a day? These are things that your mom can get to take some of the pressure off of you and your siblings. Is she willing or able to move into a retirement community? Is your mom willing or able to move in with you or one of your siblings? These are all things to think about.Maybe you can try to set up a schedule with your siblings. Maybe you can each take a week or two to be in charge.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi A.!
I'm sorry this is happening. We have a similar issue in that my dad has altzheimer's and our extended family is a mess.

Basically I feel like our parents took care of us, it's our turn now.

If your brother isn't helping, make it a point to talk with him and ask him to just look in on or call her once a week, ask her if there is something he can do for her. If he cannot do that, ask him to put his money where his mouth is. He may be able to help with nursing costs or something like that. Don't let it be personal, though. Easier said than done, I KNOW! But you'll only be upset and in the end you'll lose respect & love for your brother, which is not something you want.

He may be having a hard time dealing with her mortality. You don't necessarily know why he's putting up a block, try not to judge him for it. Just love him and do what you are able to do, you can't do more than that.

If he won't see reason, that is his problem and not yours, he will be the one with regrets when she eventually leaves this world. You will have a clean conscience. Do what you can and do it with great love. The rest will fall into place. And thank Heaven for a good sis who will help you as she is able. I'm sure your mom thanks God for good daughters who help her.

Good luck to you and your whole family!

1 mom found this helpful

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