Do You Expect Adult Siblings to Change Aging Parents Behavior?

Updated on July 15, 2011
V.M. asks from Conneaut, OH
15 answers

My sister is b eing a pain about an unrealted issue and I was talking it over with a co-work and she mentioned. That she has 2 sisters out of town and one brother that still lives in the same town and my co=worker and her mom. she said the sisters out of town give her alot of grief over how "she" ( my co-worker) needs to get her mom to stop shopping all the time. She thinks they are worried mom is burning through their inheritance even though they make more than co-worker.
THey want co-worker to force her mom to join the YMCA and take pottery classes so she has somethign else to do with her time. The mom is resisting doing these things and prefers to shop on QVC, which probably isn't the best hobby in the world, but is it her choice to make? This woman - the mom Is 66 and retired.

I"ve noticed this too that my sis is always on me to make my diabetic mother eat healther. My mom lives in my town but doesn't live with me, she is 59 and if she chooses to eat mcdonalds for every meal, I feel she is an adult and while i encourage her to eat healther and invite her over frequently for nutritious home cooked meals,, I really can't control what she eatsat her house. when sis usesd to come visit she would always force mom to go through the cupboards and throw out chips and snack foods then take her to the co-op and spend a fortune on organic foods. My mom drives and knows where the co-op is, I think this has strained the relationsip with my mom, I mean her and my sis. Sis want's me to do this for mom too, but I have a family and sis doesn't and i also just think it seems a little controling, not that i want my mom to die early from diabetis or anything, but she is a grown up.

Anyhow, I told my co-worker that i would ask here and see how many of you that live in the same town as your parents feel pressure from the siblings that don't live in town to control your parents, and if you live out of town and want your in town siblings to be more involved in your parent's care , can you explain your view?

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?

i appreciate all of the comments. Its definately sticky when you see someone you love doing things that you disagree with or that would hurt them, I hope when I have adult children that they and I will be able to work together (sorry for the bad grammar).

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answers from Dallas on

My mom was diabetic also. I did pretty much the same as you. I tried to educate her, but I knew I couldn't control her. Her doctor certainly was not help in telling her she could have sweets sometimes. She took that to mean everyday!
My husband's parents live far away. Neither he nor I would presume to tell the sibs in the same town how to interact with the parents. My husband always feels guilty because he is not able to do more and appreciates all his sibs do.

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answers from Pensacola on

Would you like to hear a view in reverse? I am an only child. and have been blessed with three, grown daughters. Two live away in another city, one (the eldest), lives not far from us. I used to get advise all the time from my eldest daughter---mostly about her Dad's health issues---and sometimes mine. We have had many confrontations which led to not speaking, sisters speaking to one another about me or their Dad, etc. I finally took all I could, and stated to our eldest that I am not stupid-----will take care of my health problems, and her Dad's. I now firmly believe that the eldest has backed off----- she now knows I will take care of our health, but I still wonder if she resents the day when I can not take care of my Husband , or my Husband can not take care of me. My Husband and I definitely do not want her to feel trapped because she is the only daughter living close. She is a retired nurse, and can be quite bossy. Bottom line-----if my Husband needs care---I will take care of him---if possible, and he will do the same for me. I do believe that our two daughters who live out of town, may be looking for our eldest to take charge of us. This will not happen as long as my Husband and I can manage for ourselves!

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answers from Los Angeles on

The best you can do is try to educate someone about what would be better for them, and your words may fall on deaf ears.

My dad is now dying from kidney failure due to not taking care of his diabetes. I actually cooked for him for years so he would eat properly, but he got to the point where he was "sneaking" so much of the wrong foods that his doctors said "Don't bother" and I stopped. He is stubborn and set in his ways and even still wants to eat things that are very stressful to his kidneys.

Tell your co-worker to tell her siblings that their mom doesn't owe them a dime, she fulfilled her parental obligations in raising them, she can leave her money to charity or spend it all now if she chooses, and they can't do a thing about it. If her mom gets to where she's hoarding the things she's buying on QVC or doesn't have enough money left to pay her monthly bills those are entirely different matters that will need to be dealt with. But it sounds like going to the YMCA and making pottery is a stereotype they came across over the years and might be something they're looking forward to ; ) For years we tried to encourage my dad to go to the senior center and tell everyone his WWII stories and meet new people and he never would. Even his life-long friend who lives in a nursing home is free to stay in his room and not get involved in activities if he doesn't want to.

People have a right to do what keeps them happy or at least content as long as no one is getting hurt, and if her siblings aren't happy THEY can rearrange their lives and move closer to her or her to them to try to force her to do the things they want her to do and see how fun it isn't. They may then have the fun of dealing with an "Elder Social Worker" (one came to see my dad after he fell in the yard) who repeatedly asked my dad if he was being to forced to do anything he didn't want to do. Children and the aging have rights, and we have to respect them ✿

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answers from Jacksonville on

It is VERY difficult to watch people make decisions that we do not understand or support, but you are right in the fact that these are grown women who understand their actions and have the right to do whatever they choose. It is easy for those who are not there all the time to cast blame and point fingers because they can walk away and not really have any responsibility. I've seen it in my own family. Those who could call shots from outside did so and aggrivated those who were on the front lines dealing with everything on a daily basis in the best, most respectful way possible.

You are right in encouraging better choices, but you CANNOT make these women make better choices. You are doing the best you can and should not be made to feel guilty for not doing what your sister would do......Unless there is a mental issue that inhibits these ladies' ability to make rational decisions, you are doing right by encouraging healthier choices and not making waves by trying to control a situation that is not yours to control.....

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answers from Dallas on

I think you're completely right. These are grown women. They have the right to choose whatever they want - no matter how stupid it is. I understand the siblings desires to stop them from making poor choices, but it's really not their place. If the parent was kind of losing it mentally, then I'd understand taking over a little bit more. But it doesn't seem to be the case here.

My MIL has issues. Instead of trying to change her, we just don't participate. She has different issues - more along the lines of manipulating, guilt tripping, being incredibly selfish and narcissistic, etc. She seems pretty set in her ways. So, we've accepted that is how she is. She has the right to be that way. We also have the right to not be influenced or manipulated by her, so we don't participate with her...which upsets her a lot.

But it's kind of the same thing - people are the way they are. Unless they are truly mentally losing it, they have the right to make whatever choice they want. We have the right to make choices for ourselves in response to them...without controlling them. Just keeping control of ourselves. If that makes sense...

I would understand the siblings sharing their worries and concerns, but they shouldn't control it.

Good question!

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answers from Cincinnati on

You cannot change ANYONE'S behavior. You can present your case. Tell them what you see, why you think they should change and why you want them to. You can offer your assistance. However, it is up to that individual to decide if they want to change. If they don't want to do it, it is not going to happen, regardless of how much you you nag them. If you have stated your case and they don't want to change, then let them be. Otherwise, it puts a lot of strain on the relationship.

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answers from Charlotte on

Here's what I would say to your co-worker. Her siblings are lazy. They want her to do the nasty work for them. They want HER to pay the piper for their pushiness, which means making her have a bad relationship with their mother for THEIR benefit.

Tell her to ignore them.

I'm sorry your sister is giving YOU a hard time. She cannot force your mom to eat right. Perhaps if your mom ends up in the hospital, she will open her eyes. Look, my mom lived WITH my dad and she couldn't get him to stop eating too much. He was very overweight and very sick. She did her best. He kind of tried, and yes, she had healthy food in the house, but he ate so much that he didn't lose weight. And yes, he passed at an old 73. But NO ONE blames my mom. And no one should blame you because you don't go and throw all her stuff away.

I don't know if this helps you. I hope your mom will come to terms with some changes to help her in the years ahead.


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answers from New York on

If someone's siblings are worried that their parents are burning through THEIR inheritance, this girl's got more problems on her hands than she thinks. I love her people think their parents owe them something. Just goes to show you where their heads are. It's usually the siblings that never pay much attention to the parents or help when they're sick that are the first ones to break into the house & clean it out once someone's passed. Sorry to say, but this describes both my SILs. After my FIL passed last year, they were looking for jewelry of his for "sentimental" reasons. My husband would never ask for anything. As it was, my MIL gave my SILs each something and told them that if they ever pawned it, she'd never speak to them again. She made no such speach to my husband because she knows he'd never do such a thing.
Anyhoo - No, it's not your job to police our mother for your siblings. If they have a concern, they should take it up with her themselves. continue doing whatever you're doing to look after her as you have been. Shame on them!

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answers from Detroit on

I've been in your shoes with my mother, who right now lives in an assisted living home; I had to put her in one due to her mental state. When an adult is of sound mind and lives on their own, they make their own decisions. You or your co-worker can suggest things to your mothers on how to live better, but you gals have no control over the decisions that your mothers make. The problem that you two ladies have isn't with your moms, it's with your sisters. You ladies are probably very nice and easygoing, so your sisters are pushing you around trying to create a rift between you gals and your moms. Stop playing the game. Heaven forbid, but if your moms ever get to the point where they need to be cared for, ask the sisters to step up and take over, they will probably run the other way. It's easy for your sisters to sit there and bark orders, but they are not confronting your moms on these issues. They are making you gals the scapegoats.

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answers from Houston on

It sounds like the mom is probably lonely and depressed. I think her siblings make a great point, to get her out of the house and get socialized and stop burning her retirement.

My mom was on a downward spiral and allowing it to go on is enabling. She has shopped on qvc and lost her home b/c she was in depression and couldn't afford to pay her mortgage any longer. I also encouraged my mom to get out and join clubs and get into a routine. It saved her life.

One can't force a person to change bad habits like the unhealthy eating, but one can show concern and try to educate a person and give them opportunities to break addictions (which tv shopping is) and live a healthier life.



answers from San Francisco on

Thats crazy to think that you can control someone else!!! You are only in control of yourself and your own happiness. Tell your co-worker that if the parent is completely capable of making their own decisions and isn't living in a care home, there really isn't much you can do. You can say your opinion, but you can't change someone. Its up to them if they want to change.


answers from Columbus on

Some people believe that nagging somebody about something, would get them to change their behavior, but I think it’s actually the opposite. In my case, my parents are always asking if I checked my husband’s sugar levels and blood pressure because he’s got a problem with both and believe me, I’ve tried; but after him getting VERY upset about it, I’ve decided he’s not a child any more, he’s almost 40 and if doesn’t care about his health and being around for his kids, there’s really nothing I can do about it anymore. I make sure he has his medication, but I can’t make him take it or control if it’s working without his cooperation.
A person need to want the change by him/her self or it won’t work, and more you nag them about it, the more they will stick to it. That applies to parents, spouses and grown children. The only exception would be if your parents (or anyone else) are incapacitated to make their own decisions and are dependent on you, otherwise, it’s their choice. All you can actually do is not be an enabler of whatever may hurt them.
In your friends case, her mom is entitle to spend her money as she see fit, inheritance is a gift and if she doesn’t want to leave anything to her kids, it’s her choice; however, she should probably check that her mom is not going through all of her retirement money, because if she does, it would be up to her children to help her out if she get to be very old and has no more money.



answers from San Francisco on

Does your mother work or is she sick and on disability? If she is sick and you are nearby, I wouldn't expect you to go an empty out her kitchen, but you could invite her over now and then and prepare meals that are healthy for her.

Your siblings have no right to expect you to take on the whole responsibility.

Was your mother good to you and you siblings or did she just sort of do her own thing?




answers from Cleveland on

IDK did it ever occur to you that maybe your friends siblings are worried that their mother has a real shopping problem, or a hoarding problem and that it's not about the money but concern for a situation that they may not understand since they don't live there? Or how about that your sister is just worried about your mom's health and someone to take some responsibility for seeing that she monitors her diet and takes care of herself.

While I don't think for a minute my mom would ever listen to me, adult or not I would be on her case if she were sick and wasn't doing what she should be doing. It isn't about control, but as we age and our health changes it can be hard to make the changes we should to take care of ourselves.

What if things were worse? What if your coworkers mom could be on that show Hoarders? would it be ok to intervene then? Just something to think about. We can't control our parents but we need to be there to support them and help them.


answers from Norfolk on

I would NEVER attempt to control my Mom.
No one in town or out of town is going to tell her what to do or how to live her life.
And I totally expect no inheritance what so ever.
My Mom worked hard all her life for her money and she should spend it all and have a ball.
What kind of a person looks forward to the death of their parents for some kind of wind fall profit?
In some family s the vultures start circling when parents are aging, but 59 or even 66 is not that old at all.
I hope they live to 95 in relative comfort, and they are free to leave their estate (assuming it hasn't all gone to a nursing home) to anyone they want - the cat, the ASPCA, their alma mater, what ever strikes their fancy.

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