“Sibling anger reaching crisis point: Help! “
Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 02:27PM

Dear Francine,

My Dad’s in a nursing home after several strokes and also has some dementia. I am the youngest, with a brother and 3 sisters. When my father got ill first, I went a little bit crazy & out of shock & fear, I tried to do everything (visit as often as I could, took time off work, spoke to all the doctors, nurses etc).  I think I felt that if I threw everything I had at it, I could somehow 'fix' this awful thing that had happened to my Dad. It was only when I became ill myself & my own doctor advised me that I needed to stop & try to accept the big changes that had happened did I really listen.

This happened about a year ago, and my siblings and I set up a system where those of us who are living a distance away take it in turns to visit my father at weekends. My brother, who lives nearby, I believe, visits my father once or twice a week during the week.  Then   whichever of us is scheduled visits on weekends. But sometimes we just can’t get there or swap with someone. I feel we are all nearly 'afraid' to him because we think he will feel like we are not doing out duty.

With Dad's dementia, while he does still know us, there are times when someone could go in to visit him ten minutes after I have left & he would tell them that I hadn't been there at all.  I think my brother sometimes believes him, and has started 'checking up' on us. And everyone is complaining about each other on the sly. I have suggested a few times that we have a family meeting to discuss matters but no one else seems to be interested. I feel like we're just waiting for some event that will blow everything up & have us all fighting.   Help!

Dear DeeDee,
There is way too much guilt being flung around in your family. Do give yourself a break. You sound like a caring daughter, and inflicting guilt on yourself just makes you feel bad. Inflicting guilt on others usually makes them want to defend themselves, often by getting angry at you. And everyone getting angry with each other serves still another purpose. You all get to focus on who’s doing or not doing their “duty” instead of on the awful reality that you are losing your father in a long, sad process that you are helpless to change. Also, dementia is a huge challenge and tests families more than any other kind of illness.

But the situation is probably not hopeless. You do need a family meeting, but it needs to be called and led by a trained professional. Is there someone in the nursing home who could bring you together? A social worker or a clergyperson? Is there anyone in your family circle whom everyone respects? Maybe that person could suggest a meeting. At the very least, you could consult a family therapist and try to get one or more siblings to go with you—or go alone.

It’s very rare for siblings to share eldercare equally. In the families that get along best, sisters and brothers realize that each does what he or she can, given their lives and responsibilities. It sounds as if  your family shares responsibilities more than most. What’s lagging behind is your appreciation and compassion for each other. Start by showing some to yourself.


Article originally appeared on YourParentsToo.com (http://www.yourparentstoo.com/).
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