How can I help my brother-in-law accept the decline in his parents' health?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband's brother is in denial about the decline of their parents' health. He is the eldest, single, with power of attorney and is the executor of their wills and the primary trustee. But he is very unwilling to ask questions of doctors, get familiar with their finances--all the things that we know we need to do. My husband and I are willing and ready to help but he says things like "if they want help, they will ask" and doesn't take any initiative. I am at my wit's end other than taking action myself and when I do he thinks I am interfering. What is a good book I could give him so he can begin to understand this is a natural part of life and he needs to accept it in order to help them?

Expert Answer

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

Caring for your Parents in Their Senior Years a Guide for Grownup Children  by William Molloy, MD might help your brother. 

However, I would not reccommend that you give him a book.  Although it is difficult for you, his approach may be correct. So many elders do not want to reveal their issues of health or finance.  Many want to remain independent.  Many fear that their children will take their money and put them into institutional settings. It many not be a rational fear, but more common than you think.

If you want to help, I would reccommend books to help you and your husband work with your own fears of death or any unrecognized desire to take control. One Year to Live by Stephen Levine might be of help.  Another is Making Friends with Death by Judy Lief.

You may be able to influence your brother-in law by working with your own process.    You may be able to share with him the results of your study and contemplation.   You have to be very patient with  friends and loved ones who have grown up in our death fearing society.    Go slowly, but keep your goal in sight.