How can I get my brother to help with Alzheimer's care?

9 answers | Last updated: Dec 08, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I'm so resentful that my 40-year-old brother, who lives across the country, refuses to get involved in helping with our mother's Alzheimer's care. What can I do about it?

Expert Answers

Jina "Bitsy" Lewallen is a clinical geriatric social worker with the University of Arkansas for the Medical Sciences Pat & Willard Walker Family Memory Research Center and the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.

There are many different reasons that one family member may seem to check out when it comes to caring for a parent with Alzheimer's. It could be denial. It could be fear. It could be that since he's so far away, he doesn't want -- or know how -- to get involved.

You also have to consider the family dynamics: has your brother gotten involved in family matters like this before? If he wasn't connected then, chances are he won't be now. This may be part of his personality or may stem from other past issues with the family that you may or may not be aware of.

All you can do is try to relate exactly what's going on and express the need for his support. Be honest with him and keep him in the loop even if you're not getting much response. Ultimately, it's his decision to a certain extent, and you may have to bear with it on your own.

It's critical, however, that you get enough assistance even without your brother. Do a support assessment by asking yourself the question, "Whom can I call on when I need help?" Make a list. Start with people you or your parents know from church, next-door neighbors, children, friends. Then look for more-formal support within the community where you live. You'll be surprised at how much help is available. Try a support group. Organizations like the Alzheimer's Association, places of worship, and adult education centers often have such groups.

Even if your brother doesn't have any interest in providing hands-on care, there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't broach the idea of his assisting with financial support. A lot of the time, children who live far away donate money for the parent's care because it's expensive -- and because it's a concrete and helpful way for them to feel good about contributing and to get involved even if they aren't physically present.

Community Answers

Littlesister answered...
My advice is to routinely let your brother know you'd appreciate any help he could offer. If you have specific requests, address them with him. Assuming he's willing to talk about your mother's care, he may actually have some good ideas for solutions, or offer some financial assistance to get you the help he can't offer from the distance. In the end, do you best to not get too resentful of your brother. In my own family, I have two aunts who still don't speak 5 years after the passing of their mother.

Puzzles answered...


With your brother living far away, it is rather difficult for him to be physically involved with your mothers care. But he should be giving you support both financially, if he can and emotionally.

I speak with many people in this situation when they are ordering memory activities. They are relieved and thrilled that I will ship anywhere and put the gift in their name.

Maybe you sound confident and in full control when you are speaking with your brother and he feels you don't need his help.

Take some time to communicate in a way that he will open up and discuss your needs. He may feel like he has been shut out.

I feel when living a distance away from your family, you become distant in feelings as well.

This happened to me when moving so far away from my family many years ago.  I missed my parents immensely but had to loosen the ties.

We did this for a better job but I soon discovered money wasn't everything.

I remember when my parents passed away, I mourned and was very sad, but I felt I lost them along time ago.

Today, I long for those close knit family moments and sometimes wonder what it would have been like if we hadn't moved.

We do what we have to do and react the way we do for a reason. karen

Axsmithprobate answered...

 Elder care is a paying profession.  The time you are spending has a money value.  I know that money is not your motivation, but there are several steps you can take to take care of yourself.

Keep track of the time you are spending and the activities you are performing and send it to your brother once a month.

Ask your brother for specific, concrete assistance, not just a general plea for help.  Mention a range of dates that you will be out of town, mention some specific bill that needs paying, mention holiday coverage for a particular holiday.

Take a look at the schedule you have made for yourself for taking care of your parent, and decide whether that is something you would expect from a home health aide.  Thinking of the issue in those terms will help you be able to ask for a break.

Christine Axsmith, Esq.

Neva answered...

During the last 8 months of my mom's life I kept a blog for family and friends.  Each time I visited mom and then journaled about it on the blog.  I then sent an email notice to my family and friends list that there was a new entry on the blog.  The following is the url for my blog.  You may find this might help your family members be more in touch and involved even from a distance.  I did.

Ge mom answered...

I told my sisters, when Mom first started showing signs of dementia, that inevitably Mom was going to die, but I wanted to come out of this with a good relationship with my sisters. We agreed to be kind to each other, to assume that each of us is doing as much as we can, and that our situations are different. One daughter is really not doing much for Mom, but she's the one with the most issues left over from childhood, and she's still got kids at home. So when something comes up that she's capable of doing, I don't hesitate to ask her to do it.

Cookiech answered...

Hello guys, My mom has been living with me for the past eight months and to top it off; I lost my job. Things happen for a reason is what everyone tells me and also I hear; now you have more time to take care of your mom. Well, that's all true but the financial burden is there and no one helps. My older brother which has power of atty and takes care of moms financial affairs helps only by sending $300 a month. My house is now in foreclosure and as much as I tell my brother what's going on, he is in denial. Speaks with her sometimes and tells me she sounds ok. He suggests ideas but doesn't deal with her issues. As much patience as I have, I am not a professional and this is all scary. I need a lot more financial help but he tells me he can't send more. How can I ask him for more without making it seem like I'm desperate yet I am?

Ge mom answered...

Step one should be to make sure your mom is getting all the public benefits she is eligible for. Is she eligible for Medicaid? Can you get paid as her home health aide? In many states, you can. If she has enough money to pay you fair market rate for room and board, and brother won't pay, you can (maybe) consult with the elder abuse agency in your state to get help changing whomever manages her money -- it might end up that you (or someone else) need to get appointed her legal guardian.

Caring community answered...

Hi cookiech,

Thank you very much for your question. I'm really sorry to hear about the difficulties you're having right now.

You may find this article, How to Get Paid for Family Caregiving helpful.

If you have any more questions, you can create your own Ask & Answer question here.

Take care, Jeff | Community Team