How do I distance myself from my siblings and honor Mom's wishes?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom has been living with my husband and I for 13 years. A year ago today we took her to the hospital and she has been declining since then. She is totally bedridden now. My family wants to put her in a nursing home and I refuse because because she has told us not to do that.

She has had to stay in a rehab center every year for the past 5 years for a couple of months and she was miserable. She will not eat the food, will not associate with any of the other residents and will not go out of her room unless made too. Last October we took her back to the hospital and when she came out, I brought her home versus going to a nursing home. I was hoping that the other 5 siblings would help with her care. They did not.

I just took her back to the hospital last week and she has been diagnosed with bladder cancer. Again they want to put her in in-hospital hospice and I do not agree. They want to also put her in a nursing home. I do not agree. I feel like they want to do that to eliminate them having to help with her.

I kept her for almost 6 months and they do not even call to ask if I need relief. I think some of the problem is because I get a check for rental property and also her check comes to the house. The biggest problem comes from a younger sibling, thinking that she should control. And she is doing a good job at turning the other sibling against me. Well I have given up. I decided that I am going to do what Mom's wishes are and forget about them. I am going to distance myself from the family and keep taking care of my mom as we always has. Where do I find help dealing with this? I tried in the last week to do what I could to keep the peace. The younger sister got angry because I told them that they were rude to the doctor. How do I distance myself from my other siblings and do what is right for my mom?

Expert Answers

Mikol Davis, PhD has worked in community hospitals with geriatric patients suffering from dementia, depression, and other psychiatric problems. He has a doctorate in Psychology from the University of San Francisco and has been in private practice in Marin County, California. Davis co-founded with his wife, Carolyn Rosenblatt.

It sounds as if you are at a sort of impasse in a conflict with your siblings over your mom's care. First of all, as you are the primary caretaker of your mom, it is important that you try as best you can to honor her wishes. You did not mention whether you have a health care proxy (living will, healthcare directive). If so, the decisions are up to you about how mom spends this part of her life and where she is.

It is important for you to get emotional support for yourself to cope with what your siblings are doing and to reassure yourself in your decisions. The National Family Caregiver Alliance is an excellent resource for support. If hospice is going to be involved, hospice can help you care for mom at home. In most instances, Medicare covers hospice, even at home. I hope that you will use this resource sooner, rather than later. Ask your mom's doctor to order hospice if mom is going to be at home with you. The hospice staff generally make a considerable effort to be a source of support for the family of the ill person as well.

Your county's psychological or psychiatric association or mental health association may be able to provide you with affordable resources for counseling for yourself during this time. Your own grieving at your mom's declining health is not something you should ignore. Counseling can do a lot to help you get through this time. In addition, many cities have Jewish Family Service Agency (you don't have to be Jewish or any religion), Catholic Social Services (don't require that you be Catholic), and other faith-based organizations which provide excellent sources of social workers and counselors who can give you the support you need. If it is possible, a family meeting with a counselor could help calm the conflict so that all siblings can attend in whatever way they are capable, to mom during this last phase of her life.

Community Answers

Dizzychick answered...

I would tell them all to go jump naked! I was in the same boat as you. I was the only one out of three that cared for my mom. I was also the executrix and I foolishly allowed my brother to talk me into letting him do the job to help out. Boy was that ever the wrong choice. He had me convinced he was an angel and it was my mom who was crazy. He changed the locks on her house and refused me entry( she was in a nursing home) he rented her house and kept the money, this was a medicaid violation among other criminal acts. I have never been so upset at anyone in my life and looking back I see it was not worth it.

Do what it takes to make you and your mom happy and forget them. When they start in just change the subject tell them you welcome calls for up dates on her condition and any other comments will not be tolerated. Let's see how many times your phone rings after this new rule is instated.

Good luck!

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am a caregiver for my 98 year old Mother. We live together the last year and I have help taking care of her. I have a worthless sibling that never did anything for her. I am the POA and do the best I can for my Mother who wants to stay in her home. I go to theraphy for caregivers and do what my heart tells me. It is very easy to be a Monday Morning Quarterback!

Son-in-law answered...

You might try and get a living will signed by your mother attesting to her wishes in an objective and publicly-certified document. This will provide an important shield from sibling attributions of selfish behaviors on your part. You can point to your mother's own wishes and simply hand or mail them copies whenever they work their collectivized desires against you.

It also sounds as if your siblings may have begun grieving and are unconsciously working their anger at the pending loss through you and your husband. It may be useful to involve some clergy or mutually respected third party in a group session to explore the stages of grief and the possibility that your family is working on one or more of these stages as a group dynamic.

Another dimension of this situation may have to do with whatever material resources are to be left by your mother. Siblings may be lining up their ducks to marginalize you before they engage in a legal battle for "things" involved in the estate of your mother.

Perhaps the best thing I might offer is that you seek to avoid personalizing any of this to the degree possible. It is highly likely that your siblings are working unconscious issues of guilt, grief, envy of your relationship with your mother, and other psycho-emotional dynamics having little to do with you personally. That is, they would do this dysfunctional dance with whomever assumed the role of primary caregiver. It is easier with you, however, because there exist scripted routines of conflict that can be resurrected and enacted. These drag you into familiar defensive routines or feelings of alienation and victimization that serve to unconsciously collude in the chaos.

Your mother's needs and desires then become secondary to whatever dance of dysfunction is being summoned. You may want to attempt one-on-one conversations with each of your siblings as a reality check on how much each truly would want to ignore your mother's wishes. This will prevent you from placing them all in a block that denies their own unique personalities and perspectives as well.

I have witnessed, counseled and experienced these dynamics in several settings and each one is unique. You must take good care to champion your mother's wishes and best interests while shielding yourself from any potential emotional residuals that could survive her passing.

You are in my prayers and your mother seems blessed to have you!