Is it wrong to want to make my sister help?

7 answers | Last updated: Nov 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother passed away from cancer a couple of years ago. While she was dying, I was going through chemo for cancer. I got absolutely no support from my sister or father, as they were only concerned with my mom. I did everything myself, such as driving myself home after a six-hour chemo session. It also was emotionally devastating to not be healthy enough to be by my mother's side in the final months.

My mother's death devastated my father. He is so alone now. My mother was his whole life. Since then, my sister, who lives in a different part of the country, visits for a week or two about twice a year. I work full-time and try to visit my dad a couple times a week after work. I've done shopping and errands for him, and I always make time to visit him on weekends.

I recently got engaged to a man who lives a couple hours away from my father (I live in between). My sister makes me feel like her little visits are more than I ever do for my father in a whole year. I have tried to get her to move here to help out, but she refuses. She says I shouldn't ask her to give up her current life (which consists of no friends and no significant other).

I am engaged and I want to be able to spend time with my fiance. I feel bad just taking a long weekend with him. I worry about my dad. My jealous sister gets angry at me for spending time with my fiance instead of my dad. She's very good at making me feel guilty.

To top it all off, she has borderline personality disorder and can goes off in an over-the-top screaming rage at any time over the smallest thing. It's frightening. It all makes me think of packing up and moving far away with my fiance to force my sister to help out with my dad. (But I would never do that.)

I adore my dad, but I am incredibly burnt out and need help/backup in caring for my dad. I am a cancer survivor who still takes cancer meds on a daily basis. And my blood pressure is too high. I just want to enjoy life for a while. I don't know what to do.

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.

You are an amazing survivor in spite of your sibling being unwilling to help with the caregiving of dad. If is unfortunate that your sisters mental illness has become so toxic to you. It is unlikely that she will ever truly appreciate all that your did for mom and all that you continue to do for dad. The only way your marriage to be will work is if your make your on life priority number ONE. Your guilt is getting in the way of your own healing from chemotherapy. Be realistic about what you can do to help dad. Get volunteers to supplement what you are not able to provide dad. Get supportive counseling to help you with setting limits with your sister and focus on your own priorities. Counseling maybe available at no or low cost through community mental health services. Feel free to read more about how to maintain mental wellness at our website

Community Answers

Jr nuerge answered...

Dr. Davis is absolutely right! She needs to take care of her own health first, in order to take care of others.
JR Nuerge

Liu fengxi answered...

Your sister may be resentful that you weren't there when your mother was ill; but asking help from someone who is emotionally unstable and unsupportive of your problems might not be a good idea anyway, especially if she is prone to sudden fits of rage. My brother has a personality disorder that not only causes him to burst into sudden fits of uncontrollable rage, but to make inappropriate decisions regarding money and legal matters. He now controls his condition with medication, but I still do not trust him to help me with my parents. He has struck my mother, who has Alzheimer's, and large amounts of money have gone missing from my parents' savings. Your sister might not behave that way towards your father---not now, at least---but do you really want such a person around you or him? Please take care of yourself and your fiance. I hope you have a happy life together.

Beatbreastcancer answered...

You know yourself what you do for your dad, and you know your sister is unstable and possibly dangerous, which is always a hard thing to admit to yourself. You have survived cancer, which shows what a strong fighter you are. You have a chance now to have some happiness and make a break from the past years' sadness and stress. You definitely need to spend some time on and for yourself; YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!

I can't help but wonder if underneath all the stress, guilt(for what? you're doing great!), and distress from your sister, there may be pain and resentment that neither she nor your father had any help or support for you when you needed it while you were fighting for your life. I would be really hurt and angry, myself! I cannot imagine how you managed through chemo, radiation, meds and everything else you had to deal with, all alone. I'm sure that, if your mother was aware of what was going on with you, she understood that it was impossible for you to be there as you so obviously wanted to be. Besides, when you're going through chemo, a hospital isn't one of the best places to be. Remember that chemo lowers your immune system and, let's face it, hospitals are full of germs, from visitors as well as patients!! I'm glad you said you wouldn't move far away to try to force your sister to help out with your dad. From what you've said, her mental state doesn't seem to make it safe for her to be responsible for your father's care and health. I think it'd be better for you to check out local caregivers' assistance groups, hospitals for elder care programs, and other outlets for the help you need and the break you deserve. God bless you, and may you and your fiance have a long, loving, supportive life together. You will all be in my prayers.

Im still me! answered...

I think ur sister is very selfish and just using you to not have any burdens in her own life! Personality disorder or not, its her rages of quilt, YOU DESERVE SOME HAPPINESS----GO FOR IT AND STOP FEELING QUILTY!!! U CAN DRIVE ON WEEKENDS TO SEE UR DAD! UR NOT THAT FAR FROM HIM..AND STOP FEELING QUILTY!!! U NEED TO HAVE A LIFE, U SO DESERVE TO BE BE HAPPY, U KNOW LIFE IS TOO SHORT....ONE DAY U WAKE UP AND WONDER WHERE ALL THE TIME WENT WHEN UR LAYING THERE WITH NO LIFE AND NO ONE!!! TAKE THE CHANCE ON LOVE AND LIVE A BEUTIFUL LIFE! U CAN LOVE YOUR DAD AND STIL BE THERE FOR HIM, just like ur driving to see ur fiance, ur just reversing the person! YOUR SISTER IS SELFISH AND SELF CENTERED! START UR LIFE! live love laugh!! ur a survivor so survive! love and be loved and be happy! god bless and have a beautiful life!

Clubkeller answered...

This is such a yuck place to be. My family situation follows the same path. I'm the one tending to my dad, while my sister, who lives in another state lets me know I'm not doing things right. It wore me out. Then something odd happened. I looked back at the last 8 months, of what I accomplished, on what I did for my dad, and how I got my dad moved into a wonderful assisted living facility, and I cleared out his house. (He was a horder) and how I have set up his finances so he can live comfortably, and how I have a new relationship with my dad, and it's a happy one. Look to your accomplishments.

My sister doesn't help me or support me when it comes to my dad, and this won't change, but I'm not going to continue to dwell on this. I can't change her.

Another important part is I know that my immediate family, husband and two boys, were so important to helping with all this success. And I inturn had to realize that for a short time, 8 months, that things were crazy taking care of my dad, and moving him, etc, but I need to take care of me, and be with my husband,and kids, because that is giving me a balance. So I am at the point where I know dad's taken care of when I'm not there. And taking care of me - lets me truly enjoy my dad and our time together.

Divared10 answered...

My heart just goes out to you. I do have a good understanding of your particular situation too. I have survived cancer 3 times and right now my health is borderline. There were 4 children in my family but one by one through no fault of their own, the other 3 passed away within a few years of each other. I have never had much to do with my mother, she never had much to do with me. After my younger sister passed, my mom wanted me to live with her. She is a stranger to me and I am the only one to have a child. She never took my dear daughter anywhere or ever did anything with her at all. Okay, I absolutely do know that you are completely overwhelmed. You are just one person and you simply cannot continue on this same path. I would call a family meeting insisting that it concerns your parents and they MUST meet with you because 'YOU CAN NO LONGER DO THIS JOB AT ALL.' This way you have to get them involved and tell them either they help or you will be forced to put them in a Nursing Home. I am the only one left to care for my mom but I don't have to like it either. I am pleasant and cheerful with her and give her the best care I can but I am getting married and I don't think her living with us would work. I.E. get yourself some help right away and find the Aging Agency in your area, they can help you. I send this with all the love I can and pray for relief for you to come soon