How can I balance my aunts' demands for updates on my mom and caring for my family?

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

My mom is in the late stage of dementia and I just moved her from my home to an Alzheimer's facility. Her sisters, who live 1000 miles away, keep calling me demanding updates, and demanding and now pleading to talk to my mom, but she's beyond talking on the phone. I've posted a video but they don't use the internet. I don't know how to get through to them that I'm caring for three kids in elementary school, my mom, working full-time and I don't have time to deal with their needs too. Are there any resources that I can print out and mail them since they don't seem to have computers?

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

Your instinct to mail information to your distant family on the progress of Alzheimer's disease is a perfect solution. I suggest you use as a wonderful resource to guide them. As they become more acquainted with the disease and how it renders the memory-impaired person (MIP) unable to perform such tasks as communicate on the telephone, your family should become less demanding. This overview of the manifestations of Alzheimer's and caring for a MIP will be more viable as it is coming from the 'experts' and not from you. Sometimes, it is necessary to be very honest with family members who are impinging on your ability to offer the best care possible to your mom. Caring for three young ones while holding a full-time job is difficult at best but you also have the responsibility of overseeing your Mom's care. Accolades to you for maintaining your positive outlook considering the negativity from her long-distance relatives! I would not hesitate to inform them of your busy schedule and suggest they call the Social Worker or Program Director at the Alzheimer facility where mom will be living. Suggest also that they phone once a week at an appointed time for an update. This is part of the job-description for these facility employees and they are happy to communicate with family. Let her sisters know that this arrangement will help you to care for mom AND to perform your own duties to your immediate family. They need to know their constant harrassment is causing you discomfort and it needs to stop. You should feel much relief when you offer them a positive substitute plan; it is both a kind and reasonable alternative to the frequent calls.

Please find time to take care of you on a regular schedule!

Community Answers

Kristenhonore answered...


One thing to consider, make sure the facility where you mom is staying knows that Aunt has permission to know about her status and how much you'd like the facility to let her know. You can tell them to give your aunt general updates but limit it to that or give them all access so that they can know about all about her status... medical info as well as general updates.. I don't know how your state is, but in Michigan, as I'm sure it is in every state, they can't legally give any information over the phone unless that person has permission to receive that information.

I have this same situation with my mother and my siblings. Good luck to you.

Punkersad-sharon midlothian, il answered...

I agree with kristenhonor­e. Most hospitals I know will only talk to one person and one back up. I was going to say send a monthly email with an update but maybe you can mail it instead. Caller ID is a great thing that lets you screen calls so if all else fails block them and call them once a week.

Frena answered...

i work with elders and i know it's easy for us to feel loaded down by family demands (as we feel it) for info on someone who can't communicate any more. but these are her sisters and she is dying far far away. in our own stress, we can forget those simple demanding human needs of others.

that's why kristenhonore's suggestion is great. clear the way for one sister to be able to talk to staff.

if those aunts have children, i'll bet someone around them does have computer savvy. that person could get the email memo and share it either by printing it large or by reading it. i've done this with elders far from family they'll never see alive again. and it really help.

or, failing any of that, ask each aunt to ask a friend, family member or friendly neighbor for an email address and send out the email.

we all feel impatient with elders who don't, won't and probably can't get internet-wise. but it's a fact, so get over it, everybody.

meanwhile, i do congratulate you on what you've undertaken and empathize with the million demands on your time.

a suggestion: i bet your own kids are email-savvy. have them write emails, print them out and mail them to the aunts, all in the cause of good info and cementing family solidarity. let your kids be part of the process.

good luck to you all.

Mariannew answered...

A picture is worth 1000 words. Ask your aunts to contact a local senior center, or perhaps a neighbor, to help them see what you have posted online. If they are active in a church, the secretary or minister's assistant would most likely help, also.

Give aunts a time when you will call one of them for a weekly update (or twice weekly if you are up to it). Then call at that time.

Print out and mail some pertinent information on your mom's condition.
Suggest that one or both aunts come for a visit to see for themselves.