My sibling has forcibly taken over Mom's care, what can I do?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has dementia. Since February 2009 I have been seeing to mom's bank account. My sister who lives in Alanta, GA, is upset because I will not give her the password to Mom's bank account. She was here for Thanksgiving and has convinced our mother that I have been stealing from her and telling mom that she does not have dementia.

Our mom and my sister went to the bank and got access to her account and change the password. Now my mom has said that she does not want me in her house. I have called mom's doctor and told him about the situation. He wants to put mom on Seroquel. I do not know what to do. There is no way my sister can keep track of my mothers account living in another state.

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

If your sister is an organized and conscientious type, it is possible for her to track your mother's account online, as many long-distance caregivers do. But that doesn't sound as if it's the biggest problem"”or the biggest hurt"”that you are now facing. What sounds most difficult is being branded a thief and being effectively banned from your mom's life.

Assuming you and your sister both want to remain in your mom's life, you will have to find a way to care for her together because that is simply the phase you're in now. You and your sister undoubtedly bring different talents and abilities to the table: one of you may be better at negotiating medical care, one of you better with finances.

In an ideal world, your mom, your sister and you could sit down and talk about what help your mom needs most and who might be best able to provide it. Don't overlook help from outsiders"”such as volunteers from community groups or services for the elderly. In many places, help is available free or for a low cost"”and often, having an outsider step in helps remove some of the angst or even competition siblings may feel when left with caregiving duties all on their own.

But if you, like many of us, live in a less than ideal world in which a civil sitdown with your sibling and mom would seem impossible right now, then again, consider enlisting the help of an outsider"”perhaps another relative or close family friend who could help moderate the discussion. If no one comes to mind, consider getting help from a family mediator or community dispute resolution group.