Siblings Caring for Parents—or Not

What is your sibling story? Do they participate or not? If so, what role do they take? Have you done anything to bring reluctant ones around? How do you cope? Send your story on the contact page here.

 

The oldest of four daughters, I was on disability and living in a house with my mother and one other sister, who worked full time. A second sister lived next door—she also worked full time. As my mother displayed increasing signs of dementia, it fell to me to convince her to get evaluated—something she fought every step of the way. My sisters all turned a blind eye—they saw nothing wrong with mom, since they were not home much. In my mother’s younger days, she had been an actress, and somehow maintained that skill at every doctor appointment, charming and fooling the doctors for way too long, until her dementia progressed, then after a few outbursts in doctors’ offices, they could finally see the state she was in. Of course, even though I was taking her to all these appointments, and taking care of her at home, she resented me and constantly raged at me. Eventually she had to enter a nursing home, when her behavior became unsafe at home.

I read many books on dementia + attended a support group for caregivers-it helped.

Cynthia C.

 

My sister gifted me your book, Mother Lode, this Christmas! When our house was finally quiet, Christmas “packed away,” I picked your book up, and could hardly put it down. I cried and laughed, hurt and rejoiced in your journey with your mother as it mirrors so much the struggles we are having with our mother (and father to some extent). I retired over 2 years ago and moved closer to my sister to help care for our “old-old” parents. They lived with me in our home across the street from my sister, until last April, when it was time for Assisted Living (our mother’s decision). They are 92 and 94, both with increasing dementia.

Your story gives me hope.
Sarah R.

 

A friend gave me your book as I have been taking care of my 94 year old mother for years. The stories about your mother are so familiar. Sadly I don’t have a “Rebecca” as my three siblings do not participate. It is endless and exhausting. Your book gives me comfort, knowing I’m not the only one. Thanks for all you did for your mother and for sharing the experience to connect to the rest of us.

Very best, Susannah H.

 

The decision to make sure Dad lived in his own home until the end was an easy decision for my siblings as none of them intended to take care of him. One sister lived four hours away and far from retirement in a job she had held for almost 30 years. Second sister lived in Florida. Brother lived across the field from my parents but was not emotionally mature enough or financially able to provide any help (and offered none). I stepped up because I was retired and financially secure. Dad’s home would had to have been sold in order for him to afford living in any type of memory care (with Alzheimer’s). He also had prostate cancer and was being treated for both that condition and dementia, high blood pressure. The home was not ready for sale and my dad was cognizant and able to take care of his personal needs in the beginning. It would have been heartbreaking and met with considerable resistance to sell the place and place him in care. My siblings were very willing to let me take charge and live with dad as long as their inheritance was not touched. It became clear it was an important factor as I asked them about paid care for dad. None of them were willing (or able) to bear those costs, but didn’t want to give up their “stake” in the estate. It was easier for me to live with him full-time.

Sonya S.

Peanut Butter Vegetable Chicken Soup

The Story

As I’ve said, Mama loved soup. One of her favorite past-times, when she could still see what was in the refrigerator, was to put all the dribs and drabs of leftovers into her ancient Revere Ware pot with the cracked handle and add water (or maybe canned tomatoes if she was feeling especially festive and ambitious) and heat it into one small serving of soup. She might have been better at this in earlier years, but it was a lost talent. Well, in my opinion; but she didn’t make me eat it, so whatever. Truth is, I have never been a vegetable soup fan. But I did find this one that is rather delicious, especially on these rainy or cold winter days. Mama liked it too, as long as I withheld the fact that is had peanut butter in it.

The Recipe

4 cups chicken broth
1 cup diced, cooked chicken meat
1/2 cup peeled and cubed potatoes
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced zucchini (or not)
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup canned whole tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup peanut butter
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley (or not)
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
red pepper flakes

In a large stock pot, combine the broth, chicken, potatoes, and carrots. Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 10 minutes, till vegetables are tender.
Add zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, celery, onion, green pepper, and garlic. Simmer for about 8 minutes.
Add peanut butter, parsley, salt, and pepper; stir until peanut butter is fully blended. Simmer for 3 minutes longer.

Makes four servings (unless serving your old-old mother, then more servings)

Conversations with Dementia: The Leaky Kitchen Sink

The sink is leaking. I stopped Michelle from pointing it out to Mama this morning just as she opened her mouth to repeat what Mama, thank God, didn’t hear the first time. After dinner, Rebecca and I notice there is water puddling in the cupboard under the sink. While Mama gets ready for bed, Rebecca and I clean up it up and take the linoleum liner out to the deck so the cupboard can dry. Mama comes in, and we hustle to get it back together so she won’t notice, knowing she will obsess over it and she has already had an upsetting day. But we inadvertently leave a basket of cleaning supplies in the sink and it’s too late to move it without being obvious. We aren’t worried, she is just heating her rice bags in the microwave and has no reason to walk over to the sink. She walks over to the sink. “Damn it,” I breathe. Rebecca tells her it is leaking a little, but we are taking care of it.

“You don’t know what needs to be done,” Mama snaps, “turn off the dishwasher!”

It is clearly the sink faucet that is leaking, but Rebecca obliges.

Rebecca says she will call her plumber. She tells Mama he will probably call in the morning. She goes home and I go downstairs.

I return upstairs when I hear Mama in the kitchen. Wearing her nightgown and walking shoes, she has her head under the sink peering around with a flashlight.

“You didn’t put the bucket in the right place,” she says.

“We put it the only place it could go and still catch the drip, which it is doing,” I say.

“And the pipe is wet,” she says.

“Yes, that’s why there is a bucket.”

“We should turn off the water,” she says.

“It’s just a slow drip,” I say. “It will be fine.”

“And the bottom of the cabinet needs to dry.”

“That’s why the linoleum is outside and the cupboard doors are open.” I tell her the plumber called and will come on Monday. “He said we did everything right. It’s not an emergency, the bucket will catch the drip until he comes.”

“I thought he was going to call tomorrow,” she says.

Tomorrow I’m going hiking.