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Can we discuss the phenomenon of the non-helpful adult sibling?


Quill
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I don’t mean for this to be a bash. I just find this puzzling and frustrating. There is one sibling among dh’s who is completely non-communicato while MIL is in the hospital and decisions are being made about her care going forward. I mean it is just as if he didn’t exist or was deaf and blind. He has not contributed one sentence of input to the (long!) text chain about her care. Even his wife took a turn at the hospital to monitor/be with her today, but he has not visited, does not communicate, does...well, jack diddly poo. 

It is not outside of his typical behavior - he doesn’t communicate much in other matters, either, but in this case? With his very aged mother in a terrible situation? The silence is freaking deafening. 

Dh went up there tonight, but he was trying to wait out the silent brother. But no offers to come up to the hospital were taken up by him and so dh went himself, making it his second “turn”, while silent brother has not been there period. 

I know there is sometimes “that one sibling” who does this kind of thing. I remember my own mom having hard feelings about my uncle basically doing the same thing when my grandfather was dying. He purportedly “couldn’t handle it,” so he just didn’t do diddly squat. 

Anyway...I’m sure this isn’t a problem anyone can solve and it just comes down to Things That Suck. This is probably JAWM, unless I’ve got some huge blind spot here that needs gentle pointing out. It just seems awfully selfish to me and...if she were to die shortly, how does he think he is going to feel about that?? I even made it a point to tell her I love her because I do and you never know if that could be the last thing I said to her. 

I have a monster headache and I think it is legit because the burden of health is hard to bear around here at the moment and I want a good cry and a piece of chocolate cake. 

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😞

From my own POV....I get very overwhelmed with group messages.  Add in a crisis without a clear resolution, and I'm seriously frozen.  It's not because I want to be, but it's because there are so many voices I feel like mine doesn't matter and, as a 'fixer', I don't know what I can do to make the situation better.  DH has to spell it out for me.
It's different if it's a physical situation, if I'm there and can react *with* other people or can take charge of a situation.  But otherwise....

I know it's hard to deal with, but if this helps you give him a little grace on the matter I'm glad I said something.

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I have some very delicious chocolate cake in the freezer...would love to share it with you.

I'm sorry. Is this person at all spectrum-y? Could he just not quite get it that he needs to step up and step in? He might need to be assigned a shift. Again, I'm sorry you have to go through this.

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1 minute ago, Ali in OR said:

I have some very delicious chocolate cake in the freezer...would love to share it with you.

I'm sorry. Is this person at all spectrum-y? Could he just not quite get it that he needs to step up and step in? He might need to be assigned a shift. Again, I'm sorry you have to go through this.

I don’t think he’s spectrum-y, but I have wondered if his brain is in perfect condition, so to speak. I don’t think it’s outside of possibility that he has some early dementia. Or else he’s a closet alcoholic or something else like that. 

I don’t know. There were specific pleas in the text chain saying, “can someone come tomorrow?” And then after I said I would do one shift and sil offered to follow me, there were agai pleas, “can anyone come for evening? Anyone?” I dont know if anyone talked to him off the chain and said, “dude, can you come up here and hang with mom a few hours?” But presumably if his wife realized the need, it would seem he would. 

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It's years of history behind every relationship within the siblings and between the parents. There isn't anything you can do as an "outsider" except offer support to your dh and not complain in any way about the sibling, because it doesn't help.  And it's there in most families I've seen, in some way, shape or form.  

So sorry about your mil. (hugs)

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There are some people who are like that. My brother is.

My 84 year old dad moved this week from a house to an apartment style condo. My brother did help paint the new condo and clean some things out of the garage over the past weeks. But this week during the actual move ......he was almost completely absent. On the actual moving truck day, he showed up for an hour and ate pizza in the evening after all of the work was done. I spent five days and four nights there (I live two hours away) and worked my tail off the entire time. My brother showed up one other time and plugged in two lamps and carried one box from one room to another (because I asked him to). Period. That is the sum total of his help.

I would be furious, except that I totally expected it. My sister has been a lot of help.

I don't think brother visits Mom in the nursing home, though it is 15 minutes maybe from his house. He didn't visit Dad in the hospital a couple of years ago when Dad had surgery on his spine. He just doesn't show up, though he does do thinks for his own daughter and grandchildren.

For your situation, Quill, I agree that your husband could ask his brother directly if he plans to visit his mom. He's likely to hear "no" or an excuse, but he could ask.

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You deserve your chocolate cake. You are allowed to cry. Throw in a couple of Tylenol and a nice long hot shower too.

(But there is a blind spot... and here it is. All of the care of those who are ‘taking shifts’ is voluntary. Someone who doesn’t regard it as a necessary thing — that she be fully attended or warmly surrounded or whatever — isn’t obligated to do the things that others are considering ‘a duty’. It isn’t a thing where ‘fair’ plays a part. It’s like if everyone but you thinks that the office needs to be painted yellow with a stenciled border, and you are fine with white walls. You don’t have to turn up to the volunteer painting day if you don’t believe in the project. Sure, it’s not fair, but it’s not your job to take on a ‘fair share’ of an activity that you haven’t bought in to. Similarly, if he thinks that having a mom in the hospital is a normal thing that requires no special effort from him... he might be right. She might be equally well cared for with or without company. So he’s not volunteering to do the things that ease those kinds of hard circumstances. Maybe he thinks she’s already getting everything she needs. And that’s okay. And if he regrets it, that’s his burden. Nobody needs to take on the duty of preventing him from regretting his own choices.)

If you are volunteering more than you want to because you think you “have to” (or because you believe you will regret it if you don’t) that’s okay. You’re allowed to stretch yourself to be kind to others in a hard time. You are allowed to have your own standards and live by your own values. But: it’s also okay to back off and say, “I know I could make this better, but I’m maxed out. So, it’s just going to be a bit extra unpleasant because I’m keeping a little energy for myself.”

Whichever way you go... it’s not about him. You (and others) don’t need to meet his “shifts”. They can go unmet. That can be on him. You will feel better if you stop thinking about what others should do based on what you are doing.

Remember, relationships are complicated. He may actually have a reason other than ‘things seem fine’ to be avoiding relating warmly his mother. Let it be his call.

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I have an uncle who pretty much delegated all that stuff to his wife when they got married, or maybe she grabbed it, I really don't know.

She is the kind of person who steps in and steps up.  He is very quiet.  

I remember hearing third hand that my grandmother was hurt that she never heard from him directly again once they got married--all communication was through his wife.  

I think that there was a time when that was kind of the roles that men vs. women played.  It doesn't excuse it but it does explain the blind spot.

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I think that sibling is probably preferable to another "type" in that situation - the one who sweeps in from out of town, disrupts the care, has to suddenly weigh in about everything and question everything, gives the primary caregiver a bunch of hassle, gets tons of praise for their efforts from the sick elderly relative, and then sweeps out of town again, leaving everything to the primary caregiver sibling(s) again.

I've never had that situation exactly, but I've seen it play out in once removed relative groups and with friends.

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4 minutes ago, bolt. said:

You deserve your chocolate cake. You are allowed to cry. Throw in a couple of Tylenol and a nice long hot shower too.

(But there is a blind spot... and here it is. All of the care of those who are ‘taking shifts’ is voluntary. Someone who doesn’t regard it as a necessary thing — that she be fully attended or warmly surrounded or whatever — isn’t obligated to do the things that others are considering ‘a duty’. It isn’t a thing where ‘fair’ plays a part. It’s like if everyone but you thinks that the office needs to be painted yellow with a stenciled border, and you are fine with white walls. You don’t have to turn up to the volunteer painting day if you don’t believe in the project. Sure, it’s not fair, but it’s not your job to take on a ‘fair share’ of an activity that you haven’t bought in to. Similarly, if he thinks that having a mom in the hospital is a normal thing that requires no special effort from him... he might be right. She might be equally well cared for with or without company. So he’s not volunteering to do the things that ease those kinds of hard circumstances. Maybe he thinks she’s already getting everything she needs. And that’s okay. And if he regrets it, that’s his burden. Nobody needs to take on the duty of preventing him from regretting his own choices.)

If you are volunteering more than you want to because you think you “have to” (or because you believe you will regret it if you don’t) that’s okay. You’re allowed to stretch yourself to be kind to others in a hard time. You are allowed to have your own standards and live by your own values. But: it’s also okay to back off and say, “I know I could make this better, but I’m maxed out. So, it’s just going to be a bit extra unpleasant because I’m keeping a little energy for myself.”

Whichever way you go... it’s not about him. You (and others) don’t need to meet his “shifts”. They can go unmet. That can be on him. You will feel better if you stop thinking about what others should do based on what you are doing.

Remember, relationships are complicated. He may actually have a reason other than ‘things seem fine’ to be avoiding relating warmly his mother. Let it be his call.

I do not think you are wrong in what you said, but here is one little nugget of importance: At first, I did not think she needed an advocate there at all times and dh did not either. But now that I have been there, I see this differently. She has dementia and cannot be trusted to behave sensibly. She repeatedly attempted to get out of bed to use the potty, which she 100% cannot do. She had no idea of who did what, so she could not convey any info to a nurse or PT or whatever. She literally could not even keep it straight that it was morning, not night. 

So. I thought about saying something like this, in case part of it is that he does not see why it matters. But I accept that it is not my “job” to induce him to behave some sort of way. 

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It’s realky sad that her dementia is interfering with her care. I wish everyone could get good care when they need it, without a whole extended family needing to pour themselves into the situation just to make it tenable. (I’m just sad for you and with you.)

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When my MIL with dementia was on hospice, we all provided round the clock care for the same reasons you mentioned . Except for my BIL.   But the thing was, even if we had explained exactly why she needed the help, he would have only done what he wanted when he wanted to to it. In other words, it was actually a blessing to not have to worry about him putting MIL in danger because he won’t be bothered to do things with her primary safety in mind. Hopefully your BIL is more reliable. 

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3 minutes ago, Thatboyofmine said:

Also, my parents are both 1 of 5.  My fil is 1 of 2.  My mil is 1 of 10.   In every family, except fil (who we suspect is on the spectrum), every family has *at least* one of those types of siblings.  I think you just have to be flat-out direct with them.  “Hey Joe, we need you to be here on Wednesday to sit with mom.”  Don’t ask.  Obviously, if he’s working or whatever, time/day can be adjusted, but go for directness.  

 

I’m curious where he falls in the birth order?

Not where you might expect, given birth order theory. But I’d rather not ID him this clearly, just in case. I’ve already said a lot. 

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1 hour ago, Farrar said:

I think that sibling is probably preferable to another "type" in that situation - the one who sweeps in from out of town, disrupts the care, has to suddenly weigh in about everything and question everything, gives the primary caregiver a bunch of hassle, gets tons of praise for their efforts from the sick elderly relative, and then sweeps out of town again, leaving everything to the primary caregiver sibling(s) again.

I've never had that situation exactly, but I've seen it play out in once removed relative groups and with friends.

Yep, we faced that exact thing last Christmas and are bracing ourselves for it again this year. Two siblings live close and take excellent, loving care of 90+ mother who has cognitive decline. Other sibling swoops in during the one visit a year, gets mother all riled up about other siblings and how they are mistreating her (lies), orders other siblings around in front of mother who thinks he is saving her, then disappears again. Not fun, but at least it’s temporary. It takes awhile to try and put the pieces back together though.

My father, who worked in a high trauma specialty of medicine (neurosurgery), said that is so common as to be a cliche. The sibling who is not generally a part of things feels guilty and has to swoop in and “do something” in times of high drama. They challenge the medical plan and disrupt everything and then disappear again - or not which is even worse. They have to make up for their distance by showing how much they care, and part of that involves challenging everyone else’s care.

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So, this time not only I didn't read responses, I didn't even read OP.  Just the title alone makes my blood boil bc my husband is dealing with this.  His sister is just.....well...I don't want to get banned.

But!  In this particular case I am blaming their parents 100%!  Except it doesn't really help my husband at all. 

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1 hour ago, Quill said:

I do not think you are wrong in what you said, but here is one little nugget of importance: At first, I did not think she needed an advocate there at all times and dh did not either. But now that I have been there, I see this differently. She has dementia and cannot be trusted to behave sensibly. She repeatedly attempted to get out of bed to use the potty, which she 100% cannot do. She had no idea of who did what, so she could not convey any info to a nurse or PT or whatever. She literally could not even keep it straight that it was morning, not night. 

So. I thought about saying something like this, in case part of it is that he does not see why it matters. But I accept that it is not my “job” to induce him to behave some sort of way. 

If the hospital has not activated the bed alarm, please ask them to do so if she must be left alone at some point. They will come running when she gets out of bed. You can also ask them if they can provide a sitter for her if the family takes a break. This is not an uncommon request with dementia patients.

ETA: On second thought, ask them to activate the bed alarm in case the person sitting with her dozes off. It's just a good precaution for someone who shouldn't be out of bed on their own.

Edited by TechWife
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36 minutes ago, livetoread said:

Yep, we faced that exact thing last Christmas and are bracing ourselves for it again this year. Two siblings live close and take excellent, loving care of 90+ mother who has cognitive decline. Other sibling swoops in during the one visit a year, gets mother all riled up about other siblings and how they are mistreating her (lies), orders other siblings around in front of mother who thinks he is saving her, then disappears again. Not fun, but at least it’s temporary. It takes awhile to try and put the pieces back together though.

My father, who worked in a high trauma specialty of medicine (neurosurgery), said that is so common as to be a cliche. The sibling who is not generally a part of things feels guilty and has to swoop in and “do something” in times of high drama. They challenge the medical plan and disrupt everything and then disappear again - or not which is even worse. They have to make up for their distance by showing how much they care, and part of that involves challenging everyone else’s care.

There are reasonable reasons to swoop, though.

Someone might be particularly good in emergencies, or have a skill set that is applicable so their presence is important at a particularly time but not always.  It’s not always someone showing off.  We have a couple of swoopers in our family, and they do a LOT of good because of their expertise.  They see things that others don’t, too, because they are not always around.

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11 minutes ago, Carol in Cal. said:

There are reasonable reasons to swoop, though.

Someone might be particularly good in emergencies, or have a skill set that is applicable so their presence is important at a particularly time but not always.  It’s not always someone showing off.  We have a couple of swoopers in our family, and they do a LOT of good because of their expertise.  They see things that others don’t, too, because they are not always around.

Yeah, there are. I've just seen it the bad way more. Not necessarily toxic... just... it's so hard to be the out of town sibling. And it's really hard to appreciate all the work of the siblings who are there and doing the thing.

When someone is nearby and not pulling their weight for no apparent reason, that's cruddy. I guess, at least it doesn't have to involve drama... assuming the weight can get pulled... and that everyone pulling the weight is treated to chocolate cake.

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40 minutes ago, TechWife said:

If the hospital has not activated the bed alarm, please ask them to do so if she must be left alone at some point. They will come running when she gets out of bed. You can also ask them if they can provide a sitter for her if the family takes a break. This is not an uncommon request with dementia patients.

ETA: On second thought, ask them to activate the bed alarm in case the person sitting with her dozes off. It's just a good precaution for someone who shouldn't be out of bed on their own.

I didn’t even know this was a thing, so thank you for mentioning that. 

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I'm really sorry you're going through this. Trust me -- I get it from your side. DH has one much younger sibling (11 year age difference) -- and the younger sibling was very spotty about "being around" when FIL was ill and going through hospice/long-term care. To such an extreme that I was the point of contact for his care providers (even though DH and I live about 12 hours from where FIL lived -- and BIL lived only about 30 minutes from FIL). 

I was quite annoyed by it at the time. I adored my FIL and couldn't imagine that anybody wouldn't want to help care for him. But, the reality of the situation was just so much more complicated (something I can only see a couple years later). The relationship my DH had with his father is just entirely different than the relationship his brother had with their father. At the end of the day, each of them had very different childhoods -- even if they were under the same roof and had the same parents. Or, rather, each of them viewed their upbringing differently, even if it actually didn't differ much at all. Does that make any sense? It certainly affected how much (time, actual energy, emotional energy) each was willing to put into my FIL when push came to shove. I have no idea if any of this applies to your BIL, so feel free to stop reading if it doesn't, lol.

 

To sum it up, BIL had little emotional investment in his father; whereas DH had a ton. That -- by itself -- doesn't mean that BIL is a bad (or, as I thought at the time, lazy) person.

Just because somebody is technically related to you doesn't necessarily mean that you're emotionally invested. I've experienced it with many of my own relatives. I'm sure there are those in my family who lament on the fact that I choose to have nothing to do with certain *close* relatives. Actually, I know there are, because a couple of them have mentioned it to me. Sometimes I have my own reasons -- and sometimes I just do not have an emotional attachment to the family member being discussed. 

I'm sure it sounds cold, but I don't mean it to come across that way. I've seen (on this board and IRL) that many people seem completely perplexed at the very idea that a person wouldn't care much about a person who "shared their blood / dna," even if the only thing linking them is that -- and I guess I'm the opposite. 

How much emotional energy I'm willing to commit to a person has essentially nothing to do with the blood I share with them... and has everything to do with the relationship I have (or haven't) built with them.

All of that to really just say that I would try not to judge too harshly your BIL in this situation. I know it's easier said than done. And, actually, I don't think my own advice is particularly realistic because, hey, I certainly judged (and still do) my own BIL for similar 😛 But, as I said above -- I loved my FIL and I was (emotionally) close to him, so it colored my opinion (and will continue to, for which I make no apologies) regarding how I believed everybody else should treat him.

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1 hour ago, Patty Joanna said:

We’ve got one exactly like this.  Ironically, mil talks about how he is her favorite.  My dh snd his sister do all the work.  So do I.  MY sister does more than the other siblings.  She writes letters to my mil.   

In the two families I've seen this type of long term caring, the favorite has typically not been available for any of the care. They might drop by with a coffee or do a phone call "just because I was thinking about you", then off the grid for 2 or 3 weeks. But, they stay the favorite. 

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If this were my dh's family, whose mother is in a nursing home now, one of his siblings would be calling everyone individually and putting together a chart.  So she would call the unresponsive sibling and ask flat out, "Which shifts will you be taking?" or "I'm putting you down for Mondays 4pm to 10pm."  They're very organized like that and it usually works well!  What would happen if your dh just called him and told him which shift he was taking, instead of waiting for an offer to help?

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17 minutes ago, J-rap said:

If this were my dh's family, whose mother is in a nursing home now, one of his siblings would be calling everyone individually and putting together a chart.  So she would call the unresponsive sibling and ask flat out, "Which shifts will you be taking?" or "I'm putting you down for Mondays 4pm to 10pm."  They're very organized like that and it usually works well!  What would happen if your dh just called him and told him which shift he was taking, instead of waiting for an offer to help?

I can’t say for sure that nobody has directly called this brother. It is possible he makes an excuse. It is even possible he just doesnt answer his phone. 

It seems to me that it isn’t the right thing to do, this forceful manner of trying to get compliance. I don’t think people should be brow-beaten into doing something helpful and kind. 

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Quote

Just because somebody is technically related to you doesn't necessarily mean that you're emotionally invested. I've experienced it with many of my own relatives. I'm sure there are those in my family who lament on the fact that I choose to have nothing to do with certain *close* relatives. Actually, I know there are, because a couple of them have mentioned it to me. Sometimes I have my own reasons -- and sometimes I just do not have an emotional attachment to the family member being discussed. 

I do agree with this. I have some weird relationships in my own family and I can relate. 

I am not aware of any reason why this would be true for the silent brother. I really think it has more to do with some issue of his own, not the relationship itself. 

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9 hours ago, Carol in Cal. said:

There are reasonable reasons to swoop, though.

Someone might be particularly good in emergencies, or have a skill set that is applicable so their presence is important at a particularly time but not always.  It’s not always someone showing off.  We have a couple of swoopers in our family, and they do a LOT of good because of their expertise.  They see things that others don’t, too, because they are not always around.

I am somewhat of a swooper... initially. Address an emergency situation, gather information, set a plan.  If my parents and siblings were nearby, I'd likely be the control freak.  But the truth is, I'm not a great caretaker. I've flown out to help with logistics around medical issues for the sake of the patient and family members, but with very limited direct care.  I'M BAD AT IT! Like, really bad.

As a grandchild, I visited my sick grandparent in groups. I only visit my grandmother with dementia with others. I'm ashamed of that, but I haven't figured out how to overcome it. I say stupid things, I worry about doing the wrong thing, and anxiety completely takes over to the point where it's definitely not safe for me to drive the distance. Sometimes to the point of vomiting before going. Yup, it does make me feel pathetic and useless.

Taking care of my own infant during his week long hospital stay was hard. Easier, because he was a baby/my baby, but still a situation where I doubted every move I made and felt useless. (Despite knowing how important all that cuddle time actually was.) I'm a pro in the ER but admission somehow short circuits me.

There's no pretending that doesn't add to others' burden. But I wanted to share an example of the crazy that could be behind some people's crumminess.

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1 hour ago, Quill said:

I can’t say for sure that nobody has directly called this brother. It is possible he makes an excuse. It is even possible he just doesnt answer his phone. 

It seems to me that it isn’t the right thing to do, this forceful manner of trying to get compliance. I don’t think people should be brow-beaten into doing something helpful and kind. 

No, but not being direct, and then resenting them, isn't good either. Sometimes a direct approach will at least shed light on the issue, and you find out that say, sibling gets nauseous at hospital smells and would not be helpful at all because they'd be puking the whole time or whatever. If this is bothering your husband better to talk it out directly than continue to be upset about it, you know?

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My brother is like this. When my father figure was so sick and sis and I were going out of our minds trying to juggle his medical issues and his legal crap, my brother did not ONCE step up to the plate and volunteer to help us in anyway. I finally figured out that I had to simply say things like, "We have to have a break. It is your responsibility to care for them on X Y Z dates or hire someone to do it." or "We have three different shifts that have to be covered which one are you going to take?" or "This bill is _____ and they can't pay it. How do you intend to help us handle it?" (For the last one, he actually took care of signing them up for a charitable program that would pay the bill.) He would always, always, always assume that somehow sis and I had everything covered, everything handled or would if he did not volunteer. Once we changed tactics and said, "This is you portion of the responsibility, how are you going to deal with it because we aren't going to keep doing it? " He then would get on board and do something.

I had a similar issue with the first community musical that I just pulled off in my new job as a community arts director. I had a ton of scenery and props that needed to be brought in and set up, and it was most certainly nothing I could do alone. I put out a newsletter in the community saying that I needed five volunteers on evening X to help transport and set up for the musical. Crickets. Nothing. Not a soul volunteered. So, I called the businesses and civic groups that support the program and said, "I need one person from your organization on X date to do Y, please let me know within 24 hrs. who this person will be and provide their contact information." I did not leave it open for debate. I was pleasant, but firm. Low and behold, I ended up with more people than I asked for so it worked out really well.

Many people will not step up to the plate because they will assume everyone else is magically getting the job done. With these folks, you just kind of have to be matter of fact and kind of assign some responsibility or give them the choice of fulfilling responsibility with choice A or B. So you could try with the brother, "We have shift X or shift Y that must be covered. Which one are you going to take?" And of course that is only assuming that the brother has the cognitive ability and emotional stability to handle it. Some people, especially when it comes to hospitals, freak out entirely and can't manage the environment. I have a cousin who has panic attacks in hospitals so we never asked her to do anything in that setting when grandma had her stroke. She would call and we would put grandma on speaker phone. Once she was released from the hospital and out of re-hab, she was more than happy to sit with grandma at home, do housework, run errands. So those of us that could manage the medical, hospital stuff, did so, and the ones that couldn't, then were asked to help at home, and did so.

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2 hours ago, Quill said:

I don’t think people should be brow-beaten into doing something helpful and kind. 

Ah, but "helpful and kind" are  holding a door for someone or letting someone have your seat on the bus.  Sometimes people need to hear tough words in order to take on a necessary (and possibly uncomfortable or challenging) job. "Kind and helpful" feel like choices. It sounds like your family needs to remove the choice from this situation and make it a necessity. 

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2 hours ago, Quill said:

I can’t say for sure that nobody has directly called this brother. It is possible he makes an excuse. It is even possible he just doesnt answer his phone. 

It seems to me that it isn’t the right thing to do, this forceful manner of trying to get compliance. I don’t think people should be brow-beaten into doing something helpful and kind. 

I don't think it's brow-beating someone to be direct and encourage a family member to take responsibility.  When my dh's sibling does this, it really doesn't feel like brow-beating at all.  She's just very organized and it's how she makes things work and gets everyone involved.  (Of course, I know not all families work that way, and some families might feel that's being too pushy.)

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37 minutes ago, Faith-manor said:

My brother is like this. When my father figure was so sick and sis and I were going out of our minds trying to juggle his medical issues and his legal crap, my brother did not ONCE step up to the plate and volunteer to help us in anyway. I finally figured out that I had to simply say things like, "We have to have a break. It is your responsibility to care for them on X Y Z dates or hire someone to do it." or "We have three different shifts that have to be covered which one are you going to take?" or "This bill is _____ and they can't pay it. How do you intend to help us handle it?" (For the last one, he actually took care of signing them up for a charitable program that would pay the bill.) He would always, always, always assume that somehow sis and I had everything covered, everything handled or would if he did not volunteer. Once we changed tactics and said, "This is you portion of the responsibility, how are you going to deal with it because we aren't going to keep doing it? " He then would get on board and do something.

I had a similar issue with the first community musical that I just pulled off in my new job as a community arts director. I had a ton of scenery and props that needed to be brought in and set up, and it was most certainly nothing I could do alone. I put out a newsletter in the community saying that I needed five volunteers on evening X to help transport and set up for the musical. Crickets. Nothing. Not a soul volunteered. So, I called the businesses and civic groups that support the program and said, "I need one person from your organization on X date to do Y, please let me know within 24 hrs. who this person will be and provide their contact information." I did not leave it open for debate. I was pleasant, but firm. Low and behold, I ended up with more people than I asked for so it worked out really well.

Many people will not step up to the plate because they will assume everyone else is magically getting the job done. With these folks, you just kind of have to be matter of fact and kind of assign some responsibility or give them the choice of fulfilling responsibility with choice A or B. So you could try with the brother, "We have shift X or shift Y that must be covered. Which one are you going to take?" And of course that is only assuming that the brother has the cognitive ability and emotional stability to handle it. Some people, especially when it comes to hospitals, freak out entirely and can't manage the environment. I have a cousin who has panic attacks in hospitals so we never asked her to do anything in that setting when grandma had her stroke. She would call and we would put grandma on speaker phone. Once she was released from the hospital and out of re-hab, she was more than happy to sit with grandma at home, do housework, run errands. So those of us that could manage the medical, hospital stuff, did so, and the ones that couldn't, then were asked to help at home, and did so.

That is great way to lose a job. The businesses and orgs are already supporting this community arts program so I'd bet it would not be well-received to have someone call and order them to provide manual labor on top of what they already do. That would be an awesome way to breed resentment and encourage non-participation in the future. Like they'd think, "I will send Harry and Kate to help this time but never again. And I am going to write a strongly worded letter to Miss Community Arts Director's boss and let her know why."

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14 hours ago, Quill said:

I don’t mean for this to be a bash. I just find this puzzling and frustrating. There is one sibling among dh’s who is completely non-communicato while MIL is in the hospital and decisions are being made about her care going forward. I mean it is just as if he didn’t exist or was deaf and blind. He has not contributed one sentence of input to the (long!) text chain about her care. Even his wife took a turn at the hospital to monitor/be with her today, but he has not visited, does not communicate, does...well, jack diddly poo. 

It is not outside of his typical behavior - he doesn’t communicate much in other matters, either, but in this case? With his very aged mother in a terrible situation? The silence is freaking deafening. 

Dh went up there tonight, but he was trying to wait out the silent brother. But no offers to come up to the hospital were taken up by him and so dh went himself, making it his second “turn”, while silent brother has not been there period. 

I know there is sometimes “that one sibling” who does this kind of thing. I remember my own mom having hard feelings about my uncle basically doing the same thing when my grandfather was dying. He purportedly “couldn’t handle it,” so he just didn’t do diddly squat. 

Anyway...I’m sure this isn’t a problem anyone can solve and it just comes down to Things That Suck. This is probably JAWM, unless I’ve got some huge blind spot here that needs gentle pointing out. It just seems awfully selfish to me and...if she were to die shortly, how does he think he is going to feel about that?? I even made it a point to tell her I love her because I do and you never know if that could be the last thing I said to her. 

I have a monster headache and I think it is legit because the burden of health is hard to bear around here at the moment and I want a good cry and a piece of chocolate cake. 

You are not clear but, did anyone say to the brother that he is taking a turn with his mother? 

 

I also wonder if sitting with her is a choice but not really something that needs to be done? When my mom was in the hospital a few years ago, I kept being told I needed to go sit with her. I pointed out I had children, including young children, and no one to care for them, and that my mom did not need anyone to sit with her. I was pregnant at the time too. I was informed that I should just tell my husband when he came home that I was heading to the hospital (which was 45 minutes away) and then just sleep on the couch when there. I kept telling them I cannot do that, I have young children and a husband. Plus, in my personal opinion, she did not need anyone to sit by her side the entire time she was there. I was in the hospital a lot as a young child and my mom never sat with me. I was a toddler and a preschooler, at the hospital, by myself. I pointed this out and was actually told that was excusable because my mom had other children to care for at home. Ummm, I had other children at home. And my mom was hardly a toddler or preschooler at the hospital. She did not need to be babysat. 

 

Is it possible your brother-in-law feels she does not need to be sat with? Or that maybe, he does not realize that sending his wife isn't good enough and he needs to come too?

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10 hours ago, AimeeM said:

 

I was quite annoyed by it at the time. I adored my FIL and couldn't imagine that anybody wouldn't want to help care for him. But, the reality of the situation was just so much more complicated (something I can only see a couple years later). The relationship my DH had with his father is just entirely different than the relationship his brother had with their father. At the end of the day, each of them had very different childhoods -- even if they were under the same roof and had the same parents. Or, rather, each of them viewed their upbringing differently, even if it actually didn't differ much at all. Does that make any sense? It certainly affected how much (time, actual energy, emotional energy) each was willing to put into my FIL when push came to shove. I have no idea if any of this applies to your BIL, so feel free to stop reading if it doesn't, lol.

 

 

This is very true. I know that in my family, I am seen as the problem person sometimes. My sister and I have very different memories of life in our house growing up and they do not mesh at all. I was the quiet, obedient, subservient oldest to a controlling and perfectionist mother and she was the loud screaming rebellious kid to a mother who went back to work and wasn't all that interested in her teens. I am not that role anymore- it has taken years to be able to shake that off. 

Different memories, same family. My sister is welcome to the good daughter label and she likes to wave it around in front of strangers.

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10 hours ago, Moonhawk said:

In the two families I've seen this type of long term caring, the favorite has typically not been available for any of the care. They might drop by with a coffee or do a phone call "just because I was thinking about you", then off the grid for 2 or 3 weeks. But, they stay the favorite. 

Same thing here. Want to know who cares for my dad now? Me. That is right..the least favorite child. It chafes my husband too. It chafes me too. Thing is, all these years, my parents would not even acknowledge my children. They would not come to any of their things. They would not even acknowledge their birthdays.  When one of my children was injured and had to be in the hospital and have emergency surgery, including being transferred to a children's hospital in the city, they did not even bother with him. They made it clear they did not care about my children at all. Then to make matters worse, I found out they were taking pictures I was sending them and my mom was sending them on to others and claiming she was at our children's things. AND scrapbooking them! I would hear from relatives about how much my parents adore my children and spend so much time with them. One of my siblings who does not live here actually had the nerve to lecture me telling me how much I expect from my parents and how grateful I should be and how I am exhausting them and so on. I stopped sending my parents pictures but later on, found out they were taking pictures off social media (not even my own social media, I am talking if the school posted a picture that one of my children was in, they would copy it and send to relatives and claim they had been there and took it). 

 

Now, here it is. I take care of my dad all week long, all month long, etc. My brother, the favorite child, shows up once a week for about an hour to have coffee. Sometimes, he has the nerve to try to call me and order me around. My brother was there for coffee on Sunday for his hour visit and I told Dad I would put this Christmas wreath up for him and my brother told me I was not to do it. I put it up anyway. I do not take orders from the golden child who does nothing to care for Dad. 

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Many people will not step up to the plate because they will assume everyone else is magically getting the job done. With these folks, you just kind of have to be matter of fact and kind of assign some responsibility or give them the choice of fulfilling responsibility with choice A or B. So you could try with the brother, "We have shift X or shift Y that must be covered. Which one are you going to take?" And of course that is only assuming that the brother has the cognitive ability and emotional stability to handle it. Some people, especially when it comes to hospitals, freak out entirely and can't manage the environment. I have a cousin who has panic attacks in hospitals so we never asked her to do anything in that setting when grandma had her stroke. She would call and we would put grandma on speaker phone. Once she was released from the hospital and out of re-hab, she was more than happy to sit with grandma at home, do housework, run errands. So those of us that could manage the medical, hospital stuff, did so, and the ones that couldn't, then were asked to help at home, and did

The thing about the bolded is that this has been going on with the only difference being it is not being asked of only him. So, in the convo chain we have going, there have repeatedly been these stated requests, like this: “Jane will be there from 8am-noon and Bob is coming from noon until 5, and Sue is planning to stay overnight, but we still need somebody for the evening, 5-9.” It’s just straight up never going to be him. He’s never going to say, “ok, I’ll come 5-9.” Or even, “I can’t get there till 6, but I could do 6-9.” His wife has already offered to take another turn and everyone is on at least their second “turn” now (except person who lives in another state). 

For the last part of your post, he does not even help much in his own little niche ways he could do. So, i.e., he is very outdoorsy and handy and could theoretically be very helpful for outside maintenance at MIL’s farmhouse, while another brother has severe allergies and cannot really do that well with those tasks. But it has often been the allergic brother doing tasks with red, streaming eyes anyway. 

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31 minutes ago, Janeway said:

You are not clear but, did anyone say to the brother that he is taking a turn with his mother? 

 

I also wonder if sitting with her is a choice but not really something that needs to be done? When my mom was in the hospital a few years ago, I kept being told I needed to go sit with her. I pointed out I had children, including young children, and no one to care for them, and that my mom did not need anyone to sit with her. I was pregnant at the time too. I was informed that I should just tell my husband when he came home that I was heading to the hospital (which was 45 minutes away) and then just sleep on the couch when there. I kept telling them I cannot do that, I have young children and a husband. Plus, in my personal opinion, she did not need anyone to sit by her side the entire time she was there. I was in the hospital a lot as a young child and my mom never sat with me. I was a toddler and a preschooler, at the hospital, by myself. I pointed this out and was actually told that was excusable because my mom had other children to care for at home. Ummm, I had other children at home. And my mom was hardly a toddler or preschooler at the hospital. She did not need to be babysat. 

 

Is it possible your brother-in-law feels she does not need to be sat with? Or that maybe, he does not realize that sending his wife isn't good enough and he needs to come too?

As I said, I do not know if anyone has directly communicated only with the recalcitrant brother. It may have happened but I don’t know what ten people (five siblings and spouses) are doing off the chain texts. 

I also mentioned upthread the necessity. I didn’t initially think she had to be sat with, either, but now that I have been there, I was wrong. She does not have the cognition to be there alone. She cannot even remember that PT has worked with her the day before. She doesn’t know if the clock on the wall showing 9:14 is morning or night and repeatedly asked me this question. She will begin rustling the covers, with the intention that she’s going to go to the bathroom which she cannot do. She is also hooked to equipment and does not even seem to realize that. 

It seems likely to me that, since his wife is volunteering a second round, she has almost surely told him he should go there. 

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I'm in a similar situation and it's maddening.  Even when confronted, the sibling makes excuses.  Even my kids have asked why I do everything for the grandparents while the other siblings don't do anything.  I just try my best to do what I feel is right and not think about the actions of my siblings too much. 

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31 minutes ago, Quill said:

As I said, I do not know if anyone has directly communicated only with the recalcitrant brother. It may have happened but I don’t know what ten people (five siblings and spouses) are doing off the chain texts. 

I also mentioned upthread the necessity. I didn’t initially think she had to be sat with, either, but now that I have been there, I was wrong. She does not have the cognition to be there alone. She cannot even remember that PT has worked with her the day before. She doesn’t know if the clock on the wall showing 9:14 is morning or night and repeatedly asked me this question. She will begin rustling the covers, with the intention that she’s going to go to the bathroom which she cannot do. She is also hooked to equipment and does not even seem to realize that. 

It seems likely to me that, since his wife is volunteering a second round, she has almost surely told him he should go there. 

It's likely that if his wife volunteered a second round, he knows that he should go.  Unless his schedule is completely filled up, isn't it that he just doesn't want to go for whatever reason?

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15 hours ago, Farrar said:

I think that sibling is probably preferable to another "type" in that situation - the one who sweeps in from out of town, disrupts the care, has to suddenly weigh in about everything and question everything, gives the primary caregiver a bunch of hassle, gets tons of praise for their efforts from the sick elderly relative, and then sweeps out of town again, leaving everything to the primary caregiver sibling(s) again.

I've never had that situation exactly, but I've seen it play out in once removed relative groups and with friends.

 

This topic irritates me so much that I've avoided reading more than once.  Ooh, it irritates me.

DH's grandmother and (now late) grandfather had 4 kids.  After moving them around some, the kids settled the grandmother (Nanny) and grandfather (Grandpa) in an assisted living place in the town they're from, where DH and I and DH's twin sister and several cousins and one uncle (the oldest of the grandparents' kids) live.  Grandpa was really not in good enough shape for assisted living - he needed at least daytime and really also night time care.  So they hired people to stay with them, which to me pretty much defeats the point of assisted living, because you could set them up in an apt. for a lot less than $4k/month.  Anyway, DH and I and the kids, and then just DH and the kids, visited the grandparents every weekend for years and years - Grandpa only lived 6 months but they kept going to see Nanny, every weekend for several hours, cooked dinner, etc.

Dh's twin sister went occasionally too.  

The grandparents' children, though, included the do-nothing - who lived 15 minutes from the nursing home and insisted that they choose one that close! (we lived an hour away) and the swoop in from out of towners.  The out of towners were massively more annoying.  They'd come out once or twice a year and decide things like the kids needed to stop going outside when they were there because there was dirt on the carpet once, or want to change a million things, etc.  At one point they wanted to save $ by moving the grandparents in with us.  DH said sure, we'll take care of them in their old age (and we would have) but we need medical and financial POA, because if we're doing the work we're also making the decisions.  

Surprise, the siblings were not interested in giving up the power - just the responsibility.  They as a group are like 50% of why I have a prejudice against Boomers.

 

Oooh, now I'm irritated.  

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I think many families have one like this.  My close relative who lost his dad has a brother who, as far as I know, never visited dad in the hospital though he was sick for a long time, like years.  (Brain cancer.)

I think in the end the person it hurts is the one who doesn't show up. 

I wish I had some wise words to tell the person so he'd understand.  Nobody loves hospitals / visiting sick people, but it is rewarding in its own way, as well as giving comfort to the visited person.

 

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7 minutes ago, moonflower said:

 

This topic irritates me so much that I've avoided reading more than once.  Ooh, it irritates me.

DH's grandmother and (now late) grandfather had 4 kids.  After moving them around some, the kids settled the grandmother (Nanny) and grandfather (Grandpa) in an assisted living place in the town they're from, where DH and I and DH's twin sister and several cousins and one uncle (the oldest of the grandparents' kids) live.  Grandpa was really not in good enough shape for assisted living - he needed at least daytime and really also night time care.  So they hired people to stay with them, which to me pretty much defeats the point of assisted living, because you could set them up in an apt. for a lot less than $4k/month.  Anyway, DH and I and the kids, and then just DH and the kids, visited the grandparents every weekend for years and years - Grandpa only lived 6 months but they kept going to see Nanny, every weekend for several hours, cooked dinner, etc.

Dh's twin sister went occasionally too.  

The grandparents' children, though, included the do-nothing - who lived 15 minutes from the nursing home and insisted that they choose one that close! (we lived an hour away) and the swoop in from out of towners.  The out of towners were massively more annoying.  They'd come out once or twice a year and decide things like the kids needed to stop going outside when they were there because there was dirt on the carpet once, or want to change a million things, etc.  At one point they wanted to save $ by moving the grandparents in with us.  DH said sure, we'll take care of them in their old age (and we would have) but we need medical and financial POA, because if we're doing the work we're also making the decisions.  

Surprise, the siblings were not interested in giving up the power - just the responsibility.  They as a group are like 50% of why I have a prejudice against Boomers.

 

Oooh, now I'm irritated.  

Oh yes, we've had that too with dh's siblings. Two of them live out of state. They wanted her to move here, be his responsibility entirely, and have us do all the work, but were beyond angry when she gave financial and medical POA to him. Especially his sister who is a not nice person, and will NEVER lift a finger to do anything. His brother only comes up once per year, but at least when he is there he does maintenance on her house, finds out what her future needs are - like this coming summer he and his son are going to put a wheelchair ramp on since she is starting to walk regularly with a cane and has a few steps going into the house - and such. He isn't entirely inactive. But honestly, when he got mad about the POA, I simply said, 'Then move here and take care of her yourself." He eventually conceded that if he is 800 miles away and only comes once per year, it isn't reasonable to be making these kinds of decisions. Sister simply has been a jerk and remains that way. She is six years older than DH, and thinks she is the queen of the family. Mostly I think she wants to make all the decisions in order to preserve the money, and then claim it all for herself.

Thankfully, MIL is smart and has it all set up in a trust, advance directives on paper, everything taken care of so there can be no argument about it.

Quill, that is one thing to consider. When the decisions get to be tough, "Do we continue medical intervention, should she have a ventilator or a feeding tube or whatever?", how is that going to play out in this sibling group. Does anyone have POA, is there any agreement among the sibs? This is something to definitely be working on right now before she slips any further. Emotions run high, very high, and not all of it is always someone just being a jerk, or making a power play. I think that often sibling groups under immense emotional pressure with a medically fragile parent revert back to some childhood style relationship interactions - kind of a reflex - and forget their supposed to be mature, grown ups. The stress can push them over the edge. So if they can come to some agreements now, and get it on paper, it may save some bad interactions later.

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