Thursday, June 18, 2009

Care-giving while fighting with adult siblings

Care-giving is made unnecessarily complicated, depressing and just plain difficult when conflicts and disagreements occur between siblings of aging parents. My family (at least the maternal side) is chuck full of history on this unfortunate topic. I did not know about my family's history until I was in the midst of caring for my dad. I guess family members being uncaring and cruel is something that is not mentioned during Holiday visits!

The last three generations of my maternal family have specifically faced the issue of family members (in particular, siblings) being cruel. And it seems that unless we as adults choose to act appropriately and with a modicum of kindness and compassion, the next generations will continue the embarrassing and senseless family tradition. That would be a shame.

My mom brought her mom (my maternal gramma) to our home to live when I was about 9 years old. Gramma's siblings were cruel to gramma (they told my mom that they did not want gramma - their own sister - to visit or even communicate). Gramma's siblings were also cruel to my now deceased brother (they actually told this young Navy personnel who was "on leave" near their home to leave their front door or they would call the police!). Gramma's siblings would not let my brother (their great nephew) into their home!

And remember, this was being done while my mom was caring for gramma in our home. Gramma's siblings also expected my mom to tell gramma that they wanted nothing to do with gramma. My mom properly refused. My mom told the siblings (which would be my mom's aunt and uncle) to tell gramma (their sister) themselves!

Throughout the cruel treatment by gramma's brother and sister, my mom's brother was pretty tight with gramma's brother and sister. My mom's brother and his wife visited gramma's siblings and thereafter proudly showed off family heirlooms that the cruel siblings gave to my mom's sister-in-law. I never knew whether gramma knew about that. I hope not. Gramma suffered enough.

That dramatic difference in how the cruel siblings treated my mom and how they treated my mom's brother was a source of great sadness and confusion for my mom.

Gramma's siblings called mom and said that they did not want to see gramma ever again. My mom refused to share that cruel request with gramma. So, mom's aunt and uncle disowned mom. But gramma's siblings adored my mom's brother and he remained in the will (whereas my mom was "written out.")

Sadly, gramma was still alive to learn of the disowning of my mom by the cruel siblings. It absolutely broke gramma's heart and it caused stress and sadness for my mom.

Fast forward a few decades. Mom is care-giving for dad. But I was with mom as she cared for gramma and I did not want mom to do this all alone again. My mom and I are a team.

The current brothers (mine and my mom's) have been absent for the care-giving. Absence is something that I can deal with. But the absence has morphed into cruelty since I have brought the behavior to light. The brothers consider me a trouble maker. Nope. I firmly believe that the bickering must end or it will continue for future generations. And there would never be a prayer for the cycle to end unless and until it was brought out of the closets!

It is difficult to care-give and deal with sibling issues at the same time.

If, like me, family issues and relationships are draining you of the energy that you desperately need to just make it through a day of care-giving then, like me, you should
(1) assess the situation,

(2) make a plan that will allow you to care for your loved one with the necessary level of strength, love and patience,

(3) make a plan that will ensure that you treat yourself with love and respect - you will have nothing to give to the patient if you have nothing for yourself!

Hopefully, the following article will help you. (sorry you may have to cut-and-paste but it is worth the effort)

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