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Both parent want me to take care of Dad so MI'm can take care of my sister

Hi, my dad had a basal ganglion stroke 18 months ago, and I don't want to take him for extended periods when my mom visits California. I wouldn't mind if my parents would consent to getting in home care for Dad while I'm at work, but they expect me to find a way to leave him alone all morning and into the afternoon, ostensibly for months at a time, because they hate paying for care and are concerned that my sister could be developing post partum depression.

 

My sister lives in California, is an amputee, is married to a very needy man, and is very needy herself, so my parents are still in a caretaking relationship with her. They just returned from helping her out for two weeks, but she doesn't like how her in-laws are helping and needs her mom.

 

Ironically, they moved to my area this October in part to make it easier for my mom to stop helping my sister so much, because they resented how she treated them between crises.

 

The worst part of all this is that my parents have always taken for granted that my husband and I would care for them, and I want to do my duty, but I never realized that this care could become necessary while Mom and Dad were still taking care of my sister! I know she's disabled, but I am feeling very used by the way the whole family refuses to consider our needs at all.

 

We went through 4 years of fertility treatments to have our son, and we want to enjoy him without my grouchy, anxiety prone dad dominating every free minute for months at a time. If it's necessary,  of course we'll take care of him, but this just doesn't seem to fit that definition. 

 

I suppose my question is, how much do I really owe my parents, because they'll never be satisfied with what I do, so I have to have an inner sense of what is right. I know there will always be another crisis with my sister. The question is, when can I say that it's up to them to take care of each other first, not her?

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AARP Expert

What Dr. Jacobs said, especially this: 

 

--Help your parents and sister obtain professional help (e.g., aides) to meet the needs that you will no longer meet. If they balk at professional help, don't step into the breach to do the work yourself.

 

   When you feel guilty about all this, please remember that being good to them doesn't mean sacrificing your needs and the needs of your own family. It means helping them make better choices for themselves rather than relying on you and your husband to save the day each time.

 

Your family doesn't get to ignore your needs and do what they most prefer. How about a huge family meeting?

 

Indeed, good luck.

 

Jane

AARP Expert

You are right: This is about determining what you "owe." That won't be the same thing as what your parents and sister feel entitled to from you. That's especially true if they feel entitled to always have you at their beck and call making endless sacrifices on their behalf.

 

I recommend the following steps:

 

   --Love your parents and sister but don't allow them to determine what you owe. Make that determination yourself based on multiple factors--their needs, the needs of your husband and child, your preferences, your availability. There will never be a "right" answer; there will only be compromises and balancing priorities.

 

   --Inform your parents and sister what you can do and are willing to do going forward in time. In other words, draw limits that they can clearly see. They won't like them. They will probably test you to see whether you mean them or not. Make those limits stick.

 

   --Help your parents and sister obtain professional help (e.g., aides) to meet the needs that you will no longer meet. If they balk at professional help, don't step into the breach to do the work yourself.

 

   When you feel guilty about all this, please remember that being good to them doesn't mean sacrificing your needs and the needs of your own family. It means helping them make better choices for themselves rather than relying on you and your husband to save the day each time. Good luck!--Barry Jacobs, co-author of AARP  Meditations for Caregivers

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