Helpful suggestions from relatives

You don’t hear from me for a year or two and then, like waiting for one bus to come along…
I’m sure that most will agree that caring can be non-stop – there’s always so much to do (especially when you have to look after yourself as well).
Every now and then a relative will turn up (they probably call in once or twice a month and stay for an hour or two – and even leave dishes in the sink for you to deal with even if you only have to stack them in the dishwasher). During their visit they come up with ‘helpful suggestions’ on how you could be doing something differently (adding “it will only take a few minutes ”) which, as far you are concerned will just be one other thing for you to include with countless other tasks which, when you’ve finally completed them all, you collapse into a chair so relieved to get some rest (always bearing in mind that you might have to get back to your feet to help your charge out with anything which requires immediate assistance – when, of course, there is no one else around). When the relative leaves dishes in the sink I could say “it will only take you a few seconds to stack them in the dishwasher” – but certainly won’t (I suppose). Some relatives will even suggest tasks which will take a lot longer to complete (I suppose “when are you popping in to do that?” would be a good response).
I always want to appear polite and reasonable and certainly don’t want to bite anyone’s head off – before now I have responded that I have been warned by Occupation Health that I might be ‘taking on too much’ – I suppose I could’ve used that response (today). Sorry if this seems like a rant – does anyone have a ‘model answer’ that they use to deal with relatives please?

A common problem for many. On the forum, we call them “Helicopters”! They drop in without warning, stay for a short time, and then fly off again to be seen again, who knows when! When they turn up, think to yourself “Here comes the Helicopter”.

I had two brothers, mum could go a year without seeing either of them. No phone calls to see how I was managing, even when I was in hospital for major surgery!

Don’t give them any food, if they can’t be bothered to put the plates away or offer to do the washing up.
Consider saying “Oh, it’s great to see you, I was just popping out for a while” and leave them to do the caring.
Or say "I don’t have any spare food in the cupboard at the moment, or "Could you pop out and get us all something to eat.!!!

AS BB said, this is a common complaint for carers. Relatives who do little to nothing to help, then think that dropping by unannounced and complaining about how you are looking after their beloved relative is helpful.

Then coming up with a list of things you could be doing better, before swanning of never to be seen again until the next drop in.

I don’t think there is any polite tactile response, other than grin and bear with it. Every time I confronted my relative it was turned on its head “You know I have other responsibilities”, “It’s not fair to make me feel guilty, I already feel guilty” , “You just made me cry” etc… When all the time living five minutes away and not bothering.

No model answer from me, nor experience with helicopters ( I do like that term).

As some may recall, I flew back after 33 years in America, originally for a month to see what was going on and with a view to returning for longer, to look after 94 year-old mum after the ambulance paramedics had taken her to hospital for ‘a quick check up’.

My version of ‘it will only take a few minutes’ was when a friend of the family told me I should stay. " What’s a year out of your life anyway? She’ll be dead in a year! ". Mum lasted 15 months. The ‘friend’ never did visit since mum was first admitted.

All these comments are easy to say, especially for those who leave their dirty dishes in the sink!

Thanks everyone! It is nice to read everyone’s replies - please keep 'em coming if anyone has anything to add! Thanks

Just this guy, you haven’t mentioned any outside help for guaranteed time off?

I suppose I don’t have much time off. It was a relief when professional carers were booked to call 4 times a day in 2017. Thursday afternoon Mum goes to a hospice - that’s 3 hours free. A couple of weeks ago Mum was rushed into hospital (and was kept in for 5 days) as she couldn’t stop coughing - even that was a break. Sometimes more helpful family members call and help out which is nice

Why did the 4 times a day carers stop?


bowlingbun - sorry if I did not make it clear but the carers which were booked to attend in 2017 continue to attend presently. Thanks

Honey Badger - some interesting suggestions giving me a lot to consider. Thanks

Ok, not from relatives, but worth posting, i think. One time, a district nurse came, unannounced.
I was rushing around, about to leave for an appointment. The nurse entered the room and immediately started to complain that mum had two beakers full of water. “Your mother must drink!” , she said. I explained that I had just topped them up so mum had plenty of water to drink whilst i was out!

You just can’t win.

I love that post Rosemary, I do the same, when I’m leaving the house Mum always has two glasses of squash, although I’m rarely gone long, I never want Mum to want for anything.

I don’t have too many problems from relatives but his friends, district nurses, OTs, paid carers all seem to have ideas about what else I should be doing. The paid carer who announced to my partner that they couldn’t take him to his day centre (which at least partly is to give me a break) but I could take him out for the day instead was the best. Assorted health care professionals who want me to fix the NHS for them a close second.

No one ever thinks that we might have things to do when our carees are not with us!

I was told several times by paramedics I should change mum’s GP so as to have one in the same borough in which mum lived, despite the fact she’d had this GP practice for 40+ years, and they offered GP home visits. The downside was the other borough did not have district nurses available in the night. Shame that mum couldn’t choose when her catheter would get blocked!


Good example of professionals trying to solve their immediate problem with no thought for what multitude of other problems it’s going to create.

They didnt like it when I told the responding ambulance staff that the LA must have assessed the financial risk and decided it was cost effective in the long run to have emergency services deal with blocked urinary catheters at two in the morning rather than provide district nurses 24/7.

One time the 999 operator insisted on sending district nurses from mum’s borough, despite being told my mum’s DNs didn’t work nights. The DNs arrived and argued between themselves whether or not to change mum’s catheter. I had to tell them either do the job or I’ll find someone who will! Needless to say, they changed the catheter ( but the 2 nurses forgot to open the tap to drain into the bag)! Later, I received an apologetic response to my formal complaint! But who needs that hastle?

I’m sure that the “non carers” of this world imagine us having an easy life, not having to work, or earn a living. In reality we get little or no pay. We may have excellent qualifications, but if you can’t get care for your caree, the dream of work is impossible. Most of us are clock watching and juggling at the same time, often dreading a phone call that can effectively tear up all our plans. Caree in hospital? Then others will see this as giving you a well earned break. In reality it’s often worse that hands on caring, driving, parking, being ignored by hospital staff who then send the caree home ignoring all the procedures, giving our caree back in a worse condition.

spot on BB

Hi Just ThisGuy,

Thought I would share my experiences of the ‘helicopters’.
A specific example is last week- My Gran is the person I care for. Her son and her brother decided to ‘fix’ the washer on the kitchen sink tap during the day. By the time I left work and arrived at Gran’s, did my usual household/care tasks, they’d long since left. I then heard a dripping noise and found a leak was coming from the copper pipe, right at the back of the sink where I couldn’t reach or even see properly. The son had gone back to his home in Worcestor so he wasn’t available. The brother, when I called to tell him what had happened, said ‘I can’t come until the morning- it’s my grand-daughter’s birthday’. The sister (who was present at the time the washer was changed) couldn’t come because she waits in and cooks dinner for her (nearly 40 y.o!) son when he gets home from work at 10pm every night (and she couldn’t possibly leave him to find his own dinner). Meanwhile, my Gran is sat there crying. We eventually managed to get the problem sorted (though it was only 11pm at night by the time I left to go home myself, after having been at work all day and having had nothing to eat all day, as I usually eat after the couple of hours I spend at Gran’s after work, so had no reason to think that day would be any different).
On a day-to-day basis, I too experience the washing up left in the sink and the cushions of the sofa/chairs being left a mess. Yet, my family do the opposite in that that tell me I’m ‘doing too much’, but they never seem to offer to help in any way to stop me from having to do it all myself (clearly they think that the generic ‘discharge from hospital’ carers that pop in throughout the day do all the housework- they barely have the time to pop a microwave meal in and watch my Gran to make sure she doesn’t choke on it before they’re scampering out of the door!)