Sibling Perspectives

My Mum is now in a care home with dementia and limited movement, after me juggling 11 years with Mum in her house a mile away, aided by carers. I visited 5 days a week and my sister, on average, once every 10 days. (She lives 12 miles away). My sister refused to plan when her visits would be or offer to swap dates, taking the view that Mum was, ‘well’. Our relationship has been very strained for the past year. I booked Mum in for respite a year ago when I hit rock bottom, realising, after Mum falling, that the house could no longer provide a safe base and that I had reached the end of the road with my own energy. (I had taken early retirement to help support Mum).

My sister has been very barbed in her comments along the lines of, “You’ve robbed me of my Mother’s home to visit”. “If you hadn’t phoned the ambulance, Mum could still be at home now”. (After Mum had fallen and broken bones. I know!) I have found this deeply upsetting and very draining. I can stand back and disassociate myself rationally from the comments but they still hurt, as does the venom which accompanies these outbursts. It has been more exhausting relating to my sister than caring for my Mum!

Any suggestions about what I can say that might help my sister look at the situation from a fresh perspective and to accept that Mum needs to be in a care home, would be gratefully accepted.

She should be feeling guilty. Just say that you don’t care what she thinks as she didn’t help when mum needed her at home!

Hi Compass
Unfortunately relatives like your sister who pop in, criticise and leave, and who refuse to take on any of the day to day drudgery are far too common. On here we call them the “helicopter siblings”, they swoop in, cause pain and havoc and leave.

There’s no answer to it other than to develop a thick skin, sure in the knowledge you have done your best for Mum.

Of course, you could have Mum go live with her. If you suggest that I bet she runs a mile

To feel not so alone, put 'helicopter ’ in the forum search box and prepare to be amazed how many people have the same problem

((Hugs)) because Mum would be proud of you


Hi Mrs. Average,

Thanks for your prompt reply. It’s heartening, as a new member, to have such a supportive reply so quickly. I’ll look up, “Helicopter” to read what other people’s experiences have been. Thanks for the suggestion as I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Yes, I’m trying to keep my boundaries firm and let the comments bounce off my, “Magic Bubble” which I pop into when I need protection! Ha ha! One thing I’ve learnt is that I should not try to change my sister’s perspective with reason and logic. (One care home raised the issue with me that my sister was complaining about everything. “It’s a prison!” “The other patients are awful”. Naturally, they were upset at her comments.)

I have had to intervene both in hospitals and care homes to apologise for my sister’s behaviour as she’s caused such upset. Add to this, she views her approach as, ‘Correct’ being the elder sister and is very imperious with carers. Only yesterday, we had a small issue with damaged laundry and my sister’s response was the care home, “never talk to her to tell her anything.” I find them friendly and supportive. She’s coming at the problem from an emotional response, so we rarely find compromise.

One amusing incident was at the last care home, when I walked in on a carer helping Mum to dress. She glanced at me, (my sister and I look alike…agh!) and gave a sigh of relief as she said, “Oh good, I thought you were the other one!”

However, your advice to develop a thick skin is timely. I spend too much time trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and trying to find a compromise when we usually have opposing views.

Thanks for the reassurance that I can be content that I have tried my best for Mum and the virtual hug!

Thanks, Bowlingbun. I need to become more assertive, firm and let the comments bounce off. Good to know someone is out there!

I think be brutal and say that as you were doing the lions share of the caring then she opted out of the right to an opinion. if she felt robbed of your Mum’s home to visit her in she should have visited or done more to keep her there. Was she willing to move in?? I suspect not!

I think other people’s reactions to her speak volumes.

Be proud of the support you have given. You are doing the right thing

Thanks, Sally. Your comments are very supportive. I hadn’t been aware how much I needed some bolstering. I’m unexpectedly pooped now Mum’s in a home and I don’t have to keep on trying so hard. Beginning to relax and take some time for myself, I’ve suddenly acknowledged how depleted I’ve become over the years.

Hi Compass,
That’s a common feeling when the caring stops. Soldiering on regardless, because there is no other option, not looking after our own health and wellbeing, take a terrible toll on us. I liken it to falling over a “cliff of tiredness”.
It’s really tempting to think about doing something really active, but for the first few months let your body recharge it’s batteries, both mentally and physically.
Going away from home also makes you relax more and get away from the day to day stuff. Even just staying somewhere an hour’s drive away from home can be enjoyable. Lots of places this time of the year are busy at weekends, but quiet during the week. My neighbour has just booked a cheap midweek deal at Centre Parcs at Longleat.

Thanks, Bowlingbun. It’s good to be reminded it’s vital to take a break and recharge the batteries. Keeping up the energy reserves is critical in order to keep going!