Dilemma: My brother is happy to tell me what to do, but won't put his suggestions into action himself

Dawn French / 30 September 2019

A reader consults Dawn French on what to do about her brother who insists on giving instructions on the phone but won't travel to help out.

Dilemma: My brother advises on Mum - from a distance

I live very close to my mother, who is in her nineties and somewhat frail. 

My brother lives hundreds of miles away and sees Mum very rarely, but he’s always phoning me to suggest I should do this, that or the other with Mum.

I find his interfering from afar unbelievably annoying. I also have my own life to live, which he seems to forget. 

How can I get him to either come and help more himself or to butt out?

Dilemma: I resent having to spend my retirement caring for my parents

Dawn's advice

First of all, it’s a bit good that he is at least calling, however irritating, it shows he is connected. I’m also wondering whether the frequency of the calls might be a reflection of how helpless and guilty he might be feeling. I know you would have to be feeling extra kind to allow either of the above, but I’ve decided to regard you as extremely benevolent - saintly, even.

I think you could call him, and say something like, ‘Hi, it’s me, your gorgeous sis, just wanted to say thanks for all your ideas about mum. They are really good suggestions for the most part, but you are so far away, and I don’t really know how to implement them, so I’m wondering if you might come up (down?) and show me what you mean, in person? I’d find that really helpful, and I’m sure Mum would too. We can try out your ideas together and Mum will see us working jointly to give her the most excellent care we can. She’d love that. I know we have tough times ahead, and quite honestly, I need my brother right now. We’re siblings, in it together, right?’ 

Emphasise how important he is to both you and your darlin’ ma. Try to massively include him. You need him to butt in, not out. Perhaps then he might consider how difficult it all is for you.

Of course, if that doesn’t work, simply wheel your nonagenarian mother to his door and leave her there for him to find. I don’t mean that you should be cruel; you would of course leave a cover over her in case the weather should become inclement.

I’m not a heartless savage.

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Need your dilemma answered by Dawn French, Saga's resident agony aunt? Email in to web.editor@saga.co.uk and we'll pass your question on!
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