Dilemma: my siblings don't help look after our sick mother

Jo Brand / 29 December 2016

A reader feels lumbered with caring for her sick mother with no help from her siblings.

Dilemma: I feel like I'm looking after my mother by myself

I'm one of three children and, as I am single with no children, am taking the lion's share of looking after my beloved mother, who really isn't well. 

I've moved in with her to keep an eye on her overnight. But I have a sister and a brother living very close who, because they have young families, are not really piling in. I'm doing 90% of the caring, and I work full time, and feel a bit like Cinderella. 

I know their children have needs but each has an 'other half' to help with that. How can I broach asking them for more help?

Jo Brand's advice

Let’s start by looking at this with a pragmatic eye. If asked about your situation, you probably know as well as I do that 99% of respondents would say it’s the best solution, as you are the one who is able to give up their time. However, it’s understandable that you are boiling away inside with the resentment of the reluctant martyr and a fairer solution is called for.

I think it’s a good idea to to have a bit of a lateral think about this. People with no kids and parents find it very hard to understand each other’s point of view and in some ways it’s not even worth trying. Let’s just say a big time commitment on the part of your siblings isn’t going be practical, so how about exploring the following possibilities…

1. Ask them to commit a weekend or two a month between them. One night each to give you a break.

2. If your siblings are reasonably well off, how about them clubbing together to pay for a live-in carer a couple of nights a week until your mother is better? Alternatively you could find a nearby place where your mother could perhaps stay a couple of times a week.

3. How about fitting an alarm system? If you are nearby that could mean you could be available, but not have to be there permanently. And your siblings could be part of this. You do not say what level of care your mother requires, so this may not be practical.

4. Have a look at what local charities have to offer in terms of support. You may be pleasantly surprised.

And as far as broaching the subject is concerned, try and discuss in the least resentful way you can manage. “I know you work hard,” I know the children are a full time job.” Acknowledge the busy-ness of their lives. 

Unless your siblings are completely heartless, they will have realised you are taking on most of the burden. I do hope they are reasonable about it.

Read more of Jo Brand's down-to-earth advice

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