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When you were the sole carer for your mum or dad before they died….and your brothers or sisters did nothing

When you were the sole carer for your mum or dad before they died….and your siblings did nothing

I wrote this post last week about dealing with the death of your parent when you were their carer.  What I didn’t get into was another big part of this equation that can be incredibly difficult and this is when you feel like you kind of got the job forced on you and your sibling/s didn’t help out at all.

This dynamic can create real disappointment, anger, bitterness within families….and has been known to split relationships.

So there are a couple of things to think about if you’ve been in this situation.

I’ve rarely come across, in this scenario, a sibling that didn’t contribute anything.  So if it wasn’t the hands-on time, then what were they helping with?  Were they contributing more financially? Were they dealing a lot more with doctors and hospitals?  Were they sorting out the paperwork or dealing with the lawyers?  Were they stirring things up with the NHS?  Sometimes your siblings would have been doing things that you thought were completely unhelpful but that they felt were necessary, so their intention was to help out, even if you didn’t experience it that way.  I know you took on the bulk of the physical work and that the time commitment was great, but often they have been contributing in some way, in their own way.

The next thing to think about very carefully is whether you truly got forced into this position. Often it’s a combination between having the job thrust on you AND you taking more and more and more responsibility.  Often the ‘child’ that ends up as the carer is also the one who, over time, took on the job.  More often than not they are also the best person for the job.

I’ve met many people who ended up as carer to their elderly parent, felt angry with their siblings (for not taking the job), angry at their parent (for needing so much), and angry at themselves (for taking on all this responsibility).  And often they end up taking all this out on their sibling/s – as these are the easiest of the three to be angry with.

Now ask yourself this question…and think carefully before you answer?  Would you have trusted your siblings with the responsibilities you had? Would you actually, really have been able to hand the job over to them and walk away, had they offered to take over?

In almost every dynamic like this I have encountered the sibling who becomes primary carer understands that they are the best person for the job and, quite frankly, wouldn’t really trust anyone else to do it.

As someone who was a carer for several years, I know that the reality is often that you were a darn good carer, you actually enjoyed it a lot, had far more time with your parent than anyone else (even if you didn’t want it sometimes), and wouldn’t have really trusted anyone else with the job anyway, but that you also just got tired, frustrated and resentful sometimes.  And that though you often thought you wished you didn’t have to do this….the reality was a little different.

Ask yourself this -as hard as it was, if you could go back in time and never take on the job, would you?


Hope October 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I really appreciate this post. I was the sole caregiver to my mom. It was a choice that I made and would choose it all over again. My relationship has been altered with my sibling over it. Not because I was resentful for not having help, but because he felt that my focus should be on things other than my mother. I still don’t understand it. What do you do when your sibling resents you for helping a parent they don’t think deserves the help because their illness was caused by addiction?

Kristie West October 16, 2011 at 9:08 am

Hi Hope,
it’s an interesting question. Here is the first thing that comes to mind. In my experience adult children, whether they want to do it or not, or think their parent deserves it or not, feel an obligation to look after their ageing or unwell parent. The decision not to, even though it is often what is best, can be a guilty one – albeit a secret guilt.
Realistically why should it bother your sibling how you choose to live? I would imagine that you are pushing the button in them that feels guilty for not getting involved and helping. Not to say they should have – we tend to have a painful amount of unnecessary obligation and responsibility when it comes to our parents….but this it what might be happening. Had you not been helping either your sibling may have felt less guilty about making that choice.
Does that click for you at all?

Hope October 19, 2011 at 2:19 am

It does. I truly believe it’s a combination of guilt and anger. I hope that someday he will be able to let go of all of that. I just can’t let it be at my expense. Thanks for your thoughts. They are appreciated

Indifference hurts. April 29, 2012 at 10:26 am

I lived at home with my 90 year old mom. We were best friends. Mom became ill and bed ridden quickly. By default I became the sole carer 24/7 BUT would have done it anyway out of love. I was left to it and got no help. Mom died recently. I feel bitter towards those who talked but did not act. My heart is broken over my beautiful mom and am I distressed and desperately lonely now. I draw great comfort from the fact that I did my very best for mom and time will never change that truth. She thanked me for that before she died. My conscience is clear and that counts for a lot.