ARTICLES & ANSWERS
Senior Life and Jennifer Meagher RN are featured on the WHEC News 10 website: www.WHEC.com. Jennifer answers
questions from people like you and writes an article as well. She’s been writing for News 10 since 2007.
The most common questions asked of Senior Life are about life planning; options, costs and decisions. These letters and
articles outline some of the considerations. Need more information? Book a consultation for complete information for
CRITICAL BROTHERS AND LONG DISTANCE FAMILIES
My problem is not with my parents; they are great. It’s my brothers that drive me nuts. I am the only female in my family. My brothers act like it’s my birthright to be the one who cares for our parents. I do everything. Absolutely everything. My brothers both live over 2 hours away. When they get off the phone with my parents, they call me right up to ask me why I’m not doing more for them. Really? When they come into town, they kick back. I’ve asked them to help with bigger projects and they have the nerve to tell me that they are on vacation!!!! I ask when I get my vacation, and they tell me I don’t have it so bad. I’m ready to burst. My parents don’t drive, so I take them everywhere. I’m the one who takes time off from work to get them to the doctor. I’m the one who gets their groceries. My husband and I help take care of their yard. I really am happy to help my folks, but my brother’s entitled attitudes make me crazy. My husband is getting furious. I hope you print this, because I need suggestions and I really like your advice.
In the words of the great Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do what you feel in your heart is right, for you will be criticized anyway.” Concentrate your energy on your parents and set boundaries with your brothers. Plan what you will say to your brothers and stick to it. Here are some examples:
“I’m doing all I can, if you want more done, I’d love your help.” These words are repeated and repeated. Your brothers say you should do something. You say you’re doing all you can (in a calm voice.) Your brothers try again to say something you should do. You say you would love it if they could do that for you. Keep in mind: you can’t have an argument if one of you doesn’t argue. You won’t feel ordered about, if you don’t accept the orders. But what if your brothers are relentless? Try this: “If we can’t talk about something else, I’m going to have to disconnect. I love you. I’ll call you another time.” Then hang up and keep your promise; call back the next day. Be prepared with your lines, if your brothers get mad at you. “I’m doing all I can. I really mean it that I’d love your help.” And repeat as above. Then turn the table; call your brothers and ask them when they are coming to town and what a help it will be for them to (name a chore or task.) In this way, you didn’t accept their orders. You had the conversation under your control, and you asked them for help before they started telling you what else you should be doing. I anticipate they may not like this turn around in you, but with firm kindness they will come around.
LONG DISTANCE FAMILIES
I’ve worked with families where the “kids” live in France, Israel, Alaska, Oregon, California and Colorado to name a few locations. And the elder parents are here. They won’t move. This is where they have always lived and worked. Their friends are here. And they don’t want to be a burden.
When the family calls, they always say they are fine. And that’s a worry, because everything can’t be fine all the time. Or, they explain that one of them fell, or they saw the doctor about their blood pressure and are taking a new medication that makes them dizzy.
Sometimes long distance families come into town once a year. Sometimes they are here once every other month or so. Travel is costly. Time away from work is difficult. The kids want to be with their parents, but want to be home too. And if something happens to change a parent’s health, long distance family wonder when they should come, because if they come now, they can’t come again right away.
Part of the reason elders don’t move is because the process seems overwhelming. There’s the house, and the issue of doctors and insurance coverage and it’s not “just the house,” it’s all the things in it and being frightened of starting over in an entirely new place. Let alone the worry of travelling to the new location and navigating an airport or being near a bathroom and worry about an accident. And what about taking pills on time? The elder thinks it is all too much.
These families need a surrogate. This could be via a companion service, or a visitor from the church, or a geriatric care manager. These families do best if there are trustworthy eyes and ears helping track parent’s needs. How wonderful if someone goes along to doctor appointments and gives the long distance family report, and reminds the elder of the doctor’s instructions. If the elder goes into the hospital, how nice that someone was able to physically get there to find out what is going on and to advocate. Line someone up.