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Why do we have siblings who won't help?

Wildwoodflower

Registered User
Sep 18, 2021
28
0
Does your sibling (or siblings) help with the care of your parent(s) with dementia?
Mine refuses to do anything to help beyond making a call to our mum one a week and sending her a hamper at Xmas.
There's no good reason for him not to help. He's very wealthy and semi-retired and with time on his hands for holidays and leisure pursuits aplenty. He lives in another country, but could easily be here, at the door, in three hours. Yet he hasn't seen our mother in years.
When I asked him directly to help so as to give me a break, he bluntly refused and threatened to make things difficult with mum's will when the time comes if I asked him again.
Of course, she dotes on him and has a million excuses for why he is absent.
Now, by any measure this makes him a pretty awful person and to be fair, he always has been, When we were children he was a bully. I have wondered were he to present himself, if he would meet the criteria for a diagnosis antisocial personality disorder or what is more commonly termed a sociopath. It's not that rare, around one in 33 men could meet those criteria.
Yet reading these boards it is clear that he is hardly unique and the number of siblings who refuse to help are far greater than the likely number of sociopaths. I went looking for academic research that might shed a little more light on why siblings refuse to help with care so often. There's not very much out there. Sibling relationships are very poorly researched compared to parental relationships.
It has set me wondering. When one child becomes the main carer:
- is it actually more common for other siblings to avoid helping than for them to help?
- how can this be explained? Could it be that sibling order and longstanding roles and gender expectations have an influence on capacities for empathy?
- is it cultural? Do other cultures share the care more fairly?
I'd love to find some data about this and I'm interested to know what your experiences have been.
 

Palerider

Registered User
Aug 9, 2015
3,182
0
North West
Does your sibling (or siblings) help with the care of your parent(s) with dementia?
Mine refuses to do anything to help beyond making a call to our mum one a week and sending her a hamper at Xmas.
There's no good reason for him not to help. He's very wealthy and semi-retired and with time on his hands for holidays and leisure pursuits aplenty. He lives in another country, but could easily be here, at the door, in three hours. Yet he hasn't seen our mother in years.
When I asked him directly to help so as to give me a break, he bluntly refused and threatened to make things difficult with mum's will when the time comes if I asked him again.
Of course, she dotes on him and has a million excuses for why he is absent.
Now, by any measure this makes him a pretty awful person and to be fair, he always has been, When we were children he was a bully. I have wondered were he to present himself, if he would meet the criteria for a diagnosis antisocial personality disorder or what is more commonly termed a sociopath. It's not that rare, around one in 33 men could meet those criteria.
Yet reading these boards it is clear that he is hardly unique and the number of siblings who refuse to help are far greater than the likely number of sociopaths. I went looking for academic research that might shed a little more light on why siblings refuse to help with care so often. There's not very much out there. Sibling relationships are very poorly researched compared to parental relationships.
It has set me wondering. When one child becomes the main carer:
- is it actually more common for other siblings to avoid helping than for them to help?
- how can this be explained? Could it be that sibling order and longstanding roles and gender expectations have an influence on capacities for empathy?
- is it cultural? Do other cultures share the care more fairly?
I'd love to find some data about this and I'm interested to know what your experiences have been.
The answer is no and my brother stopped caring when he realised there would be no monetary interest in my mum, sadly my sister who did what she could died two years ago and her funeral spelt out the indifference with my brother.

I think your questions warrant more than a thread on TP, they are profound questions and very fundamental ones that address the very frabric of who we are not only as a people but as a society. It would take a life time if not beyond to find answers to such broad questions. It has been said that God gave all the easy problems to the physicists, the questions you ask are not simple or by any means without some further research into many associated fields before coming back to not necessarily an answer but a partial solution. The bigger question is not the ones you have asked, but can human beings have the ability to answer the questions about their own existence?
 

Jaded'n'faded

Registered User
Jan 23, 2019
3,393
0
High Peak
You ask some interesting questions and I'm sure you will get lots of replies!

Caring duties do seem to fall mostly on one sibling and it's not necessarily the one who lives closest! It also tends to fall more on females (though there are obviously exceptions!) even when the PWD is an in law and not her own parent. (Same for childcare - equality has a long way to go...)

Why? I have no idea and can only blame family dynamics which as you say, are extremely complex. The relationship between siblings often remains as it was when we were children, even though we all grow up and change! That's certainly the case with my brother. He's a couple of years older, was always a bully and really, still hasn't forgiven me for something (god knows what) that I did when I was 11. Or 6 or 14 or whatever it may have been - I have no idea. He does not accept me as an adult and probably never will. (I am 62!) We've actually had very little contact since our late teens so the truth is, we really don't know each other very well. Mum gave us both Power of Attorney and made both executors of her will, many years before dementia set in. But of course, when the time came, he thought he should be 'in charge' because he was older and - apparently - mum and dad had made him promise never to discuss their affairs with me!!! Well, that's odd, because dad (died 25 years ago) certainly did discuss his affairs - pension, savings and financial investments with me and mum was forever showing me her tax returns, bank statements, telling me how much her shares had increased, etc etc.

In later years, mum (with undiagnosed early dementia) hated speaking to him because, she told me, he was difficult and she never knew what to say to him. She'd add, 'It's not like talking to you - I can talk to you for hours and we always have a laugh! He has no sense of humour,' etc. Brother refused to listen when I told him mum had dementia and ridiculed me instead.

I had to move mum to a care home. Brother and I live about 5 hours apart. He thought it was perfectly reasonable to look for a CH that was halfway between us. That would be in a place that neither of us knew and neither of us could get to easily. Stupid. He tried hard to control the finances and not let me have access. I had to threaten him with the OPG before he caved. He wasn't doing anything he shouldn't, just thought I shouldn't be privy to mum's finances. He visited mum in her CH 3 times in 3 years.

It's very hard to unravel a toxic sibling relationship that has existed that way for years. There seems to be a lot of (pointless) point-scoring and settling of old grievances involved, that often gets in the way of acting in the PWD's best interests.

My only other explanation is that some siblings are just nasty, bullying, annoying, inadequate, selfish, arrogant and generally useless. Maybe they were just born that way... :)
 

Palerider

Registered User
Aug 9, 2015
3,182
0
North West
You ask some interesting questions and I'm sure you will get lots of replies!

Caring duties do seem to fall mostly on one sibling and it's not necessarily the one who lives closest! It also tends to fall more on females (though there are obviously exceptions!) even when the PWD is an in law and not her own parent. (Same for childcare - equality has a long way to go...)

Why? I have no idea and can only blame family dynamics which as you say, are extremely complex. The relationship between siblings often remains as it was when we were children, even though we all grow up and change! That's certainly the case with my brother. He's a couple of years older, was always a bully and really, still hasn't forgiven me for something (god knows what) that I did when I was 11. Or 6 or 14 or whatever it may have been - I have no idea. He does not accept me as an adult and probably never will. (I am 62!) We've actually had very little contact since our late teens so the truth is, we really don't know each other very well. Mum gave us both Power of Attorney and made both executors of her will, many years before dementia set in. But of course, when the time came, he thought he should be 'in charge' because he was older and - apparently - mum and dad had made him promise never to discuss their affairs with me!!! Well, that's odd, because dad (died 25 years ago) certainly did discuss his affairs - pension, savings and financial investments with me and mum was forever showing me her tax returns, bank statements, telling me how much her shares had increased, etc etc.

In later years, mum (with undiagnosed early dementia) hated speaking to him because, she told me, he was difficult and she never knew what to say to him. She'd add, 'It's not like talking to you - I can talk to you for hours and we always have a laugh! He has no sense of humour,' etc. Brother refused to listen when I told him mum had dementia and ridiculed me instead.

I had to move mum to a care home. Brother and I live about 5 hours apart. He thought it was perfectly reasonable to look for a CH that was halfway between us. That would be in a place that neither of us knew and neither of us could get to easily. Stupid. He tried hard to control the finances and not let me have access. I had to threaten him with the OPG before he caved. He wasn't doing anything he shouldn't, just thought I shouldn't be privy to mum's finances. He visited mum in her CH 3 times in 3 years.

It's very hard to unravel a toxic sibling relationship that has existed that way for years. There seems to be a lot of (pointless) point-scoring and settling of old grievances involved, that often gets in the way of acting in the PWD's best interests.

My only other explanation is that some siblings are just nasty, bullying, annoying, inadequate, selfish, arrogant and generally useless. Maybe they were just born that way... :)
And so all kinds of theories exist, none of which are proven though @Jaded'n'faded gives an experience not an answer, to be fair my brother was equally nasty to my mum and then to me, but it doesn't explain the why?
 

Rosettastone57

Registered User
Oct 27, 2016
1,741
0
My husband and his sister throughout childhood and during adulthood were emotionally abused by their mother . She had mental health issues which gradually morphed into dementia. Both siblings decided many years before the dementia diagnosis that they would never under any circumstances have hands on care for their mother. The sister moved abroad and had no contact with her mother for 20 years until my mother in law passed away and there was inheritance involved then she flew back to the UK.

My husband put necessary care in place for his mother but had as little to do with her as possible. My mother in law was self funding so social services never got involved . I took over the day to day running of her money and organising the care. Eventually she went into care and passed away after a few weeks. Other family members had nothing to do with her either . My husband and his sister didn't even have a funeral just a direct cremation for her and no mourners at all. The sister wasn't prepared to spend any money on her mother's funeral, such was the extent of the hurt she had received from her mother. My husband admitted that he didn't love his mother, he provided care out of a sense of duty
 

Palerider

Registered User
Aug 9, 2015
3,182
0
North West
My husband and his sister throughout childhood and during adulthood were emotionally abused by their mother . She had mental health issues which gradually morphed into dementia. Both siblings decided many years before the dementia diagnosis that they would never under any circumstances have hands on care for their mother. The sister moved abroad and had no contact with her mother for 20 years until my mother in law passed away and there was inheritance involved then she flew back to the UK.

My husband put necessary care in place for his mother but had as little to do with her as possible. My mother in law was self funding so social services never got involved . I took over the day to day running of her money and organising the care. Eventually she went into care and passed away after a few weeks. Other family members had nothing to do with her either . My husband and his sister didn't even have a funeral just a direct cremation for her and no mourners at all. The sister wasn't prepared to spend any money on her mother's funeral, such was the extent of the hurt she had received from her mother. My husband admitted that he didn't love his mother, he provided care out of a sense of duty
Thanks @Rosettastone57 this is another side of the same coin, I think given the story its understandable why a sibling might not want to get too involved after emotional abuse, but they still did what they could depsite it and they should be reognised for that -but it doesn't answer the question you asked @Wildflowerlady
 

Wildflowerlady

Registered User
Sep 30, 2019
948
0
Thanks @Rosettastone57 this is another side of the same coin, I think given the story its understandable why a sibling might not want to get too involved after emotional abuse, but they still did what they could depsite it and they should be reognised for that -but it doesn't answer the question you asked @Wildflowerlady
I think you may have meant to refer to the poster Wildwoodflower @Palerider nevertheless I too have a sister that I had lots of problems with for many many years. We both cared for our dad that had mixed dementia and passed away in January last year. My sister and I got to the point where we could not communicate she couldn't be civil over anything with me no matter how much I tried to get along with her. Once things were sorted after dad had passed we stopped speaking so I no longer have contact with her.
 

CAL Y

Registered User
Jul 17, 2021
354
0
I don’t really want to appear sexist but in a lot of these posts we see, over and over again the sense of male entitlement.
In the case of my brother, he was the “golden child “ , at last, a boy after three girls but who had to do all the work?
Disclaimer here, not me because I live 300 miles away but my brother lived 2 streets away and still expected my sisters to do everything, which they did.
One sister had to work but still expected to do a 45 minute drive, the other sister, a non driver used to get 3 buses to our parents house.
 

Scarlet Lady

Registered User
Apr 6, 2021
225
0
@Palerider , I completely agree. I am very lucky. I have one brother who is completely unlike me. Yet we have always (apart from when we were very small children) been soulmates. We have had each other’s backs all our lives and I hope it will always be this way. We acted as one in dealing with our parents decline and subsequent deaths and have done so with my aunt’s recent death (even though I am the sole beneficiary, there is no jealousy or envy on my brother’s part).
I do think it comes down to upbringing. My wonderful father, who was an only child of parents who were invalids quite early in life, treated my brother and I as equals, even though we were quite different individuals. My dad was quite a ‘renaissance’ man (for the 1950s) who quietly dealt with my very difficult mother and two children who were very unlike each other. We were brought up with the idea that family was incredibly important and that has remained. Sadly, our wider family (cousins, etc) don’t seem to share this ethos and that’s been a disappointment.
I don’t know what to say to all those folks out there on the forum who are having such difficulties with their siblings, other than I’m so sorry it has to be that way for you.
 

Lawson58

Registered User
Aug 1, 2014
2,887
0
Victoria, Australia
People are just ordinary human beings, many good, some bad and some downright awful.

To answer your questions is to examine all the complications of our family relationships and our society.

Some people are just plain selfish and others are downright lazy. And some don’t give a hoot. I think that people these days are a lot more selfish and that we as a society have lost a sense of community, that sense of a village where we all knew each other. Then we could leave our doors unlocked when we went out without the fear of being robbed. Now we have family members who would be quite happy to rob their elders just by going to the bank.

I think two important aspects are gender based and loss of extended families who all lived together as a normal part of their life. Women have largely had the caring roles and I think it is still expected that they should step up when care has to be extended to parents. While there are some wonderful men who have done sterling service in caring for parents and partners, there are plenty who have no idea, are afraid of what they might have to do and cannot cope with the outdated sense of stigma attached to the word dementia. Women too.

People don’t understand the concepts of kindness, compassion and responsibility to each other as a community.
 

MaNaAk

Registered User
Jun 19, 2016
7,933
0
Essex
People are just ordinary human beings, many good, some bad and some downright awful.

To answer your questions is to examine all the complications of our family relationships and our society.

Some people are just plain selfish and others are downright lazy. And some don’t give a hoot. I think that people these days are a lot more selfish and that we as a society have lost a sense of community, that sense of a village where we all knew each other. Then we could leave our doors unlocked when we went out without the fear of being robbed. Now we have family members who would be quite happy to rob their elders just by going to the bank.

I think two important aspects are gender based and loss of extended families who all lived together as a normal part of their life. Women have largely had the caring roles and I think it is still expected that they should step up when care has to be extended to parents. While there are some wonderful men who have done sterling service in caring for parents and partners, there are plenty who have no idea, are afraid of what they might have to do and cannot cope with the outdated sense of stigma attached to the word dementia. Women too.

People don’t understand the concepts of kindness, compassion and responsibility to each other as a community.
I wonder what happens when these people are forced into the caring role?

MaNaAk
 

B72

Registered User
Jul 21, 2018
304
0
A side issue on this thread:

When our father had a stroke which left him with severe disabilities, my brother was no help, but our older sister was also totally passive, only did things after I had, wouldn’t take the lead (she was much older, and people looked to her as ‘the leader’).

When she was old, had had a stroke, and dementia, her husband and children were just the same to her. A number of times I had to point out there were issues with her health, medication which needed action, some quite serious. (Probably not appreciated.) I realised they were a totally passive family, who left things ‘to the doctors’ as long as possible. Only initiated things after it was pointed out to them , (if ever). It had nothing to do with her relationship with our father.
 

Jaded'n'faded

Registered User
Jan 23, 2019
3,393
0
High Peak
There seems to be a lot of denial in these situations but invisible siblings seem to use this to their advantage, i.e. if I deny there's an issue then I don't have to do anything.

Is it simply that they really don't want to do it? I'm sure most of us have strategies for getting out of things we don't want to do! (I know I do...) Looking after a person with dementia is immensely hard work and sometimes very difficult and/or upsetting. I didn't want to do it. I didn't have to do any hands-on stuff because mum went from home, to hospital then straight to a care home. I only have a small house so she couldn't have come here, but even if I owned a mansion I wouldn't have invited her to live with me. We've never had a good relationship or been close so it would not have worked. My brother has 2 spare rooms though and I don't recall him offering. But I didn't expect him to do anything I wouldn't do so that was fine...

In trying to understand, I've been thinking how I would have felt if the decision had been made to put mum in a home near him rather than near me. Would I have minded? Would I have been grateful? Would I have been relieved to get out of the responsibility? The answers are that no, I would not have minded. I'm afraid I had no wish to look after mum and did so out of duty really, and because 'somebody' had to do it! But what occurs to me most is that I would not have had a clue about what it means to visit a PWD every week for 3 years, the responsibility, the feeling of being on edge and waiting for a phone call all the time. I would not have understood the constant worry or the actual trauma of visiting a care home full of very sick people and seeing our mum deteriorate every week. (And getting all the grief/anger/blame from mum!)

When I think of it this way, I can actually see why brother just didn't 'get it'. Unless you are there and doing it yourself, you really don't understand what it's like. Then your invisible makes a rare flying visit and tells you, 'She seemed OK to me...' Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhhh!
 

jennifer1967

Registered User
Mar 15, 2020
12,552
0
Southampton
my sister tended to volunteer me. i wasnt speaking to any of them when my sister knocked the door and told me something was very wrong with my mum. my mum had breast cancer that had spread to her brain among other places. it was like dementia in that she couldnt be left, wondered why people she saw through the window werent talking to her, hated noise, forgot what shed watched on tv, forgotten she eaten. i got the doctor. i sat with her, adapted her dishes. she would spill milk over the top of her bowl of cereal so i got a bigger dish and not put so much in. she had problem with dressing. the list goes on. i didnt want to particularly but did it as no-one else could. my sister had just had her 4th child. mum died at 57 when her heart gave up.
i will be an "invisible" if my dad ever needs looking after. not spoke to him for many years and not prepared to do anything for him. my sister has a choice, do it herself or pay for someone else to do. her deserves nothing from me.
 

RosettaT

Registered User
Sep 9, 2018
807
0
Mid Lincs
My brother is what I call a 'worker ant' or 'second in command' type of person. Will follow instructions to the letter but doesn't use his initiative. It's almost as tho' he just doesn't see what needs doing or how someone has declined until it's pointed out to him.
 

jugglingmum

Registered User
Jan 5, 2014
6,336
0
Chester
I am dealing with my mum with an absent brother.

In my case my brother does very little, he visited mum last month, first time since Dec 2019 (or maybe Dec 2018 - communication is not a skill set he is good at). Other than that he does nothing, not even enquiring about her.

We weren't really communicating prior to mum's crisis in 2013 due to his poor behaviour towards myself and my family when he visited.

He does have long term depression but ultimately he is and with hindsight always has been a very self centered person, who does what he wants when he wants (unsurprisingly his relationship broke down and his eldest child (age 15) doesn't keep contact, his younger one does for now)

Therefore I moved mum near me, supported her in extra care housing, doing her shopping, taking her to appointments, cleared her house to some extent, 7 hour round trip from me (4 hour round trip for brother who was unemployed so had the time whilst I juggled work and childcare), I've now moved her to a care home, and am clearing her flat. Brother hasn't got a clue how much time this takes out of my week when I am working, with child taxi services as well. ie I have no spare time to start with.

On the very very minor plus side he does 'get' dementia, when so many don't (including OH), and does apologise for not doing anything and does appreciate what I do, I still resent him big time but at least he doesn't disagree with anything I have done, and when I do keep him informed he provides positive support. Trouble is what I actually need is hands on deck support.