The real problem is she has positioned herself as my mother’s sole caregiver. She takes over-the-top good physical care. However, if Mother does not agree to something, E becomes enraged, gets in her face, teeth gritting until Mother gives up. My sister is essentially a bully. She is the same with me but on a different level and has threatened physical harm several times to the point I cannot see my mother. In other words, I have to stay away because Mother ends up feeling she has to choose. I have called the police but did not file a report because Morher was scared they would put my sister in jail. At 54, E has no children, has no husband, and has never bought a car, a house, etc.; My mother is her world and she has given up her life by choice to be Mother’s caregiver.
Now Mother has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I believe the stress of living with E has exacerbated the disease and she will decline more quickly. She chooses to stay with E because she wants to remain as independent as she can as long as possible, and that means being home and having E help care for her. Lately, she says things that E has brainwashed her to believe. E has Mother convinced that I want her in jail and mother in a nursing home and that I want to take all the money. E hates me because I went to college, have a job, and have a husband and four children. She tells me she hates me.
Any advice? I would like to get a mediator to intervene and make E get treatment. (She doesn’t believe in medicine at all. And I am the devil for taking Wellbutrin.) At this rate, my mother and I do not have a relationship because E is paranoid, delusional, and frantic. She sleeps very little and is very anxious. She is a time bomb. — Worried for Mom
This is a really sad situation, and I’m sorry that it has left you with no relationship with your mother at the moment. This is not my area of expertise by any means, and I would advise you to seek the guidance of a family attorney. You’ll want to figure out — either before you confer with an attorney or with his or her help — what your goals are, and what the order of their priority is. I would imagine that goals include: obtaining a Power of Attorney (if one hasn’t been granted yet); getting your mother better care (which could mean improving the management of E’s mental health and/or hiring an outside caregiver to supplement E’s “help” or moving your mother into a home where assistance is provide); improving your relationship with your mother; improving your relationship with your sister; helping your mother plan her estate.
You say E hates you, so talking with her about your concerns may not be possible or practical, but if it is, or if there’s anyone you both trust besides your mother (your spouse, another family member, a close friend of your mother’s), who can speak on your behalf about your concern for your mother’s (and your sister’s) well-being, enlist this person’s help. Explain that you are worried that your mother’s condition has advanced to a point that she needs additional help — that her needs are too great for only one person to meet them. If money allows — and this is where talking to a family attorney will be helpful — you would like for a part-time caregiver to be hired to supplement E’s caregiving and provide some relief in her schedule so that she can preserve some energy for the road ahead. If there’s no way to get this message across to E in a way that she embraces, you’ll need the help of a lawyer.
You’ve got a lot on your plate, and you’re essentially dealing with two close family members who likely are not in their “right minds.” That your mother is so easily brainwashed by your sister to the point that you have zero relationship with her anymore suggests that her mental capabilities have been weakened or threatened, either by mental illness, an age-related illness, or something else. This isn’t your fault, and it’s not really their fault either. I know it’s agonizing, but you have to try not to take any of this personally. You may find support with an organization called NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which has a section on their website ffor family members and a helpline you can call for additional support.
Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do to help your mother or your sister. You need to prepare yourself for that and take whatever steps are necessary to protect and care for yourself, your spouse, and your four kids. My grandfather was in a very similar position to yours, and though I was too young to understand the situation at the time, and to this day I don’t know all the details, I have to imagine that he (and my grandmother) felt a similar sense of helplessness. My understanding was that they did all the could, short of devoting their entire lives to the matter, and while not everyone’s part of the family story ended happily, my grandfather (who was essentially in your role) raised his four children, enjoyed his six grandchildren, and even met a great-grandchild before he died, peacefully, shortly after his 90th birthday, with fond memories of the mother and sister he couldn’t manage to save from themselves and at least not noticeably scarred by however those relationships may have affected him.
I say all this as a reminder that you are not alone in what you’re going through, and that, as painful as it may be, it’s only a part of your story. It’s not fair that your sister resents you for all you have — a college education, a spouse, four kids — but you did get dealt the better hand, and the best you can do is appreciate all your blessings and forgive your sister for the limitations she can’t help and the effect those limitations have had on your relationship with her and your mother.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.