Taking Care of Adult Siblings … where do you draw the boundary lines?

Everyone agrees that taking care of one’s parent(s) is a moral responsibility and duty. What about taking care of your adult siblings? Where do you draw the line in standing back or rushing in?

This past week was the moment in time which I really didn’t want to deal with. My parents live over an hour away in another state. Both of my parents are in the hospital. My father is in CCU in one hospital; my mother was placed in another hospital five miles away from where my father is.

As complex as that seems in time management to visit my parents, I also have to check in on my two disabled sisters. What an emotional roller coaster situation that was. I was met at the door with total emotional dependence from one and complacency from the other.

Let me tell you, I can take charge without direction. I collected my parents’ checkbooks and bills to take to my parents. I ran errands for my parents while they are incapacitated. I completed their laundry and put it away in their closets and drawers.

Since my parents have been in the hospital, neither of my sisters have cleaned up after themselves at home. It took me two days to clean the house. When I returned on the fourth day, someone dropped food on the kitchen floor and left it. I asked why neither of them didn’t clean it up. There wasn’t any answer other than neither of them wasn’t feeling well to clean up.

My older sister is intellectually disabled and has kidney failure which requires her to seek Dialysis treatment three times a week. She needs direction. Tell her what to do, she will get it done. But, she’ll never do it on her own instincts. She also smokes in the house and was told several times not to. It’s not a healthy environment for my parents who require oxygen. But, she won’t listen for reasons I don’t know. She believes that smoking in her room with the door closed doesn’t affect the rest of the house. When I left late one evening to return home, she was smoking in her room again even though I had politely re-explained the issue to her for the millionth time.

My younger sister, however, does nothing…especially when I’m there. I’m sure she’s thinking that if she stays out of my way, I’ll do everything that needs to be done. She’s right. If someone don’t take charge and do the work, nothing gets done. See the vicious circle that we have created?She was once so beautiful, brilliant, witty, and energetic. However, she currently suffers Chronic Illness, obesity, IBS, endometriosis, and the list goes on. She needs to make dietary changes and she won’t. To her, changing her diet means that she is being deprived. She doesn’t seem to understand that changing in order to feel better is winning. So why doesn’t she make the necessary changes?

For these emotionally fragile and sensitive individuals, I came across as high handed and not kind (so says my mother). On the long drive home Thursday evening, I pondered if my two sisters believe that when my parents are gone, their world won’t change… maybe just a change in their location from one state to another. Maybe they believe I’ll simply stand in for my parents and take care of them, driving them around, and giving them extra money to pay for their “wants.”

I love these two sisters as much as I love my brother and other, younger sister. They were my best friends when we were growing up. And, I miss the fun we had together. However…

…History has shown me that resistance to change is so much stronger than the will to change.


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