My Brothers Just Don’t Get It: Caregiving with Siblings

Everybody’s busy, so why was Teresa Marston the only one of the three siblings to help their mom when she needed it?
Posted by The Arbors on Apr 26, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Daughter giving her mother a hug and smile

Teresa Marston* knows her brothers love their mother, Rose*, and that they care about her a tremendous amount — so why was she the only one doing anything to help?

Busy, Busy, Busy

A full-time working mom of a 17-year-old, Marston has a lot going on. Her brother who lives in town had just gotten married, and her other brother lives 900 miles away from Boston in Indianapolis. Everyone is busy.

But when Rose started having a harder time at home — the house the siblings grew up in — Marston knew something had to change.

“She was having a hard time getting up and down the stairs,” Marston says. “She had health issues. She lived on a main street, and backing in and out got hard. She was just having a lot of difficulties. She was asking us to come around more often — you do that anyway with your mom — but she just needed more help.”

When Rose’s medical and mobility issues worsened, Marston started looking for an independent living community closer to where she lived. Marston wanted her mom to still be independent but have more support systems around her.

Taking Care of Everything to Move to Independent Living

For Rose to be able to afford independent living, she had to sell the family home. After putting it on the market, it sold quickly, much quicker than Marston anticipated, so there was a mad dash to have an estate sale, hire movers, and find the right independent living community.

“I pretty much did it all myself,” Marston says. “My brothers resented the fact that I did it. So does my mother. She blames me, but truthfully, she would have hurt herself if she stayed at home. She would have fallen down the stairs and nobody would have been around to know the difference.”

“It caused a tremendous amount of stress and emotions,” Marston continues. “My brothers had their chance to come and help, but they chose not to be involved until the very end. I was the closest to her. I think they were in denial.”

Marston’s brother came in from Indiana the week before Rose moved to help her pack.

“But he really just complained that things were disorganized. Why was I rushing her? I didn't have a choice. The house sold. Had we not taken that sale, who knows if we would have sold it later. She was moving into independent living. You buy into the condo. The only way for her to do that was to get the cash for her house and exchange it. There was no choice from a financial perspective.”

What made it even more frustrating was that Marston knew things didn’t have to be like this. Her husband had recently navigated caregiving with his sisters, and it went smoothly. “They all agreed and were supportive,” she says. “That doesn't happen in every family and that did not happen in my family. My brothers tried to be helpful, but it actually caused friction.”

Endless Transitions in Senior Living

Rose lived in the independent living community for three years. It still wasn’t her home, but she adjusted OK. Then her medical problems started to develop more, and she was going back and forth between the community and the hospital frequently. Eventually, the community said Rose wasn’t independent anymore.

That’s when Marston started looking into assisted living. It was harder than Marston anticipated. Regulations vary from state to state, and Marston wanted to find a place that could meet her mother’s care needs.

“It’s really hard to find the right place,” she says. “There are different levels of care at each place. It’s eye-opening as you start to visit these places. You have to figure out where your parent is and then where they can get their needs meet.”

And Marston was trying to do all that assisted living research while working full time as a health care consultant.

“Being a caregiver is pretty much a full-time job,” she says. “I’m also her power of attorney and her health care power of attorney. Besides paying her bills, I do her taxes. I need to do everything. It’s very stressful. It’s very emotional. It’s really tough.”

Finding Respite Care

After bouncing between the hospital and a skilled nursing rehab facility, Rose transitioned to respite care at The Arbors at Stoughton.

For Marston, it’s a better fit for her mom than the independent living community.

“She came from a place that’s more of a big resort hotel-type setting,” Marston says. “There were 400 people there. It's overwhelming. The Arbors is much more homey. It’s much more of a small community.

“Karen [Reardon, Marketing Director at The Arbors at Stoughton] is very hands-on with her residents,” she continues. “At other places, they aren't. If you have 400 people, how could they? That's what I liked about it. They try to build a relationship right off the bat.”

These days, Marston’s brothers are still pretty hands-off.

“My younger brother who lives in the area also really believed that my mother needed to move, but he wasn’t involved in the process at all. Now he has a four-year-old. He lives too far and is in a different stage of his life,” she says. “My brother that doesn’t live here — he cares a tremendous amount about my mother, but he doesn't live here. He doesn't understand.”

Fortunately, the team at The Arbors has been supportive.

“Karen is wonderful,” Marston says. “She is really trying to meet my mom’s needs and understand her personality. I think my mother really appreciated that. I felt really comfortable there. I feel the ease and peace of mind that she is there.”

If you, like Marston, are struggling to get support from your siblings, download our eBook Brothers and Sisters: A Guide to Resolving Sibling Conflict When Making Assisted Living Decisions.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Resolving sibling conflict when making assisted living decisions

Topics: Caregiver & Family Resources