Caregiver Question | 07/13/23

My brother isn’t a good person and now I need to care for him   

DEAR CARALLEL: I don’t know another way to say it other than that that my brother isn’t a good person. Hard to believe I’m saying that about my sibling, but it’s the truth.

He’s never been violent or otherwise abusive, that’s not where I’m coming from. It’s just that he’s spent his entire adult life, and most of our childhood, thinking only about himself.

We’ve lived fifteen miles from each other forever but his connection to our family has been non-existent unless he needed something. No visits, not calls, no holidays–there’s been virtually no connection.

Nothing illustrates this more than the fact that he was nowhere to be found when our parents were sick and dying, yet he showed up when the estate was being settled and fought tooth and nail for everything he could get. What kind of person does that?

I made my peace with this long ago but the problem now is that he needs help. He’s got several serious health issues that leave him requiring daily care. And it’s only going to get worse as it’s clear that before too long, he’ll need care 24/7.

And guess who he’s turned to? Me. I’ve been helping him but I can barely stand it. Part of me does want to help. But a much bigger part of me doesn’t.

Even if he were grateful and kind now, which he’s not, I can’t get past the fact that he’s been absent for most of the last 50 years, and in the brief spells that he has been around, all he’s done is be out for himself.

I’m not sure I can do this. How would you handle it if you were in my position? — Lisette in Denver, CO

DEAR ROBERTA: What a difficult situation. My heart goes out to you.

I can only imagine how emotionally charged this must be for you and your default instinct to help says a lot. So no matter what decisions you make or what happens in the future, remember that you’re doing your best with what’s been put on your plate here.

I wish I had an “easy button” that I could tap to make this situation better for you, but unfortunately I don’t. So in lieu of that, here are a few points that you can consider food for thought.

Is clearing the air a possibility?
Without the details of his health conditions, it’s tough for me to know whether or not he’s capable of having a conversation that’s serious in nature like this one would be. And even if he is capable, I recognize it may be an uphill battle given what you’ve described about your brother’s personality. But have you spoken with him about your feelings?

I don’t expect this would be a cure-all but if it is a possibility, clearing the air or at least getting this off your chest could make helping him easier for you to stomach.

Not easy, but easier.

Remember that you’re not obligated to care for him
Every caregiving situation is intensely personal–filled with past and present family dynamics.

And as caregivers, it sometimes can be hard to remember that our physical and mental wellbeing is just as important as that of the person we’re caring for. So please remember that you’re not obligated to help him.

Which begs the question, are there other people in your brother’s life who can? Or would it be possible for him to hire someone?

It sounds like he’s burned a lot of bridges but I wonder if there are people that could pitch in a little bit. If so, they could possibly reduce the amount of time he requires of you or change your role from his direct care to perhaps something a bit more behind the scenes.

And every little bit helps.

Move him to a professional care setting
Helping your brother move to an assisted living or skilled nursing community is something to consider if there isn’t anyone who’s willing and able to help him.

If your brother has financial assets or long term care insurance, assisted living could be an option assuming they can provide the care he requires.

If his needs are more complex then you you’d have to look at a skilled nursing community. And if he has limited or no income, and limited or no assets, he’ll likely qualify for Medicaid–which could cover his long term care as long as the nursing community accepts Medicaid as a payor source.

So regardless of your brother’s financial and insurance situation, moving him to a professional care setting could be an opportunity for you to help him get the care he needs while also freeing you from the emotionally charged (and physical) challenge of providing it day-to-day. 

Like I said Lisette, I wish I had an “easy button” for you but in the absence of that, I hope this food for thought helps.

I will be thinking of you. 

–Jennifer, Carallel Care Advocate

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