Waltzing Into Town

My brother and sister-in-law arrive in two days for the holidays. They bring lots of gifts and act like guests. Neither one does much to help my Dad while they are here. Most of the care giving is still done by me. I am sick and tired of them doing virtually nothing. What should I do?


Dear Anne:

I think the Holidays are the most stressful time of year for families. Time together is so precious, so limited, so important. I am glad to hear that you are “sick and tired” of your brother’s behaviour. It is only when we are at “breaking points” that we often express our true feelings. Here is what I suggest:

-Call you brother today and tell him that you need him to help more while he is in town.

-Ask your brother to meet you early on in his visit. At this meeting you need to be honest about how you feel, how you feel taken advantage of, and how things have got to change. Talking in person is always the best way to get your message across.

-Since he does not truly understand what it takes to be a caregiver, he needs to be educated. You need to educate him.

-Tell him that things have got to change. You need him to do more. He needs to be there more, help more and give you a break.

-Remind him that your Father has two adult children and he needs to do more to help his own Father.

-Give him detailed information about how you spend your time and what you expect of him. He may push back on what is expected of him. Tell him what you think he should do, not what he wants to do.

-Do not expect your sister-in-law to do anything. It is not her responsibility. Unless she volunteers to help, expect nothing from her. Many husbands are very good at delegating their responsibilies to their wives. Just because your sister-in-law is a woman and part of the family does not mean that it is her job to help out. It is your husband who needs to help out more – not her.

– I suggest that you make a written contract with him. Agreements in writing have better luck of being honoured.

-At the end of his visit, have another meeting. Track what he actually did and what his plans are to be more helpful in the future. Most times these situations require much “nagging” to keep the other sibling on track. Old habits are hard to break and it will take much effort to ensure he actually does help and continues to help.

Don’t stop reminding your brother of his responsibilities. Keep on his case to do the “right thing” by helping you and helping your Dad.

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